“Two roads diverged in a yellow wood…”
A phrase instantly recognizable to any junior high student tasked with learning about poetry, or any high school student agonizing about allegory, or any college student pondering how to make it through a philosophy term paper. The quintessential Robert Frost reference, useful for many circumstances where decision is the issue at hand.
But, as the modern physicist would say, how do we know the roads diverge? What makes us believe a simple fork in the road actually leads to different destinations? And does following one path truly mean we alienate our experience from what the other path offers?
The condition of a decision, seemingly brought on by the perception of multiple choices at a point in time, manifests itself in many ways across the human race. Some are frozen to inaction by it while others breeze through to a path with nary a care. One group gathers data and analyzes the possible outcomes for reward and risk while another group flips a coin and offloads the resulting choice to the physics of gravity and angular momentum. But what does a decision actually mean? How much of who we will become is actually controlled by the choices of today?
Being true to oneself, a la Shakespeare, seems to entail more consistency with one’s interests, attitudes, personal style or intentions. At decision points doesn’t it seem these come into play more than the number of choices or the possible ramifications of one versus the other? Doesn’t it feel that a particular choice just “feels” right out of all the potential candidates? And not in a “force be with you” type of rightness, but a “I can see myself going this way” consistency with self.
The image is a metaphor…or not. My initial impression of the scene was the contrast of a human design against the seeming randomness of the surrounding nature, contrasting elements being one way to create interesting images. My impression upon processing was how this would be a better B&W image than color, a way to let the tones compose the story rather than the hues. After processing the image to B&W I realized the metaphor, that we create these paths though life with the intent of arriving at some foreseen destination only to discover our path is guided by more than a simple decision at a point in time. And any one choice may lead us back to the path we were originally following. Our path is a result of who we have become, possibly more than what we want to be.
“Life is the sum of all your choices.” Albert Camus