Sunday, January 4

Man proposes, God disposes; or when plans go awry

This phrase--"Man proposes, God disposes"--was careening around in my head for a few days, trading places of prominence with songs from Into the Woods then Lorde's "Yellow Flicker Beat" from Mockingjay and then, just because it is soooo hard to get rid of, "Let It Go." Now you know what movies I've seen recently and, for the record, enjoyed Mockingjay as much the second time as the first and truly enjoyed Into the Woods.

But "Let It Go" was quite appropriate as I was thinking about carefully made plans that are scattered like pick-up sticks. And that made me think of the phrase "the best laid plans of mice and men" which meant I needed to look up the poem "To a Mouse" by Robert Burns to see the original context of the phrase. Phew. (And should ye, you, want to listen to the poem with the full Scottish brogue, herewith.)

'Tis truth that our plans often go awry. There is only so much we can hope to know or hope to control in any given situation. And that means our best bet, I think, is to make our plans and be flexible.

Then I find myself thinking about Robert Frost's well-known poem "The Road Not Taken." It has become an inspirational poem, encouraging young and old alike to take the path less worn by others: to find one's own way and all that. But those who have read any criticism about this work know that Frost had a specific intent for the work. Many of us have chosen a path and wondered what would have happened had we gone the other way, well-trod path or not. This reminds me that all of our choices have consequences. It's not that we can't change our minds, but it is impossible to return to a fork or juncture in the same exact context. If we return, we will be different as will the situation so whether we choose the same path or a different one, there will be unexpected outcomes and consequences.

It's fascinating to me how much has been written about the past, the present, and the future. We live in the present. We can only imagine the future. Every second that passes contributes to our pasts. It's a wonder we worry so much about the future and how we spend time. After all, does anyone really know what time it is?

I'm not going to stop making plans. I know that. But I hope that this year I will be more flexible about my plans and about the way things unfold as my plans collide and intersect with the plans of others, as we find ourselves on expected and unexpected paths, perhaps well-paved roads or rough and rutted gravel road. In fact, I hope I will enjoy the journey and that I'm not always quite so focused on the final destination because there's so much serendipitous wonder to experience and discover along the way.

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