The Road Not Taken

How Robert Frost’s seemingly innocuous lines resonanted with me one fine January evening…

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It’s chilly outside, but the British rain has helped push the mercury up by a few degrees. Silence is complete apart from being punctuated by the regular rat a tat of my keyboard. The festive lights outside are flickering seemingly in disquiet about if and when to shut off completely. There are constant reminders from last day offer hoardings seeking to capitalise on the hurt bourgeois ego of the occasional passers-by. (I happened to fall prey to one of these today. But it did make me happy for a fleeting moment and I figure I’ll be able to live with this decision after all.) My parents leave tomorrow and I’ll be on my own after my third pilgrimage to London in as many weeks from the morning of 6th. Hiraeth. A Welsh word with no direct synonym. But sentiment needs to be deferred for now.

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Writing this whole thing out kind of puts an indelible finality to the whole thing. As if I’m prepared to face 2017 with my sword and armour and all. But the truth is that I’m merely procrastinating. I, like most ordinary mortals (oh, yes), am scared of what the future holds.

We can’t choose where we come from, but we can choose where we go from there

Years are neither good nor bad. They are what we make of them. There are quite a few interesting consequences which might go on to define my life scheduled along the first half of the year. But, it would be unwise to treat them as a make or break. Maybe we are defined by a sum total of all past events up to our present. But as Heisenberg’s Uncertainty principle states: the present cannot determine the future in terms of absolutes. And ‘tbh’ (Internet lingo), I’m not too satisfied with the way my present has shaped out. (Not too dissatisfied either, but at a risk of sounding too presumptuous, I decline to spend the rest of my days printing currency, buying food and lodging and expend my precious resources searching for a mate to procreate with.) So, I’ve made up my mind: this is the year where I decide to choose the maverick path.

Maverick, btw(continuing usage of said internet lingo), is an eponym. An eponym is when a proper noun becomes regularised and is used as a common noun. Maverick, himself, interestingly has his origin in a far humbler foreground. He was apparently a rancher (and a few other colourful things: but we’ll leave that out for Wikipedia) in Texas in the mid 19th century who didn’t brand his cattle. So out of sync was his action relative to the times, that any person who thinks differently is today branded as a maverick. Note, how the use of the word brand has evolved as well. But we’ll postpone etymology to another session.

No, I won’t wear a chicken costume and dance as if I’m cuckoo. (Although granted: loosely that might fit the definitions of maverick behaviour as well). But I won’t wait for the zeitgeist to define me anymore.

There was one related line in the Chamber of Secrets which appealed to me and still does.

So Harry was asking how or if he differed from Voldemort, the perennial villain of the series, as both of them shared the same abilities and qualities. And Dumbledore made an apt observation:

It is our choices, Harry, that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities.

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And I’ve been thinking over this lately, and not because of a sudden predilection towards magic or fantasy. I’ve always found it difficult to make choices as I tend to analyse perhaps a bit more than average. How do you know if something will work out unless you’ve taken the journey along that road? And what if, having taken that journey, some traveler comes and informs you that the grass was greener along the other path? It so happens that one can’t do much about it.

Most people want a comfortable home, a nice loving family and earn about enough to lead their lives without worrying about basic necessities at least unless the Circle of Life catches up and they are busy trying to make their next generation try and achieve a similar goal. And I try to see the point in that. I’m not the first person to question this drab of an existence, nor will I be the last. But while I’m at it, let’s see if I can contribute something to this issue.

Cosmologists say the universe is about 13.8 billion years old. (It may be older because my freshly minted knowledge of cosmology makes me want to seriously question the concept of Inflation.) The earth has been around for 4-5 billion years. Homo sapiens arrived at their current form about 200,000 years ago.(Let’s not quibble whether Neanderthals or Homo erectus were humans). The leaps in advancement since then have been amazing if not spellbinding. But we still enjoy on average about 75 years of oxygen and all other perks which come with one’s position on the social order at birth and possible incremental advancements over the last 200 millennia.

If you look at it, every organism evolves to maximise the longevity the species as a whole. When the individuals themselves become so advanced so as to want to advance their own longevity maybe even at the cost of the species as a whole, maybe we do have a problem. Humans have progressed well beyond this threshold in my opinion.

Or perhaps we don’t need to have an opinion.

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That is the answer to the Ultimate question of Life, the Universe and Everything. Douglas Adams adds though, that nobody knows what the question is. And sadly (or perhaps happily enough?) that is the state of affairs.

We know that we are alive. We do not know why.

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Not that I necessarily agree with this particular Douglas Adams quote, but tbh, he looked pretty badass and imposing in this graphic, so I thought that this would fit in perfectly.

Oh yes. If you haven’t realised it by now: life is about making adjustments and accommodating changing realities to fit yours. That’s the key reason behind this post and the final picture. If you don’t find an appropriate quote and a picture, just use the next best one and fit a disclaimer over there. Evolution (over 200,000 years) also helps you out in these scenarios.

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