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Be Seen in Your Light and Goodness

By Paul C Pritchard on Thursday October 10th, 2019

A Poem for Us All

As a child, I was fortunate enough to be exposed to a lot of poetry. My mother’s strict and sometimes unduly stern grammar school education had some benefits for me. Mum was mildly rebellious: not wearing her school hat whilst still in uniform on her way home; a witty remark during silent lunch breaks, uncontrolled giggles during assembly … that kind of wild, untamed, unladylike, hell-bound delinquent behaviour that the nuns punished. One of her punishments was to learn poetry by heart. She can still recite them sixty-four years later. And at a push, so can I. I would plead for her to recite them over and over.

One of those poems that I still lean into is Rudyard Kipling’s magnificent classic called, ‘If’. Most people know a line or two from this poem. It is recited and quoted endlessly in all sorts of arenas and events. Even centre court Wimbledon has some of the lines engraved on its entrance. It is technically a list poem, a string of lessons about virtue, integrity, humility, and dignity. It speaks to the heart and spirit of maturity. In simple language, it schools us in basic life lessons that will stave away self-doubt and a lack of direction. It, of course, has patriarchal overtones as it was written in 1895 … a time of great certitude and tradition meeting the exotic as Great Britain garnered and swelled the now controversial Empire.

This didactic poem illustrates a selection of the human qualities that remain some of the finest and most noble of our aspirations. It’s unpretentious in its style, tone, and execution. It explores the main pillars of a healthy society: equality and respect for all mankind. It always makes me smile to say or read the word, ‘mankind’. I so dearly want to keep believing that, fundamentally, Man is kind. That our most inherent and finest quality is that of goodness. That our default is quiet altruism.

‘If’ is a spiritual poem … in the sense that it teaches a higher path for Unity, Peace, and Love. It’s clever in the way it uses everyday language. It is written for the ‘common’ man and for royalty. Perhaps it’s the first renowned poem to address kings and laypersons with the same language, there is no separation here. Yes, there are distinctions, natural observations about variance. But it is speaking to the heart of every person with regards to taking right and good action in the world. The invitation is to live any life you choose but if you follow the guiding principles in this poem you will attain a balance; an equilibrium, that echoes many Buddhist teachings.

PoemA poem written for royalty and the layperson.

Read this poem with presence and receptivity. Engage with the poet’s intention. Allow the simplicity and profundity to wash over you. Let this 124-year-old poem speak to that part of you that binds us all: our oneness, our shared uniqueness, our longing to be seen and heard and accepted in our light and goodness.

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!

~

We would love to hear your reflections on this poem. What can you glean from it? What are the take-home lines for you? What are you willing to lean into as an area of growth? You know ‘If’ you left your comments below and shared in our conversation you’d be an UPLIFT Man, my son!

Wishing you all the very best tools to help you discover what makes your unique expression truly shine in the world.

Much love

Team UPLIFT

 

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25 Responses to Be Seen in Your Light and Goodness

  1. I can only say that Theresa Flacke hit the nail on the head. It is Humbling and Reflecting and really saying we have it all on on Mother Earth and when we are in sync, in harmony with God’s light nothing can disturb us – nothing at all. BEAUTIFUL.Norm Shaw

  2. This was my Dad’s favourite poem, and his life’s Motto. He lived by its contents, and my Dad, despite his faults (and we ALL have faults) was indeed a great man. I loved him very much, and this poem always brings happy tears to my eyes as I remember him. This poem was read at his funeral, as it summed up the essence of him & his way of living. Rest In Peace my very special Da xx

    • May we all Rest In Peace … here on this Earth and on the next part of our journey. Thank you for sharing your love and tenderness around your Great Dad. Much love Paul for Team Uplift

  3. I first read this poem while in the eighth grade, and fell in love with it the very first time I read it. I remember writing it out in a notebook and read it nearly everyday since then. That was 52 years ago. I have lived my life based on that poem and loved everyday of my life. It gives you everything you need to live with love, respect and integrity. It’s a poem that every parent should read often to their children. It is timeless/ageless. And as a woman I am not offended by the last line. Love to all. xoxo

    • Beloved Cici … thank you for your very appreciated comments. May the poem serve you many more years as you shine bright as a beautiful kind human being … Thank you. Much love Paul for Team Uplift

  4. 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;
    💕

  5. 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;
    💕

  6. It’s a long time since I have read IF and yes It is something to encourage you to live by. Thank you for the printing of IF.

    • You’re very welcome … it’s such a great clean poem … inclusive and full of virtue. Thank you. Much love Paul for Team Uplift

    • It’s a great idea to read as a daily practice – Better still you can learn it like buy mother did and recite it for yourself and others in need of the reminder … Much love Paul for Team Uplift

  7. Thank you for sharing this poem as now I have discovered its wisdom and beauty. It’s words focus our awareness on our human condition, our vulnerability and yet by remaining faithful to our true Self we can journey to our destination, fulfill our life’s purpose without comprise or fear. The last couplet speaks of living in the present moment…”if you can fill the unforgiving minute, with sixty seconds worth of distance, yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it…
    It’s very profound to reflect on these words.

  8. “If you can think and not make thoughts your aim” touches me the most. So often when faced with decisions both big and small I try to think through them. I think about outcomes on both sides of the issue. It becomes very stressful. Have had many sleepless nights. But when I can “not make thoughts my aim” I can breathe and relax and allow the answer to come to me rather than trying to force an answer that I usually don’t feel comfortable about.

  9. Thanks so much for your contemplation … I believe it’s a poem to weave throughout our whole lives … always learning and growing with it. Thanks for your wisdom … I learned from you too. Much love Paul for Team UPLIFT

  10. A beatiful poem !
    Personale I would prefere the last words ” And – which is more – you’ll be a Man, my son!”
    As ;
    And which is more you’ll be Human my Child

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