February 27, 2014

Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it...

Rudyard Kipling's 'If' which has eight-line stanzas of advice to his son. In 1909, he wrote this with Dr Leander Starr Jameson in mind. Jameson (In 1895) led about 500 of his countrymen in a failed raid against the Boers, in southern Africa. What became known as the Jameson Raid was later cited as a major factor in bringing about the Boer War of 1899 to 1902.  But the story as recounted in Britain was quite different. The British defeat was interpreted as a victory and Jameson portrayed as a daring hero.


Although this century old poem was inspired by the exploits of a British officer in South Africa, I found it very inspiring as it transcends any specific time or place.

Kipling depicts that life no day at the beach. We are going to be lied to, cheated, blamed, harassed, backstabbed, disappointed and most of the positive outcome is not guaranteed. The writer advised his son to have faith in his abilities, stand and live the life to the fullest.

Each stanza describes several tests. Kipling advices his son to keep cool and act confidently when there is a problem and everybody is agitated and blaming everybody else.

He said, people might doubt your abilities and try to put you down. But in such conditions we should continue to trust ourself. We must have patience, truthfulness and love, when the world seems to lack these qualities.

According to Kipling, Triumph and Disaster are two imposters and we should treat them as same, which means it doesn't matter whether you win or lose, it's how you play the game.

We must get up and fight when there is a problem and all your efforts seem wasted. Kipling says, we must be ready to take a risk and continue fighting even after you have lost everything.

Kipling said you'll get 'If you can fill the unforgiving minute with sixty seconds' worth of distance run, the earth and everything that's in it.'  The poet is asking his son to utilize each second by doing something useful all the time. The entire Earth will be yours, only then will you qualify to be a man.

I will surely give a copy of this magnificent piece to my future son or daughter. I think this a very inspiring poem gives a perfect advice as it states all the characteristics I would want my future son or daughter.


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!


-K Himaanshu Shukla...


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