The personal is political
The Road Not Taken
BY ROBERT FROST
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 travelled by,
And that has made all the difference.
I began these reflections by re-reading the poem “The road not taken”. It was a poem I loved when I was in school as it seemed to give permission for life to offer different possibilities at every crossroads. I could chose to remain on the road I was familiar with or I could risk taking the road less travelled.
I have recently heard many talk of “when we return to normal “. I began to wonder what returning to “normal” meant before Covid 19.
I began asking myself, do I want
to go back to rampant homelessness?
to children being brought up in a tiny hotel room where their development is stunted?
to a two-tier health system where money can dictate your access to health care?
to direct provision being our only response to asylum seeker?
to billionaires paying their workers less than a living wage?
to a society where men do not openly challenge each other about the role of patriarchy in domestic violence and rape?
to a society that sees rampant capitalism as the only way to live?
to where thousands of people’s lives are dispensable by power hungry warlord?
to where positive, creative leadership is becoming non-existent?
to where “Them vs Us” is an acceptable way of being?
to where likes on social media, decides my self-worth?
to where the person who has the business idea is more valuable than the people who implement the idea?
to where valuing justice and equality are seen as old-fashioned values?
to where inane celebrities are deemed more valuable than health workers, domestic cleaners or the rubbish collecting personnel?
to where killing the planet is ok as long as there is a profit?
to where loneliness is becoming an epidemic for all ages?
And on and on ….
If that is returning to normal, I wonder what all the pain we have suffered has been about?
I am wondering can we actually dream of another way of being in the world? Where we see and acknowledge our absolute interconnectedness; our dependence on each other; our care for each other: our wish for the planet and all aspects of it thrive…….
I want to believe that we are now being asked to find the courage and creativity to take the road less travelled in the wake of this Covid 19.
A quote from Mahatma Gandhi has guided me many times when I thought what I was doing was not worthwhile:
“Whatever you do may seem insignificant to you, but it is most important that you do it.”
Thus, I believe the challenge now, with courage and compassion is to open to another road, the road not yet travelled. The road where we do not know the signposts or even the direction it will take us. The road that encourages us to reach out and connect with others who are willing to take on this struggle even if their version is different. The road that is willing to tap into resources like kindness, patience, humour, compassion, courage, and most of all choices made with awareness.
“In Auschwitz, we never knew from one moment to another what was going to happen,” says Eger. “I couldn’t fight or flee, but I learned how to stay in a situation and make the best of what is. I still had choices. So, when we were stripped and shorn of our hair, Magda asked me, ‘How do I look?’ She looked like a mangy dog, but I told her: ‘Your eyes are so beautiful. I never noticed when you had all that hair.’ Every day, we could choose to pay attention to what we’d lost or what we still had.”
Choice by Edith Eger
Even when we crave the old road, we can learn to ground ourselves, to centred ourselves and to recommit to our choice over and over.
I believe this is exactly what the world needs now. People who are willing to explore the habitual patterns that have brought us to this point in time and are willing to take the first steps on a new journey for the planet, the people and all the animals who share it with us.
It will take huge courage to keep making new choices, taking the roads less travelled over and over until a new more sustainable way of life has been found. To tap into our adult selves even when the old ways seem easier, so that sometime in the future, our adult selves will be in charge and we will move from surviving to thriving.
“To be sure, many of the steps that lead to growth …… go against our natural inclinations to avoid extremely uncomfortable emotions and thoughts. However, it is only through shedding our natural defense mechanisms and approaching the discomfort head on, viewing everything as fodder for growth, that we can start to embrace the inevitable paradoxes of life and come to a more nuanced view of reality.” Transcend by Scott Barry Kaufman,
Let me end for now with a quote from one of my long-time heroes Viktor Frankl
“In some ways suffering ceases to be suffering at the moment it finds a meaning.” Man’s Search for Meaning