Even Ants Do It – Travel The Road Less Travelled!

Posted by: michael  :  Category: Factors affecting Brain Health

“Life is the unknown and the unknowable, except that we are put into the world to eat, to stay alive as long as we possibly can.”
Students of Richard Bach’s Jonathon Livingston Seagull will recognise that quote as part of the admonition of Jonathon by the Elder of the Council gathering.

Wondering what that’s got to do with ‘the road less travelled’? Well, I’ll return to that later when we will find out what Jonathon had to say in response to his chastisement.

In the meantime we should recognise that Richard Bach was by no means the first to introduce the concept of the ‘road less travelled’. The 6th century Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu (Tao Te Ching, ch. 53) wrote:

“With but a small understanding
One may follow the Way like a main road,
Fearing only to leave it;
Following a main road is easy,
Yet people delight in difficult paths”.

But perhaps Lao Tzu had been watching ants!

You see, early one morning while I was outside sitting on a chair to put on my trainers there was a procession of ants marching by. Curious to see what might happen I disrupted the procession with my hand. Most of the ants stopped and appeared confused until they grouped up and followed each other around my hand (the easy way). A few brave ants took a risk and decided to go over by climbing up my hand (the difficult way). So are we really any different? Faced with a challenge most of us will wait and then follow the crowd, a few individuals will take the difficult and challenging way, go out into the wilderness, the unknown –will take ’ the road less travelled’!

The concept is also raised in the Bible… here’s what St Matthew had to say… “Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.” (Matthew 7: 13-14). But maybe he had read the Tao Te Ching and been watching ants!

Then there’s Richard Frost who raised the same concept in his poem “The Road Not Taken”.
“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”.

 And what about M Scott Peck who tackles the same issues in his popular books “The Road Less Traveled” and “Further Along The Road Less Traveled”. He writes “Life is complex. Each one of us must make his own path through life. There are no self-help manuals, no formulas, no easy answers. The right road for one is the wrong road for another…The journey of life is not paved in blacktop; it is not brightly lit, and it has no road signs. It is a rocky path through the wilderness. ”

And again he counsels “It is in the whole process of meeting and solving problems that life has meaning. Problems are the cutting edge that distinguishes between success and failure. Problems call forth our courage and our wisdom; indeed, they create our courage and our wisdom. It is only because of problems that we grow mentally and spiritually. It is through the pain of confronting and resolving problems that we learn.”

There are many other references to the concept of ‘the road less travelled’. Here are a just a few of them:

 “Do not follow where the path may lead. Go instead where there is no path and leave a trail” Ralph Waldo Emerson

 “We must go beyond textbooks, go out into the bypaths and untrodden depths of the wilderness and travel and explore and tell the world the glories of our journey”.
John Hope Franklin

“I see my path, but I don’t know where it leads. Not knowing where I’m going is what inspires me to travel it”. Rosalia de Castro

“The path to spirituality is the road less traveled. Because it is less traveled it is covered with underbrush, brambles, thistles, and thorns. The way is painful and lonely. Yet, because it is less traveled, it is also the path that leads to discovery, adventure, and joy. It is the way of the warrior. It may very well be the path you were meant to follow.”  Chuck Gallozzi 

 “Sometimes the road less traveled is less traveled for a reason.” Jerry Seinfeld

So what does ‘the road less travelled mean’? Here’s part of what Jonathon had to say… “We can lift ourselves out of ignorance, we can find ourselves as creatures of excellence and intelligence and skill. We can be free!” “Who is more responsible than a gull who finds and follows a meaning, a higher purpose for life….now we have a reason to live – to learn, to discover, to be free.”

 I’m with Jonathon all the way. I see setting out on ‘the road less travelled’ as an attempt to assert my individuality… as an integral part of my bid for intellectual and spiritual freedom. It’s a long and exciting journey of self-discovery.

What about you?