Is that a path or a rut?


“What we don’t know chains us, leaves us sitting in the valley with a stupid smile. We discover our ignorance as we go. After a lifetime, if we’ve been attentive, we should fall to our knees before the vastness, the ungraspable minutiae of our world. We should suspect that it constitutes our God. And we so-called experts of this or that, could we have done more than play our one chord? Wisdom is to know, at best, that we make only a little good noise, a few small dents. It’s why the wise laugh a lot, why the laughter of metaphysicians echoes in the spaces they probe. We walk out of our houses into the enormity of our task. What kind of ant is that? Who named the phlox? Is that a path or a rut?”

 ~ Stephen Dunn, Ignorance – Riffs & Reciprocities

Stephen Dunn (born 1939) is an American poet. He won the Pulitzer Prize for his 2001 collection, Different Hours.  He was born in Forest Hills, Queens in New York. Dunn completed his B.A. in English at Hofstra University and his M.A. in creative writing at Syracuse. He has taught at Wichita State, University of Washington, Columbia University, University of Michigan and Princeton University.  Dunn lives in Ocean City New Jersey.

Sources: Quote – Image: Jakupwashere


  1. That’s great!


  2. Love, love, love Stephen Dunn–he’s one of my favorite contemporary poets. Check out his collection, “New and Selected Poems, 1974-1994.”. “Some Things I Wanted to Say to You” is a personal favorite….


    • (Embarrassed to say, I had never heard of him until I came across this poem.) Lori, I’m on it (getting the book). Thanks for pointing me to it. I found your favorite – thanks for sharing.

      Some Things I Wanted to Say to You (By Stephen Dunn)

      If the horse that you ride
      is blind it’s good
      that it also be slow,
      and please stroke it
      a hundred more times than you would
      the powerful dazzling one.

      To be generous is one thing,
      but there’s a clerk in some of us,
      quick to say yes.
      Worry about the command
      in the suggestion.
      Worry about smiles, and those men
      whose business is business.

      There are joys and enigmas
      of an evening alone
      to appreciate.
      There are always the simple events
      of your life
      that you might try to convert
      into legend.

      Did you know
      a good dog in your house
      can make you more thoughtful,
      even more moral?

      And sex without conversation,
      sex that’s exotic or sleepy…
      oh don’t let anybody tell you
      there’s a wrong way to have it.

      Tell your lovers the world
      robs us is so many ways
      that a caress is your way
      of taking something back.
      Tell the dogs and the horses
      you love them more than cars.
      Speak to everything
      would be my advice.


  3. Man plans, God laughs…far better to marvel at all that is around us and be humble, than think that we alone are creating a symphony..


  4. Is that a path or a rut? Profound question for a Friday morning and one that can be used in so many areas of life. Love it …


  5. Michael Zahaby says:

    Deep! much too deep. I’ll contemplate over the weekend


  6. Hummmm….very deep for the morning especially before coffee 🙂


  7. Wonderful David… 🙂


  8. do we know what chains us? I don’t think so..for it is something we don’t know..


  9. Wow!!


  10. This leads me off down a lateral path to ask, why, if we’re ants in comparison to God, huge numbers of people package someone so unknowable in boxes to suit their religious preferences?


  11. Is it a path or rut? Or are we too self-focused to notice where we’re walking and so fall off the edge?


  12. petit4chocolatier says:

    Very deep, and I better not answer at this time!


  13. Wow ~ path or a rut? Great post to make us think!


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