It was the winter of 1959, a long time ago. I was in my room on the third floor of the parsonage on Sunnyside Boulevard in Cleveland, Ohio. I was reading with modern jazz playing in the background. The kind of light jazz heard in coffeehouses of that era. As the next piece started, the reader began with "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!
- Rudyard Kipling
I was so moved by the experience of listening to the dramatic reading of Kipling's classic poem that I rushed around the house to locate the phone number for the radio station. I called and asked about the poem and was eventually able to get the information I needed to order a small 6" recording with the reading the radio station played.
By clicking on this link , you'll be able to hear a professional reading by Dennis Hopper of this classic poem. Kipling's "If" calls us to a higher place, calls us to step out of the crowd and live a life of courage, dignity, humility, self-respect and purpose. What a great way to start the New Year.
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