Monday, September 4, 2017

Thank you Rudyard Kipling

Sometime in the 60s or early 70s I was home on a visit. Dad and I were watching the Andy Williams show.  It was a variety program and Williams, or one of his guests, sang a version of the Rudyard Kipling poem "If".  I'd somehow missed that poem in high school or college--no doubt spending time considering some athletic activity or carnal pursuit.

I often don't get lyrics right away, but this one nabbed me. I mentioned to dad how much I liked it. And then, of course, he recited from memory the entire poem.  I decided the words were valuable enough that I would try to do the same.  I have, on occasion, since then tried to recall what I once memorized, sometimes with more success than others.  I tried today with near complete success, but had to look up some lines. Then I worked on it this afternoon. Just now--after the afternoon refresher course--I got it down and wrote it below.

It's a great self-help message.  And important to retain given the challenges of daily interactions which can jostle you off your ethical grid.

What do I think is most significant in each verse?

(1) "Keep your head about you."  Tough to keep your head about you when people keep challenging what you hold to be true.  It is a tight wire act to keep your head and "make allowance for their doubting too."

(2)"meet with triumph and disaster and treat those two impostors just the same."  There are triumphs and there are triumphs. If you can separate the meaningless ones from the meaningful ones, then you have a shot at happiness. And, of course, one has to have the good sense to know which are meaningful and which are not.

(3) "force your heart and nerve and sinew to serve their turn long after they are gone".  Just that.

(4) "fill the unforgiving minute with 60 seconds worth of distance run"  it is something to strive for. It is important to remember there are only 60 seconds in a minute.  My dance with mortality is such that I sometimes forget there is an end. It is important to fill the time we have with "60 seconds worth of distance run."

Thank you Rudyard Kipling.

If you can keep your head about you
When all around you men are losing theirs and blaming it on you.
If you can trust yourself,
When all men doubt you, but make allowance for their doubting too
If you can wait,
And not get tired waiting
Or being lied about
Don't deal in lies
Or being hated. Don't give way to hating
And yet not look too good or talk too wise

If you can dream and not make dreams your master
If you can think, but not make thoughts your aim
If you can meet with triumph and disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same
If you can bear to hear the truth you've spoken
Twisted by knaves to set a trap for fools
If you can watch the world you gave your life to broken
And stoop to build it up with worn out tools

If you can make a heap of all your winnings
And risk it on one turn of pitch and toss
And lose and start at your beginnings
And never breathe a word about your loss
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve their turn long after they are gone
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the will which says to you, hold on.

If you can talk to crowds and keep your virtue
And walk with kings, nor lose the common touch
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you
If all men count with you, but none too much
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds worth of distance run
Then yours the world, and everything that's in it
And what is more, you'll be a man my son

No comments:

Post a Comment