The Fork in the Road.
"Two roads diverged in a wood, and I-
I took the one less travelled by,
And that has made all the difference."
Robert Frost, "The Road Not Taken".The other day my Dad and I were discussing "life". Yeah, quite a big subject, really. But it seemed my Dad, after 80 years on the planet, had distilled his view of life down to one governing imperative, and that was that our existence is mostly dictated by chance or coincidence. He dislikes the term "fate" because, he said, for him, it had associations with bad things happening to people. So, he relayed to me how the result of his own very colourful life had been mostly a matter of chance.
Firstly, I should perhaps explain that my Dad has indeed had an eventful existence. Joining the army at 15, he went on to fight in the Korean war. After that, having trained in the army as an engineer, he got various jobs working in that capacity. Employed by people such as "Marconi", his job took him to many different places, and he lived in both Germany and Turkey, as well as spending time in Brazil. In fact, I remember very well the photograph in which you can see my Dad standing atop the Sugarloaf Mountain, sporting a pair of the widest checked flairs you could ever wish to see. In fact, I wonder if he still has that particular pair of brilliant trousers- maybe I could wear them to a fancy dress party.
But, to return to the point, my Dad has often told me stories about how his life could have been so very different. The time, for example, during the Korean war, when he was sitting in a bunker with nothing to do at that particular time, and so was called over to the adjoining shelter by some other soldiers who were playing cards. As my Dad wasn't doing anything, he went over to them to join the game. Five minutes later, a shell hit directly where my Dad had been sitting, completely demolishing that part of the bunker. So, had my Dad not moved over to the others, he would, quite simply, have died. Now, he would perhaps be just another name on a wall somewhere, and I and my brother would not exist. Perhaps less dramatically, but nonetheless important, were times when my Dad turned down jobs, once in Germany, and once, I believe, to go and work in Mauritius. On both these occasions, he explained, had he taken up those positions, life would have been incredibly different. Had he taken the job in Germany, for example, he would perhaps never have met my Mum, and again, me and my brother would not be here.
All this, inevitably, got me to thinking about my own life, and how things could have been different. Although I have nothing as colourful to relay as is in my Dad's past, I do remember times when only if I had said or done a certain thing, my life could have been wholly changed. Had I only spoken out at certain times, I may well be married by now, with children. And, in terms of my own life, it seems that these would not have been big, dramatic events like in my Dad's, but only very small things, perhaps even just nuances in the way something was explained or said, that could have resulted in a very different existence.
I am reminded, then, of the film "Sliding Doors", in which the character played by Gwyneth Paltrow is seen either missing or catching an underground train in London. From these two different occurrences, the difference between which seems mere chance, two entirely different realities emerge. Similarly, in the recent film, "Source Code", the possibility that such divergent realities can exist is explored.
So, in my alternate reality, there is a man, standing on a beach. He seems deep in thought as he watches the waves of the sea ebb and flow. And then, two young children come up to greet him, and it soon becomes apparent that he is their father. A second later, a woman comes up to him and embraces him in her arms.
OK, so my alternate reality may be a little idealised. But, it seems, we will all face, at some point, that fork in the road. That point at which a decision will be made, or simply something said or done, or not said, or not done, which will ultimately alter our lives and send us down paths the end to which it will be hard to imagine. Take care, then, in this endeavor, for, as the poet Robert Frost stated, it could make "all the difference".