Most of us have heard of Rudyard Kipling’s poem, “IF”. For a refresher, here it is in its entirety.
If you can keep your head when all about youAre 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 DisasterAnd treat those two impostors just the same;If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spokenTwisted 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 winningsAnd risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,And lose, and start again at your beginningsAnd never breathe a word about your loss;If you can force your heart and nerve and sinewTo serve your turn long after they are gone,And so hold on when there is nothing in youExcept 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 minuteWith 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!
Over the last five or so months, I’ve found myself returning to this poem by Kipling again and again, really chewing on the verses and a few weeks back I had a thought: If you divided the prose up, one could have some sort of daily “devotional” where one meditates on a verse or two for a day…
So that is my challenge and intent come the first day of Fall, 09/23/2019, I’m going to make a daily meditation or devotional. At my first count, I had it divided into 18 segments of individual study. Eighteen days is a rather odd number for a devotional project, and since some could easily be bunched together, I took to the division again. Finally coming up with 15 days worth of content.
It’ll be a three week venture, with one piece of content per day being delivered during the “traditional” work week, Monday – Friday. The plan is to keep the posts no longer than 500-700 words, so only a couple minutes worth of reading for you each day.
A good handful of years and existential crises ago, I was serving in a church, primarily the college aged congregants as some sort of a lay-pastor. I didn’t hold an official office, neither was I on the payroll… but the “kids” (some of them only a few years younger than I) seemed to like calling me “pastor”. When I served in that capacity I enjoyed being able to teach and exhort, though I did it a bit different than just blabber on from the pulpit.
Anywho… on to the point.
The point is that sometimes we lose things in translation from the text, or it just becomes white noise since we’ve read or heard a given text a ton of times. I had learned, from a favorite author of mine at the time, to inflect tone into the words of the text when I was teaching. It helps to bring out new life into a often heard line. As in Shakespeare, to recite any of the famous soliloquys with a monotone voice makes one want to sleep. But to put inflection and color into it… well now the listener and the speaker can receive new life and meaning from the text…
No… I will not be performing IF. You can rest easy.
Do the words call for an aloofness? Or perhaps an intensity, or maybe slightly joking? Was the verse meant to come out soft, like a whispered secret that desperately needed to be shared? These things aren’t just for acting, but like I said, can bring out a whole new “aha” moment to something you’ve read again and again.
With that in mind, I give you “The Way of Men” Author, Jack Donovan, and his rendition of the subject matter so you can see what I’m talking about. I thoroughly enjoyed the way he spoke this poem to life. Like in many things, this version isn’t the “gospel”, the one true way to emphasize the poem. And there are others, just search YouTube and you can find them.
One final word…
I’m no life-coach or anything like that. I’ve never fooled myself into believing I am. By the time I launch this, I will have already observed my 40th birthday come and go. I’m a man. I’m a father. I’ve held multiple management positions, some more successful than others. I never went to college. I just worked and raised a family and did the best I could with what I had. And it is from this masculine frame of reference that I’ll draw from.
This is a project, an experiment and as such, I would love for you to chime in to the conversation as we go through each verse. Please share your thoughts in the comments, and since the comments have to be approved by me before they are made public, if you don’t want them made public, just let me know!
Who knows, maybe the next time I do a project like this, I’ll include what you have shared (protecting names and details where necessary, of course) in order to produce a far richer experience!
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Be on the lookout for the IF Project!
Coming: September 23, 2019.