Monday, August 4, 2014

The Road Less Traveled - Got Change for Tolls?

TWO roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

You've probably at some point in your life read that before. It's a poem by Robert Frost. I'm not what you call a literary guy. I'm no genius. I have some smarts, I can hold my own in a conversation if I have to. But honestly I would much rather talk about why zombies shouldn't be able to run fast than the inner meaning of poetry.

That's just me.

But I will. Talk about poetry. If the need arises. It has. And pre-apologies to those who come here looking for talk about Bennett, or toys, or titties. I just need to get my head clear, and I need to do it with some inner monolog, which in this case winds up being Outer Bloggologging. A really strange practice where I crack open my skull and chest and let the contents of my mind and heart spill out all over the computer.

I was thinking about decisions the past couple of days. About choices. And I pulled up this little ditty and read it again. And thanks to the Internet I did something I never was able to do before.

I researched the living shit out of it.

I had no idea that this poem killed a man.

See, Frost was good buddies with another writer, Edward Thomas. Now Frost's original intent behind the poem was not the serious nature that people have come to place on it. Originally, this piece was just supposed to be a sort of gentle mocking of indecision. Indecision that Thomas had shown on many of the walks that he and Frost had gone on together.

Well, apparently, Frost's poem had a lot of impact. Because when Frost sent an early copy of the poem to Thomas in 1915, Thomas, who I guess thought he was a bit of a pussy or something, took it very seriously and very personally, and he enlisted in the service in World War I. Guess he felt he had something to PROVE.

He was blown to bits in the Battle of Arras two years later.

That is some heavy, heavy shit.

I had no idea the scope of how much this poem has been analyzed. I found one page in my research that honestly I could spend a couple of weeks sifting through, but for me that would be time not very well spent. It would be interesting, but not fruitful for me. I don't need to know that much about it. I got tempted as I started reading, but I pulled out. Story of my life. KINDA get there....nope...gotta stop.

As an artist...(if you want to call me that, up to you)...I know what it's like to have people put their own meaning on your work. I used to make these sort of hybrid painting/photo/sculptures of my Step-Father and me. This was back in college. I would love to show you one, but this was before digital photos, and I never shot any of the work.

I was a horrible photographer. Not that I couldn't frame a good shot, but I have never been good at the tech side of cameras. I still suck at it. And developing? Forget it. So I videotaped some of it, and I still have some of the videotape, but I don't even have a VCR to transfer it over to a computer.

Anyway, as an artist, you have to put your shit on a wall and listen to people tell you what they think of it. Yeah fine whatever. I say it that way not because it bothers me to hear people say negative things. I say that because in a critique scenario, just like in real life, people just aren't honest with each other. They don't tell you what they really think, how they really feel. They keep all that shit corked up inside out of some unrealistic fear or desire not to hurt your feelings, and what they end up telling you is watered down horseshit that doesn't help you at all.

Or worse, they assign meaning to the piece that, quite frankly, just is not there. 'Oh yeah...I see what you were trying to say's the eternal Father/Son conflict, and this Crimson color represents War and this Aquamarine represents Isolation...'

'The FUCK you say?'

'Have you seen my workstation? I can't afford any other colors you nitwit! I used Crimson because it was leftover from a set I got as a gift last year and I used Aquamarine because it was Buy One Get One Free at Dick Blick's you fuckin' idiot. Go smoke some weed. And bring me some. There's no eternal conflict here, it's about me, just ME. MY conflict with MY father. I'm not making some Universal Statement. It's a personal work, about personal things. And that's all. You don't need to look any further than that. Sometimes a banana is just a banana.'

'I don't see no banana.'

'Get the fuck outta here, shithead!'

Got real quiet in critique after that. I was pissed off a lot in those days. Probably should have kept my cool, huh? Eh...fuck him.

I wiped the paint off my hands with my shirt, pulled my hair back into a rubber band ( was a LONG time ago) and stomped out all dramatic and shit to smoke a cigarette. (Definitely a long time ago). Do you think, in that photo above, that my old man wanted people to think he won The Masters?

I really wasn't angry with the dude in critique. I was angry at myself. I was Edward Thomas...I had been at so many crossroads in my life up to that point, always making choices I thought were the right ones and inevitably kicking myself in the sack afterward. I spent half my life dodging decisions, the other half regretting the decisions I had made. I have a whole different blog that relates to that photograph above. Unfinished, just because I can't figure out how to tell the tale right.

Anyway, as I progressed, somewhere along the way. I started to get my head clear. I don't know when that was, but eventually, a person like that? You just can't carry the baggage around anymore're arms just get too fucking tired. You start to learn that can drop this, and this, and this...and it doesn't feel so bad after a while. I can handle things this way. Just because I've done it this way for so long doesn't mean I have to do it this way forever.

