Interpretations, Intentions, and Chances

“The Road Not Taken” and Taking a Chance

The new year brings resolutions, promises, commitments, and a wide variety of interpretations, intentions, and chances that can be ignored, compromised, and broken. If you are still with me after that long first sentence you may be wondering what a Robert Frost poem has to do with taking a chance? The answer may not be as obvious as you think (that is if you are familiar with the poem and its common interpretation).

Frost’s poem “The Road Not Taken” is pretty much a high school standard. I figure it is a pretty slim percentage of students who got through twelve years of public education and didn’t read Frost’s poem and/or saw it on some poster in an English teacher’s classroom (or multiple classrooms). Various views argue the poem is ‘about’ pursuing dreams, being an individual, and taking a chance on the road less traveled. But what was the author’s intention when writing the poem? According to Frost the poem is “tricky” and the two roads that are so important to the poem’s message are “really about the same.”

A Collection of Poems by Robert Frost

As the title of this post implies I could get into a conversation about author’s intentions versus readers’ interpretations, but that is the stuff of another post. I will say both should be given consideration when criticizing a piece of literature. What I want to spend a few lines discussing is the idea of taking a chance. Taking a chance “made all the difference” as some critical interpretations argue, or taking a chance may not really change one’s life as Frost implies. What is important to realize is regardless of the outcome an individual must decide to take a chance.

We live our lives with certain intentions. We interpret the events of our lives in various ways. But the intentions and interpretations fall flat without first taking a chance. Maybe taking a chance won’t change our lives but we’ll never know unless we take it.

-K-

A Collection of Poems (2015) by Robert Frost

Thinking of MIke W. who rolled out of Cali with only five suits and $1,000. Here’s to taking chances in ’22.

-K-

Loneliness as a Place

and a State of Mind

Are the loneliest places of our own creation? In a Lonely Place explores this question with classic noir style. Dixon Steele, played by Humphrey Bogart, is a Hollywood screenwriter who hasn’t written a hit in a while. This artistic slump can be viewed as the result of choices Dix has made, choices that have not only prevented Dix from writing but have also created both a mental and physical world of loneliness.

In a Lonely Place

As the movie opens we meet Dixon Steele and find a man on edge, a man ready to fight, and a man who lives a lonely sort of life. As the movie progresses we get to know Dix and learn he is man who drinks too much, a man who chooses not to address his anger issues, and a man who is more concerned with his pursuit of fame than developing a healthy relationship. This last point is foreshadowed early in the movie when Dix says, “There is no sacrifice too great for a chance at immortality.” Under the direction of Nicholas Ray, Bogart’s Dixon Steele is a classic noir protagonist. He is man who is flawed from the first frame to the last. Dixon Steele is a man whose choices (both knowingly and unknowingly) create a world of loneliness and fatalism that he cannot escape.

Nicholas Ray’s direction creates an atmosphere of loneliness, not only for the protagonist but for those who enter his life as well. Bogart’s portrayal of Dixon Steele, the lonely writer, is incredible. The story is a study of loneliness and its impact on those it touches. Whether you are a fan of noir movies, Humphrey Bogart, the psychology of loneliness, or any combination of the three In a Lonely Place is worth a watch.

-K-

In a Lonely Place (1950) starring Humphrey Bogart and Gloria Grahame. Directed by Nicholas Ray.

Authors on Loneliness

Seven Points to Ponder

  • “The loneliest moment in someone’s life is when they are watching their whole world fall apart, and all they can do is stare blankly.” -F. Scott Fitzgerald-
  • “The trouble is not that I am single and likely to stay single, but that I am lonely and likely to stay lonely.” -Charlotte Bronte-
  • “But many of us seek community solely to escape the fear of being alone.” -bell hooks-
“Morning Commuter”
  • “Be good and you will be lonesome.” -Mark Twain-
  • “I am alone, I thought, and they are everybody.” -Fyodor Dostoevsky-
  • “If one’s different, one’s bound to be lonely.” -Aldous Huxley-
  • “Yes, there is joy, fulfillment and companionship-but the loneliness of the soul in its appaling self-consciousness is horrible and overpowering.” -Sylvia Plath-

-K-

Walking Alone v. Being Lonely

and Knowing Which is Which

Life can be difficult, and sometimes we need a moment or few to ourselves. Sometimes a bit of peace and quiet away from the general difficulties of life can be a respite, a relief, and a requirement if we want to establish some balance and order during these not so normal times. A walk alone can be beneficial in many ways and it is not the same as being lonely (unfortunately some do have difficulty with the distinction between the two).

“Man in Parking Lot”

A walk alone can distance us from the difficult people we often find ourselves dealing with on the daily. A walk alone can make our daily difficulties a little less so. A walk alone can offer perspective and possible solutions. A walk alone is a decision made with care and deliberation. Don’t be afraid to walk alone (we choose to walk alone). It is not the same as being lonely (loneliness chooses us).

-K-

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