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
Robert Frost inked this gem of a poem way back in 1916 as part of his ‘Mountain Interval’ collection. From time immemorial, this excerpt has been a source of inspiration for the inspired and non-inspired. If you studied in a CBSE school like I did, this poem catches your eye when you open the NCERT 9th standard English textbook; 9th standard being the phase of your life when you plan to decide your field of work.
Edward Thomas was one among many of Frost’s acquaintances. An author himself, Thomas received the first copy of the poem. He took the poem as a dig at him for being an indecisive prick. What resulted from the read was Thomas’s decision to enlist in WW1. Needless to say, he was killed a couple of years later.
Now why do I have to take a swing at a dead person? Let’s assume Frost ‘actually’ wants people to take the road less travelled. Yes, it probably makes all the difference. Frost has himself commented that this ‘tricky’ poem has been misinterpreted as evidence of the benefit of free thinking. While what he hoped to convey was maybe different, it’s beyond doubt that his words did act as stimulus or inspiration for many of us to not follow the crowd.
Having said this, we arrive at a juncture ourselves. What if we don’t take the road not often taken? To elaborate on this, I hide behind the words of an equally dynamic famous person albeit in a different field – Jerry Seinfeld. An excellent standup, he was known for his observational humor on just about anything and nothing.
In his semi-fictionalized show Seinfeld, he opens every episode with a terse bit which serves as a theme for the reminder of the sitcom episode. One such bit was this:
“Sometimes, the road less travelled is less travelled for a reason”
The reason I know this is not because I follow his work extensively stalking his facebook page and website for updates or due to inerasable memory power, but rather due to binge-watching the series for the zillionth time. While my friends are away in Bangalore and Hyderabad interning so they claim, I decided to park my butt in front of my Toshiba. Indeed not an inspiring tale.
Before I walked into the premises of NITT, I was shit scared and for a good reason too. Studying in the same school for fifteen solid ‘Mylaporean’ years, I didn’t want to escape my comfort zone. I needed advice; I need strength and above all, I needed inspiration. When I entered college, I knew that socializing over a favorite topic of discussion was one way of surviving this daunting atmosphere. To my surprise, among the first hundred I spoke to, one person knew who Seinfeld was. I recently conversed with him where needless to say, quotes and laughs were exchanged over Whatsapp.
That’s when some thoughts lingered with me. Here’s this guy who is actively pursuing an intern in Bangalore working monotonous 10-6 hours with goals and dreams to achieve. On the flip side, I was still looking for inspiration in the wrong alley. What does that make me?
Season 6 episode 23 has this beautifully written and delivered dialogue set
Elaine: “I’ll never understand people!”
Seinfeld: “They are the worst!”
Understanding is a tough job. We search high and low for inspiration to accomplish what we feel we have the potential to accomplish. Some need it to fulfill their purpose on this globe; some need it for their service or duty to their loved ones. Some need it for acquiring wealth and other materialistic gains; some need it to champion interpersonal relations. No one denies the need for inspiration however does every bit of inspirations stand its face value? Or to put it in another way, do have to take it as per its face value?
Muhammad Ali died recently. No doubt, he was the G.O.A.T! Apart from the perennially replayed jabs, he also gave us a ‘Inspirational Quotes’ bank very much like the CBSE question paper bank. I myself did share all the well designed posters of the King of boxing, however those quotes didn’t hit me like a ton of bricks.
What Seinfeld showed to me is to be just another mundane person and feel satisfied about it. Jerry, George, Elaine and Kramer were just four people who stuck together and did nothing. Nothing, if you also consider them inadvertently killing a person as just another world occurrence! Living the New York life to the fullest, they showed me the opposite of what other equally hailed sitcoms like HIMYM and Friends preached. Sandwiched between HIMYM with its message of ‘Go to any lengths/persevere to find your love. Be inspired’ and Friends with its ‘friends are everything you need including inspiration’, Seinfeld showed to escape the place between the rock and a hard place and told me it’s ok to not feel inspired. There’s nothing wrong with it.
I would like to clarify that this is not a bitch-fest, nor a proclamation to nihilism. This is definitely not a high-concept piece as the writer knows he’s only fit for getting high on any other stuff minus the English language. I was assigned to write a blog article on the topic of a hypothetical ‘What if?’ and I ended up here. Obviously, starting it the day before deadline is the ideal way to let loose your un-inspired mind. So the answer is not that inspirational quotes are just letters of crap, but that they need not stay true to their face value.
Have a good day peeps!
P.S. I’m not advertising Seinfeld but I do request readers to try the show. This way, I get more people to socialize with and hey, did I tell you the show is the G.O.A.T. Just saying yada yada yada.
– Nived Bharadwaj