“If” by Rudyard Kipling with a video by Spy Films

The poem beautifully describes life’s ups and downs and the importance of knowing how to embrace them both. It celebrates the acceptance and abandonment of what you’d love to have or would hate to lose, and, in either case, having the capacity to move forward – without losing yourself.

It’s about putting yourself out there and playing out the entire story. It may be through a startup, a job, a piece of art or a night out with friends. To follow a dream, or to pursue a want, but not to become bound to any one mantra while doing so.

I’ve always had a soft spot for that type of duality-talk. I too believe life provides a bounty of gifts for those that dance the line.

That’s my take anyway, but the only true way to describe how it makes me feel is to be inside my head when I read it. Thus is the beauty of art and poetry: personal interpretation.

Want to take a crack at expressing your take?

Enjoy the black and white video and reading by Dennis Hopper in the video below created by Nikki Ormerod and Spy Films and let us know your take of this classic piece.

from Graham Chisholm on Vimeo.

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!

Source: A Choice of Kipling’s Verse (1943)

The Good Ol’ Days (satire)

I miss the good ol’ days
You know
where I could like who I like
hate who I hate
And not have to worry about being
“Politically correct” and
not get corrected all the damn time

Ah, yeah, the Good ol’ days
I could keep to myself if I wanta
make jokes about whoever I wanna
and not get persecuted for it
not lose my job for it
I was secure

The good ol’ days
I could sit where I wanted
in my own section
with my own kind
and just relax
and breathe
and rest

Ah, the leave it to beaver days
Yeah, that’s when we had it right!
breakfast was waiting for ya every mornin’
no questions asked
separate beds, schools, offices and water fountains
life was easy
you knew your role
it was less complex

The good old days, dammit!
no one was being “watched”
no one was worried about being “recorded”
there was no “social media”
just MY media
it was quieter
less noisy

Back then, only WE had the Nuclear bombs
Ya know what I mean?
only we could vote
our word was the last word
everything was clean cut
we were right
it was easy

Yeah, I wish we could go back
to those good old days
where everyone (who mattered)
had it good
like me

Life is a plurality

Life – what more can I say that hasn’t already been said. It starts. It ends. It can do so hundreds of times a day for a single person, or only once – as it is realized before one dies.

It begins with a new breath, a new smile, a new love. It can end with a tear, a passing, a sadness – a separation. In all cases, it is a continuous thread of beginnings and ends. It is the realization of a new perspective, one that can re-invigorate us to feel in ways we didn’t think possible. Life can rush through our lungs with a skip of the heart.

Life is so intricately deep and sometimes so shockingly simple; always beautiful. A lesson learned can open up new doorways – or –  it can tie off fears we’ve been holding on to our entire lives for safety. For comfort.

It can be a prison. One we create around ourselves and find convenience in naming it a fortress, an attitude, a conviction. And to be free, or taste freedom, or free oneself. I am free – for now. I see a world I didn’t see before but know it has always been there. Untouched, for better and worst.

I have yet another new life, but far from the last life to be lived. True – it is nothing more than a new story to describe my already present surroundings; it changes nothing, but changes everything so absolutely. No one and no thing has changed but me. My mind. My eyes. But I am still myself – that I am sure of.

Growth is the escape, the new beginning. Not to destroy the singular life that came before it but to continue the thread of lives born within it.

So what has changed? The prison in which I kept myself? Or more importantly what starts a change, a new beginning, a new life? The catalyst lies in the recognition that prisons do not need to be powerful, ugly, large or made of steel, but they can be gentle, subtle, comforting and safe. They can coddle us in answers to questions we’re searching for but may have never needed to. Those prisons are the hardest to escape.

To escape yourself and what makes you comfortable without losing “yourself” in the process, that is the question. Can you allow a life to end so that a new one can begin without a fear of the end or anxiousness for the beginning? That is the moat and bars that prevent escape.

But it is possible. It is progress. It is life, and life is a plurality.