Robert Frost and Max Ehrmann: On the Path of Desire and Regret

FORK IN THE ROAD BY GRAHAM HALE

FORK IN THE ROAD BY GRAHAM HALE

"You are a child of the universe, no less than the trees and the stars; you have a right to be here."

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Max Ehrmann (1872 – 1945) was an American writer, lawyer, and spiritualist, studying philosophy and law at Harvard University. He lived most of his life in his hometown of Terre Haute, Indiana, practicing law and working in his family's meat packing plant. "Desiderata" was his most notable work, a poem on simple living. Desiderata is Latin for "something desired," poignant for a humble man who was largely unknown in his lifetime, only achieving fame after his death.

During the same period was an American poet named Robert Frost (1874 – 1963). Popular in his lifetime, Frost was regarded for his depictions of rural life and command of American colloquialism, receiving four Pulitzer Prizes and the Congressional Gold Medal.

Among the works of Frost, "The Road Not Taken," when paired with "Desiderata," achieves a consonance of tranquility. On their own, they stand as great works. In combination, textured by their history, they become a complete work. That is Zen — parity between Eastern and American spiritualism. Just as ancient as it is modern. Christian as it is Buddhist. A treatise on balance; whether a sheep herder or a big firm attorney, one can find relevance.

Desiderata

Go placidly amid the noise and haste, and remember what peace there may be in silence.
As far as possible without surrender be on good terms with all persons.
Speak your truth quietly and clearly; and listen to others, even the dull and ignorant; they too have their story.
Avoid loud and aggressive persons, they are vexations to the spirit.
If you compare yourself with others, you may become vain and bitter;
for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself.

Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans.
Keep interested in your career, however humble; it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time.
Exercise caution in your business affairs; for the world is full of trickery.
But let this not blind you to what virtue there is; many persons strive for high ideals;
and everywhere life is full of heroism.

Be yourself.
Especially, do not feign affection.
Neither be critical about love; for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment it is as perennial as the grass.

Take kindly the counsel of the years, gracefully surrendering the things of youth.
Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune. But do not distress yourself with imaginings.
Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness. Beyond a wholesome discipline, be gentle with yourself.

You are a child of the universe, no less than the trees and the stars;
you have a right to be here.
And whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.

Therefore be at peace with God, whatever you conceive Him to be,
and whatever your labors and aspirations, in the noisy confusion of life keep peace with your soul.
With all its sham, drudgery and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world. Be careful. Strive to be happy.

When desire leads you down a path of suffering, go placidly amid the noise and haste, and remember what peace there may be in silence.

The Road Not Taken

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.

When the path of desire merges with the path of regret, there is only anguish. But do not fear, for further down the road, the path will once again diverge. That is the Way, and knowing how Way leads on to Way ... makes all the difference.

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