Kipling and The Metaphorical Shoebox

Kipling and The Metaphorical Shoebox

‘Brother Square-Toes’

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

 

Rudyard Kipling has managed to weave together everything that I aspire to be in one poem. In reading his writing, I am reminded that I spend many days listening to others who for one reason or another have chosen me as their confidant. In this listening, I am often left wondering why some are left so broken from life while others continue to move forward with hope regardless of circumstance. What is it that separates these two very different approaches to life?

 

My first thought is that this separateness is created by a gap in faith, but I believe that does not fully explain the dichotomy. The fact that some are left struggling with darker emotions while others rise above is both fascinating and terrifying. Terrifying in realizing these lost souls could easily be me. We are all only a few thoughts and decisions away from being stuck in a dark place . We all have the potential to embrace the darkness rather than the light.

 

One possible answer is in the weaving together of our stories while not clinging to this narrative as if a baby to a beloved blanket. It is in feeling the scars but rising above the pain. It is in leaving those behind that have treated us as less than while not lingering or looking back. It is in not hanging on to a metaphorical shoebox of wrongs hidden deep away in the shadows of our psyche.

 

Kipling say it perfectly with, “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.”  We have all flirted with this shoebox of wrongs at one time and stayed in this space far longer than expected. It is a dangerous place filled with a bitterness that is frightening if allowed to fester. Triumph and disaster are just that, two pivotal life moments each having a place in the tapestry of life. Without sadness, there is no joy; without anger there is no love and without failure there is no gain. One requires a concrete measure of where to begin in order to set goals and achieve tangible change.

 

It is only in lingering in this shoebox that one can get stuck. You will find those in this place proclaiming how life has mistreated them, committed great wrongs and where the blame lies. Remaining the victim allows the pain to completely dictate a life. Overcome by the shadows of the shoebox, one can only see darkness, missing out on all of the many beautiful things that life offers. Kipling speaks to this with, “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”. Heeding Kipling’s words, I make every possible effort to avoid this shoebox filled with bitterness. I no longer feel jaded, spending precious life energy pointing fingers at those that have peppered my life in unforgiving ways. I simply look at these same people as knots in a beautiful and colorful tapestry of my life, nothing more.

 

Empty your shoebox let it all go. Don’t carry around things that no longer serve, even if those that we love refuse to let the story go. The rehashing of the past does nothing but reaffirm harm. It has no value in the present. Everyone has something that they struggle with, tucked deeply away. Work each and everyday to write new stories that do not need to be buried in a box, stories that uplift and serve a greater purpose. Occasionally you may still tuck away a few morsels of regret, but do not linger. The journey is happening now and the road is just ahead.

 

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