I have several friends who are avid hikers. They love nothing more than strapping on a pair of boots, grabbing a backpack and heading out for a long and vigorous walk criss-crossing the local trails.
I understand the allure as some have described it; setting out in peaceful solitude through a tranquil and unspoiled forest. Traversing a windswept dune adjacent to a large body of water. Climbing rugged hills and descending into wild flower filled ravines with only the sounds of chirping birds to break the silence.
Yet, even in these seemingly pristine landscapes, they may come upon, quite unceremoniously, a discarded beer can.
The thought the hiker had, when setting out in isolation, was they were the sole human in years and years to access this pocket of nature. I would imagine there’s a bit of a letdown, even sadness, as they can’t ignore the irrefutable evidence they are not the first person stepping foot on uncharted land.
After all, we like to think that our choices – the paths we view ahead and upon which we choose to walk – are unique. We search for importance and meaning. We don’t want our decisions to be trivial; we want the weighty choices in our life to have significance.
It’s part of the human condition, isn’t it, that we inevitably find ourselves wondering at later times in our life… What if I had…” “Would it have meant more if I had done…?” “Why didn’t I…?”
Yet we are forced to make choices. We must determine which road we shall go down even when we have neither guidance nor enough facts upon which to base our decision.
So choose a path we must.
There is, at the end of our days, no need to look back (perhaps with a sigh of regret) and wonder what we missed. It’s fruitless to speculate on the unknown that we never encountered.
While there may not be one right path there is, inescapably, the path we choose. And then there’s the other path.
Not better. Not worse. Merely untraveled.
(by Robert Frost)
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.