“Choice:” Poetic, Personal, and Political from guest author Dr. Anthony Marsella.*
The Road Not Taken . . .
Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both. . . . Somewhere ages and ages hence,
Two roads diverged in a wood,
And I . . . And I took the one less traveled by. And that has made all the difference.
Robert Frost, Pulitzer Prize American Poet (1874-1963)
Literary critics have written much of this popular Robert Frost poem. All seem to agree that the essence of Frost’s poem is the importance of “choice” in the absence of an/y knowledge of possible consequences” — the making of an important decision without knowing the likelihood of the outcomes. This decision requires the willingness to make a “choice” based on personal confidence, trust, and, perhaps more than anything else, courage.
Critics suggest Frost understood in his poem there was no better path, but rather “choice” is our daily reality – “choice” is present in each and every moment, and “choice” is inherent in the nature of human life, and forms the basis for individual and social morality. Unlike other species relying on reflexive, inborn fixed-response patterns, human have the capacity for “choice,” albeit, in many, there is little conscious awareness of this special capacity. As life unfolds, the consequences of our “choices” reveal the wisdom (i.e., fulfillment, satisfaction, comfort), and/or regrets (i.e., remorse, penitence, guilt, trauma) of our life.
I chose Frost’s poem as a departure point for a “choice” all humans face at this time in our world; in my opinion, the “choice” is between endless war – endless killing and destruction — or the nurturing and sustaining of life. Here I could substitute the word “peace,” but I am uncertain at this point what peace means. People, societies, and nations use the word peace with impunity to benefit their own needs, rather than a source of mutuality — an enduring state and condition in which violence, destruction, and war are refused. Enough!
I am asking for a world free of strife, suffering, agony, and endless pain and grief. The mythical apocalyptic horses are exacting their legendary tolls, poverty, famine, disease, and war, amidst threats of extinction, disposable lives, and exhaustion of natural resources. We are living in the Anthropocene Era (age) in which human behavior – shaped by choice, is the dominating force shaping our world’s survival. The two greatest capacities of humanity — consciousness and conscience – have yielded to to denial and avoidance in favor of reflex and impulse. Cui Bono?
*Anthony J. Marsella, Ph.D., Emeritus Professor, Department of Psychology, University of Hawaii. Dr. Marsella’s essay was originally published by Transcend Media Service at https://www.transcend.org/tms/2014/10/two-paths-in-the-wood-choice-of-life-or-war/ . We will publish excerpts from it intermittently over the next few months.