A voice said, Look me in the stars
And tell me truly, men of Earth
If all the soul-and-body scars,
Were not too much to pay for birth.
– Robert Frost
This poem, titled “A Question” by Robert Frost was first published in 1942. Frost’s poems are not a result of rebellion against tyranny or frustration against capitalism or anger against poverty or disease or corruption. His poems come out of a general pondering over one’s day-to-day actions. And for that reason, he is my favorite poet.
When I first read this poem, I interpreted it in a way that relates to my own life. I complete my MBA course from IIM Lucknow in a week from now. In all likelihood, this is going to be the last full-time educational program that I undertake. For quite some time now, my friends have been expressing their dismay about leaving the campus, the amazing hostel life and the carefree life of a student. But even as they were reeling in nostalgia, I was unperturbed, almost immune from that feeling. I was actually angry at myself. So last night, when I was reading Robert Frost: Collection of Best Poems, I came across this little piece and it sent me into retrospection. And as I look back over the last 21 months that I’ve spent here, at one of the most prestigious business schools in the country among some of the brightest minds I’ve met, I wonder, whatever I have achieved, is it worth the efforts I put in?
It got increasingly difficult to answer this question, the more I thought about it. For starters, I don’t know how to determine what were my achievements and what efforts I put in. I’ve managed to get a great job, make some wonderful friends and that on an average, I have performed at or above par vis-à-vis any objective or subjective metric that can be used to quantify achievement or success. But is that achievement or success in true terms? Should we take into account whether I am happy with where I am or not, into account? I don’t know but let’s leave it at this level of complexity. On the other hand, if I think of my efforts, I’d say I did the best I could. I worked. I played. I toiled hard. And I lazed away. But even if I know the LHS and the RHS, these are not mathematical entities that can be equated just like that. The question still remains – are my efforts worth my success?
I believe that I will never be able to answer this question that Frost poses in front of us. In fact, I think he’s not even looking for an answer. I read somewhere that poetry is not in revelation but in the quest, it’s not in the rendezvous but in the wait. Hence, the most plausible interpretation of this poem which I’ve arrived at is that we must always keep asking this question and keep looking for an answer. And I think that it is only this circular entanglement that keeps the world spinning.