I think it was Tony Robbins who said 'If you do what you've always done, you'll get what you've always gotten.'

What I find most interesting about the Frost poem, other than the fact that it is one of THE most over-interpreted poems I can easily think of, is that there really are a lot of different ways to interpret it. It's sort of a reader's choice, to be frank, even down to how you want to interpret the 'sigh'. Since the author is gone, and hell since it is a poem, you can take whatever you want from it. And truthfully, the same could be said about any 'work'. Just like the dude who clearly had too many hash brownies before my critique. He was entitled to think all that shit. Like I said, my anger was just misplaced.

When I think of the poem, I think of the Cave on Dagobah. (Oh shit...Star Wars again? You fucking DORK!!!) I see the crossroads as a place of influence. Influenced by you, and what you bring to it. Not what awaits along either path. How could that not be so, if both paths are the same?

See, Frost describes both roads as essentially being equal. We think they are different, but they are not. 'Then took the other, as just as fair,...Had worn them really about the same,'

That sounds about equal to me. He only went down the one road because he felt like it. Not because one was more promising or better or would make him rich or give him a happy ending or heal him. It just felt like a good place to go.

The way I interpret it is really doesn't matter then WHICH path you take. EITHER path is the road less traveled by. What matters is what you take with you. You determine whether the road is going to hold promise and adventure and things wondrous and profound, just as you determine whether you will carry all the dark garbage you've been carrying with you on your back all you're life with you as you walk along the new road.

This is the way Life works. Because I also believe that every road, EVERY path, has a crossroads, and new ones appear along the way all the time. No path is designed to go on forever with no way off. That would be sad and twisted and inhuman...and very unpoetical. I've never in my life conceived of anything as dark as one road, one destiny, fixed and inescapable with no possibility of change or growth or new adventure. Seems...wrong somehow.

Life is a series of making new decisions and learning how to be comfortable with making them, learning how to make peace with your demons, learning how to let go, how to continue to grow, to adapt and move forward. Life is coming across two roads diverged in the woods, and loving yourself enough, having the courage, finding the take the one less traveled by.

Because that? That makes all the difference.



  1. Please pardon the excessive swearing. I couldn't fucking help myself. Been a shitty day, what can I say?

  2. See this is why I hated college Lit. And Metamorphosis? To me it's just a story about a guy who turned into a bug and happened to have a really crappy family. I don't care what color the curtains were.

    Now that I got that out... I happen to love that poem, just because of the description of the leaves, yes I would consider you an artist, and I hope the next crossroads you get to leads to something great for you and your whole family.

    And just because I seem to be on an over sharing kick as of late, I love to take photos, but save most of them for me, or for my 365 project, because as badly as I would love to be a professional photographer, I don't have the nerve to put myself out there and fail. Maybe I will get the nerve to take that road someday.

    1. Tiffany...just DO IT. Fuck fear of failure. Fear of failure holds too many of us back. Besides, if you fail...SO WHAT. Try again. You will have learned something from your first attempt, things that will make you BETTER the next time. I believe that I am defined more by my failures than by my successes, because it is what I have learned from my failures that allow me to be a better man.

      DO IT. You'll love yourself for it.

  3. I read this quote yesterday and I think it also fits with what you are saying. It hit me hard with how I have felt in my own life of late:
    "In any moment of decision, the best thing you can do is the right thing, the next best thing is the wrong thing, and the worst thing you can do is nothing." — Theodore Roosevelt

    I think I'm going to tattoo it in the inside of my eyelids.

    1. You know, it's funny you bring that up...I have 100% regret that I declined your offer to sit on your panel at Comic-Con. I sat there during the panel, watching, wishing I had made a different decision. It was a profound experience for me in that it taught me something about fear and regret, even about something so simple.

      Had I just had the cans to say yes, and gotten through those first few minutes of being uncomfortable, I would have really enjoyed it and had fond memories. Instead, all I have is regret. That's it. When I think about how many things I have missed because of fear and doubt in myself, it staggers me. Even complete conventions where I just didn't go because I feared I would miss a deadline back home. Guess what? STILL MISSED the deadline. And missed the show too.

      Life is one giant learning experience, who knew?

    2. You have a standing invitation for next year.

    3. Super! Probably won't be there, but super! :)

  4. If you can believe it, I had to memorize this poem in the seventh grade, and I can still recite it perfectly. I am just about 51 years old, so that's just about forty years worth of two roads diverged. I really enjoyed this post -- so much more than the football ones. :)

    1. There is room for Frost and the NFL in the Lillyverse!

    2. And.... pre-season football starts this weekend!

  5. I have that poem in a frame on my desk at work. It's one of my favorites. I never did the research though. I will say that I personally believe that it does matter which path you take. The road less traveled (a great book as well by the way) is the one that hopefully keeps us awake so we don't wake up at the end of our life and realize we missed it.


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