Back in the 1960’s and 1970’s, the poem “If” by the renowned author Rudyard Kipling was a favorite on college campuses, and was frequently quoted at graduation ceremonies. I have been an admirer of it for many years and have taken Kipling’s lessons to heart. I just wish more people did likewise in these hate-filled political times. If we all took the lessons embodied in his poem to heart, I’m sure we would be more respectful and tolerant of each other. I would like to believe this should be read to every student in school or college at the beginning of the year.
Here is John Facenda’s rendition of Kipling’s “If”:
“IF” — by Rudyard Kipling
If you can keep your head when all about you
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 be tired by waiting,
Or being lied about, don’t deal in lies,
Or being hated, don’t give way to hating,
And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise;
If you can dream—and not make dreams your master;
If you can think—and 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 make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
And stoop and build ’em up with worn-out tools;
If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
And never breathe a word about your loss;
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: ‘Hold on!’
If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
Or 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,
Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,
And—which is more—you’ll be a Man, my son!
The poem was originally published in 1910 by Kipling who was well known as a Freemason; from Hope and Perseverance Lodge No. 782. E.C., in Lahore, India (now Pakistan, near the India border). The Brotherhood tries to instill a sense of morality in its members, and promotes tolerance for those of different faiths and political persuasions. The lessons inculcated here in this poem are common sense and could easily be construed as derived from Masonic lectures.
Through his poem, Brother Kipling is trying to teach us in order to lead a mature and positive life, we should actively try to practice patience and understanding. Further, life is short and the best way to socialize and get ahead in this crazy world is to simply keep your wits about you. This isn’t quite as easy as it seems, particularly in the 21st century where road rage is common, office rage, political rage, religious rage, marriage rage, etc. As I’ve mentioned in the past, I blame a lot of our problems regarding impatience and intolerance on the excessive use of technology where our expectations are programmed to do everything instantaneously, and we resent any form of delay, be it a speed limit, waiting in line, or arguing with another, particularly regarding politics. Patience seems to be in short supply these days.
Practicing patience is an important part of our ability to socialize with others. Quite often, we believe it is someone else causing our frustration, and maybe that’s true. However, we must also admit we create our own problems by being self-centered and not practicing a little common courtesy to others. As Kipling reminds us, if you can maintain your focus, if you can remain calm in the midst of catastrophe, and do unto others as you would have others do unto you…
“Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,
And—which is more—you’ll be a Man, my son!”
Keep the Faith!
P.S. – Don’t forget my new book, “Tim’s Senior Moments” now available in Printed and eBook form.
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