I was watching SportsCenter when the coverage turned to NASCAR, whose championship was determined last night by the narrowest margin in history. It came down to the wire with Carl Edwards and Tony Stewart, who had been in something of a public war of words (and fenders, and pit crews) as they emerged the frontrunners.

Stewart won, and Edwards intercepted him on his victory lap to offer congratulations. The relief between the men was palpable, and I believe the sincerity of the gesture. At the press conference, Edwards referenced the poem “If” by Rudyard Kipling. How fantastic. Leave it to NASCAR to evoke Victorian nobility and excellent form, reminding us to “…meet with Triumph and Disaster and treat those two impostors just the same.” As you slog away at your instrument, or sit through an impossible meeting, or encounter any situation where dread seems most apropos, take heart. This is yet another opportunity to get better.

 

If 

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!

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2 thoughts on “If”

  1. As you know December 30th is the birthday of Rudyard Kipling, the author of the inspirational poem “If”. Even a century-and-a-half after his birth, his poem continues to inspire millions of people, people who come from incredibly varied backgrounds all over the world, including you and me. Apparently, we both feel that the more the message of this poem is shared, the better this world would be. After all, I found your blog because it has Kipling’s “If”.

    In that same spirit, the group of enthusiasts (including yours truly) have actually started a blog called “All Things If”, which is devoted to the ideals of the poem. The blog is a literary journal, with short fiction, editorials, sections for “Poems like ‘If’” and “Books like ‘If’”, and, in the next two months, you’ll find interviews with notable people under the heading “Kipling’s Hall of Fame”. Any help that you can offer to improve our blog would be greatly appreciated – articles, stories, suggestions, ideas, comments, editing, etc. I hope you will not find my request too outlandish, but it would also be great if you posted a link to “All Things If” under the text of “If” on your site. This way after reading “If” on your page, your visitors could find readings and even music that expand the poem’s message at “All Things If”.

    I look forward to hearing from you,

    Michael

    Reply

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