A reader of my book, Write Here Write Now: Standing at Attention Before My Style Dictator, “an old man of six decades going seven, who can sing ‘Nobody Knows the Troubles I’ve Seen’ in a mean baritone,” wrote me a letter to say he was so inspired by my book that he was moved to write an article about the poem “If” by Rudyard Kipling to commemorate the sixty-second anniversary of his batch, Batch ’62, in the University of the Philippines-based fraternity Upsilon Sigma Phi. The poem played a key role in his initiation into the fraternity and a brotherhood of a lifetime, and, as it turns out, in building his character.
The poem connects directly with my desire to emphasize the importance of fortitude in a life designed with challenges, trouble, and toil among its major elements. In my book, an entire chapter is devoted to fortitude and many passages in most other chapters highlight its crucial role in our pursuit of self-realization. In the name of fortitude, defined by Merriam-Webster as “the strength of mind that enables a person to encounter danger or bear pain and adversity with courage,” I’d like to share this poem by Rudyard Kipling with you.
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!
Many thanks, Mr. G, Manuel Mayor Gamboa, geologist, painter, artist, inspiring individual! Your article, as well as your story, the life that you live, is such an inspiration.