The Road Less Traveled

January 21, 2005 | 10 comments
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The book that most influenced me when I was a lad was The Road Less Traveled, by M. Scott Peck. I probably read it four times between ages 15 and 22. When the Book of the Month Club surveyed its members for the most influential book they’d ever read, it ranked number 3. (The bible and Atlas Shrugged were 1 and 2.) Several years ago a stake president in Sandy, Utah, challenged his whole stake to read it.

Over the coming weeks I will post some selections to discuss. Today I’ll start with the famous opening.

Life is difficult.

This is a great truth, one of the greatest truths. It is a great truth because once we truly see this truth, we transcend it. Once we truly know that life is difficult — once we truly understand and accept it — then life is no longer difficult. Because once it is accepted, the fact that life is difficult no longer matters.

Most do not fully see this truth that life is difficult. Instead they moan more or less incessantly, noisily or subtly, about the enormity of their problems, their burdens, and their difficulties as if life were generally easy, as if life should be easy.

10 Responses to The Road Less Traveled

  1. Kaimi on January 21, 2005 at 3:01 pm

    Atlas Shrugged at #2? Yech!

  2. Sumana on January 21, 2005 at 3:32 pm

    Longtime reader, first-time commenter.

    My most recent exposure to Peck was the interview in Salon regarding his experience with exorcisms. Watch an ad or join Salon Premium to read:

    http://archive.salon.com/mwt/feature/2005/01/18/peck

  3. john fowles on January 21, 2005 at 5:05 pm

    I don’t think Atlas Shrugged should be so easily dismissed, although I personally think the Fountainhead should occupy that spot.

  4. annebg on January 21, 2005 at 5:54 pm

    I have read The Road Less Traveled, and think it is a very wise book. Wisdom not to be found in one reading.

    But, yeah, he was right, life is difficult.

  5. HL on January 21, 2005 at 7:11 pm

    Kaimi: Atlas Shrugged at #2? Yech!

    I’ll second that. How any Mormon could be interested in such a self-serving philosophy as that that Rand spouts is beyond me. And yes, I know, I know. It really isn’t self-serving it’s actually the best way to help others, etc. etc. I don’t buy it. It always seemed to me a grand pseudo-philosophy to assauge the guilt of the overly self-involved. Fortunately I don’t really have an opinion on the matter. :)

    However, the Road Less Traveled has been on my bookshelf a while. I really need topick it up. Matt has inspired me!

  6. Will on January 21, 2005 at 7:17 pm

    Will’s 10 second review of The Road Less Traveled: Peck’s section on discipline was life-changing for me, and is probably due for another read. His section on love was also insightful. But it was all downhill from there, including his other books. Peck strikes me as someone who is very wise, but not a particularly good critical thinker.

  7. Stephen M (Ethesis) on January 21, 2005 at 9:18 pm

    My mother-in-law has in the home office a G.A. quote about how life isn’t easy and people who think it should be easy and pleasant are going to spend their time complaining about how they were robbed.

    they moan more or less incessantly, … as if life should be easy. Indeed.

  8. Bill on January 21, 2005 at 10:18 pm

    I revealed my disdain for Ayn Rand as serious literature (or serious philosophy) on the 50 books thread. However, you’ve got to love the movie version of The Fountainhead.

    For some unknown reason, I’ve never come across a copy of The Road Less Traveled.

    The most influential book I ever read was The Brothers Karamazov.

  9. Geoff Johnston on January 22, 2005 at 2:15 pm

    I read The Road Less Traveled (I think for the second time) while preparing for my wedding. It was a great help in setting proper expectations for marriage. Now 13 years later my relationship with my wife has seemed to have gotten better and more fulfilling every year. There is nothing like starting off with a proper perspective (like admitting life is hard) to help at the beginning of a long journey like marriage. I felt like the teaching in that book were an excellent complement to the gospel teachings I had already embraced.

  10. smalltownlawyer on January 22, 2005 at 9:14 pm

    There’s a rather interesting LDS-philosophy-related quote in the Road Less Traveled which is actually somwhat of an indictment against us for not doing all that we can with our lives, knowing what we know about our eternal destiny.

    “Why does God want us to grow? What are we growing toward? Were is the end point, the goal of evolution? What is it that God wants of us? It is not my intention here to become involved in theological niceties, and I hope the scholarly will forgive me if I cut through all the ifs and, and buts of proper speculative theology. For no matter how much we my like to pussyfoot around it, all of us who postulate a loving God and really think about it come to a single terrifying idea: God wants us to become Himself (or Herself or Itself). We are growing towar godhood. God is the goal of evolution. . . . It is one thing to believe in a nice old God who will take good care of us from a lofty position of power which we ourselves could never begin to attain. It is quite another to believe in God who has it in mind for us precisely that we should attain His position. His power, His wisdom, His identity. Were we to believe it possible for man to become God, this belief by its very nature would place upon us an obligation to attempt to attain the possible. But we do not want this obligation. We don’t want to have to work that hard. We don’t want God’s responsibility. We don’t want the responsibility of having to think all the time. As long as we can believe that godhood is an impossible attainment for ourselves, we don’t have to worry about our spiritual growth, we don’t have to push ourselves to higher and higher levels of consciousness and loving activity; we can relax and just be human. . . [A]s soon as we believe it is possible for man to become God, we can never really rest for long, never say, “OK, my job is finished, my work is done.” (The Road Les Traveled, pgs. 269-271)

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