How many times have you seen the above quote used to promote individuality, or not “taking the easy road”? Probably a lot.
But guess what? That’s not what it means. In the poem, a man finds two paths diverging in a wood and thinks to himself that both paths are about equally as well-traveled, with one maybe being slightly less so. He chooses one and walks down it, and then thinks to himself how, many years from then, he will likely be telling the tale with a sigh about how one day he chose one path over another, and that’s how he arrived at where he ended up. That sigh is one of regret, because he anticipates, like many people, not being satisfied with where his life has gone.
The only real important part of this is that in the poem, making one path more or less traveled is entirely an arbitrary decision by the narrator. So what the quoted portion above really represents in the poem isn’t some sort of moral about always choosing the least-traveled path, but instead is a reflection of humanity’s tendency to attribute blame to things that don’t deserve it.
This is akin to another quote that pops up all the time, “This above all: to thine own self be true.” You may recognize this one from Hamlet. People use it all the time to espouse the benefits of being true to yourself. But guess what? When Polonius says that to Laertes, he means the exact opposite. He doesn’t mean that Laertes should be true to himself, he means that Laertes should damned well do what he’s told.
Any half-witted scholar could tell you these things. It’s not like these are hidden gems, or anything. All you need to do is read the original source material and these things practically jump out at you.
To make matters worse, people will actually defend their inaccuracies with statements like, “That’s what it means to me,” or “It means different things to different people.”
No. It doesn’t. You’re welcome to make your own textual analysis of Hamlet, but if you don’t create a supporting argument that’s textually relevant and makes sense, you’re just wrong.
You don’t see engineers saying things like, “But Newton’s Second Law means something different to me.”
Don’t get me wrong; there’s a lot of gray area out there in the world. What’s in the briefcase in Pulp Fiction? What happens next in Pynchon’s “The Crying of Lot 49”? Does a Jackson Pollock painting REALLY mean anything?
While I want to say that some things are simply not up for debate, that isn’t true; we should always question. That’s what science is, after all: constant questioning. There’s always the chance that some core belief we hold may be wrong.
There’s a huge difference between questioning something and supplanting it with your own explanation. Questioning is saying, “Is that really true?” Supplanting is saying, “Hamlet is a play about oranges.”
People seem to have forgotten where to draw the line. It’s as though that method of questioning everything has removed our culture’s ability to put faith in anything at all, and as a result we see people putting faith in completely inappropriate places.
This is further expressed by a society-wide fear of telling someone else that they’re wrong, especially where children are concerned. In a politically-correct culture, making someone else feel bad is tantamount to a crime, and nowhere is that more true than in the schoolroom. If a teacher makes a student feel bad, the student complains to their parent, who complains to the school (or the board), and the teacher gets reprimanded. What are we teaching our children? That they can’t be wrong? What an awful thing to do to a child.
The sad fact of the matter is that not everyone is good at everything, and it’s far more important to learn where your real talents lie than it is to be good at everything. A student who gets all A’s should be a rarity; how many people do you know who are good at everything? And yet A-students have become the norm. It’s expected for a child to bring home straight A’s, or there’s something wrong with them. You should not get an A for having “tried your best”.
This is just another example of promoting inaccuracy, but instead of being inaccurate about the meaning of a play or a piece of art, they’re helping to create an entire life of lies.
As a culture, we need to start praising the truth and the pursuit of truth, or else we’re going to end up in a hopeless mess where no one knows anything. I don’t mean to imply that there even IS always a truth to espouse, but in those cases, espouse that there’s no truth! I understand that incorrect, inflammatory articles get more attention, but someone needs to stand up for accuracy and be willing to correct those who spread false information.
That someone is you. Do your best… The future of humankind rests on your shoulders.
Recently I’ve been called to mind of the dilemma of the chicken and the egg, and have read a few things about it. Without exception, every explanation that I’ve read fails to take Lamarckism into account.
For those of you unfamiliar with Jean-Baptiste Lamarck, he’s always been one of my favorite figures from high school biology. Lamarck had his own theories on evolution before Darwin, and these have largely been ignored in favor of Darwinian evolution (aka natural selection).
You may or may not have any idea at this point what this has to do with the perennial chicken-or-egg dilemma, which of course far predates even the idea of evolution. Well, many people have tried to answer the question, “Which came first, the chicken or the egg?” with greater or lesser success over the years. I’m going to go ahead and pass on providing the religious answer, and will instead talk a little bit more about evolution and how it relates to the chicken and the egg.
The question as to whether the chicken or egg came first is really asking whether a chicken laid the first chicken egg or not. According to Darwinian evolution, the first chicken egg was laid by a creature that was not a chicken. This is because in the theory of natural selection, evolution occurs by reproduction. That is, new traits are not developed over the course of a creature’s life, but instead occur through mutation and are manifested in offspring. This theory has been borne out over the years and is now generally accepted, thus settling the question in many people’s minds that the egg did, in fact, come first.
However, people often forget poor Lamarck. Lamarck’s idea was that creatures do develop new characteristics during the course of their lifetime, and those characteristics are then passed on to their offspring. Meaning that the first chicken egg was laid by a chicken, because that creature passed the ‘becoming-a-chicken’ threshold during its life. This theory, for many years was regarded as incorrect and discarded.
But recently I’ve come to see a few articles implying that Lamarckism may actually have been correct, at least to some degree. It’s generally accepted that creatures don’t spontaneously develop new traits during their lives (when was the last time you saw someone randomly grow an extra arm?), but at the same time, creatures do undergo a process called adaptation. Meaning that certain traits that they already possess can be enhanced and then (and this is the important part) those enhancements can be passed on to their offspring.
So, evolutionarily speaking, where does this leave us with chickens and eggs? Well, unfortunately it’s impossible to know exactly when the first chicken crossed the ‘becoming-a-chicken’ threshold, but it’s entirely possible that the fine-tuning of chicken-ness happened during the first chicken’s lifetime, meaning that it could, indeed, have been the chicken that came first. The stronger case is still for the egg, I think, but considering that people have been ignoring poor Lamarck, I thought that it was worth expounding upon.
Food for thought!
I enjoy Facebook just fine; it lets me keep up with lots of people, and generally serves its intended purpose of being a social media hub. However, every now and then I get the urge to write about something at length, or to post photos, or to do something else that Facebook isn’t especially good at.
Megan recently made a Tumblr for herself and seems to enjoy it quite well. So I figured that I’d make a Tumblr also, and see how it goes. I miss LiveJournal from time to time, but I don’t really have any desire to go back there. I suspect that I can have almost all the same functionality here on Tumblr, so we’ll give this a go.
You’ve gotta start somewhere, right?