Mahmoud, the Iconoclast

The Road Not Taken

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood, And sorry I could not travel both

And be one traveler, long I stood And looked down one as far as I could To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
 Because it was grassy and wanted wear;

Though as for that the passing there Had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay In leaves no step had trodden black.

Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
 I doubted if I should ever come back.

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 traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

David Orr wrote an article for the Paris Review in September, 2015. The article is titled, The Most Misread Poem in America, and subtitled, Everyone knows Robert Frost’s “The Road Not Taken”—and almost everyone gets it wrong.

Well, good grief, I don’t know about you, but I certainly don’t want to be in the uninformed category. All those years of enjoying the memory of my first read. No, even my second, or third more critical read, how did I not see the truth?

Gnostics are still among us. There are people who relish the power of the secret knowledge they they alone have. They will gladly gather their new “adherents” where ever they may be found. Interesting word “adherents”, “attaching” like glue, or perhaps like sucker fish to a shark, or maybe a leech.

Curiously, I’m thinking most of the potential “adherents” are gnostics themselves. Future gatekeepers of additional secret knowledge. A sort of “birds of a feather” circumstance.

I read the article on advice. One of my rules on interpretation of new evidence is to discern the attitude of the writer. Do they approach the subject with “fear and trepidation”, humbled by this revelation of a new vision, or do they wield it like a hammer?

There is a type of an iconoclast that loves to smash cultural standards, if only to prove two things. The ignorance of simple folk, and the power and might of bigger brained ubermen.

Okay, maybe I oversimplify a bit. All Gnostics are not Elitists. But all Elitists are gnostics.


I encourage everyone to read the secret knowledge perspective of Mr. Orr, who is probably a fine individual with a sharp intellect. His perspective is mildly interesting. He does completely disregard the popular interpretation of the poem. And without a hint of what Frost meant he takes the position that he truly “understands”. Fine!

Curious that his interpretation does not edify me. His interpretation does not inspire me. He is like Mahmoud, the Iconoclast, fiercely removing the noses from all statues, ruining future observers of the beauty the sculptor intended to display.

But I see both truths in the shattered remains. The sad truth of the iconoclast, and the beautiful creation of the original artist, still shining through the wreckage.

David Orr’s article can be found here…

On a personal note, because of this poem, I once made a conscious decision. I was dumped off a ride in Fallon, Nevada. It was on Highway 80, just after a major fork in the road. As I stood there looking at the future that was in the making, because I was already on the way to Winnemucca, I picked up my pack and walked backwards to a place before the fork. If God was going to bring an opportunity to avoid Winnemucca then I wanted that to happen. I could also refuse the ride, and still head to Winnemucca.