Sadness sometimes arises from frustrated desires… when desires are frustrated it arises…Evagrius Ponticus
My son Jared read Frost’s The Road Not Taken this week. It’s a good poem for any age; everyone old enough to read has chosen one path over another. Deeper life meaning is there, but like many of the things our grandparents tell us when we are young, it’s not important yet. It takes a certain amount of maturity to care whether the road not taken might have been a better one…
Sadness isn’t about what path is taken. It comes from not taking either path wholeheartedly. Looking back toward the fork in the road, staring into the woods in a vain attempt to see if the other road was the better one, not seeing the ground underfoot and the sky overhead – that’s what makes it a bad thought, something that will drain the soul of vitality and hope. The path chosen has more rocks, dull companions, and poorer weather. Clearly, the other path is easier and holier – It shows a different part of the woods, and the sun shines brighter on it. All that is good and desirable is on the other road, so who wouldn’t be frustrated? Frustration dulled over time becomes sadness – it takes a lot less energy to live in the grey shade of sadness than in the blazing red of angry frustration. All that is good is on the other path, and nothing of great value on the one chosen. If only the other path…
On the other path, others are staring into the woods in a vain attempt to see if another road was the better one, not seeing the ground underfoot and the sky overhead. The path chosen has more rocks, dull companions, and poorer weather. All that is good is on another path, and nothing of great value on the one chosen – just frustration and sadness.
The refusal to see the blessing of the chosen present, forgetting that Jesus walks this path just as surely as any other – these are the fruits of sadness. Enjoyed often enough, it slows the feet and numbs the heart.
Frost looked back on life to see blessing in the road taken. The road less travelled made all the difference because it led to an extraordinary life. Had Frost taken the other path, I suspect he’d have found blessing there, too. Holy ground or hell bound? It takes a certain amount of maturity to know that the road not taken wasn’t a better one. Blessing and sadness are usually in the heart of the beholder – and the feet of the walker.
The Eight Bad Thoughts
Evagrius Ponticus (345-399AD) was a monk, an ascetic, and a writer. In his work, Praktikos, he names eight bad thoughts (logismoi) that tempted monks to abandon the monastic life: gluttony, sexual immorality, love of money, sadness, anger, acedia, vainglory, and pride. (early church texts, earlychurchtexts.com/public. For extensive research, readers may subscribe to this site.) These eight thoughts draw the believer away from a holy life and lead to a diminished awareness of God and self. These thoughts were later adapted and renamed the Seven Deadly Sins.