IF – A Look at Stoicism During the Victorian-Era

The poem IF – by Rudyard Kipling was written in 1895 and first appeared in Kipling’s book Rewards and Fairies. It is recognized as one of the most quoted and beloved poems of all time and provides a perfect example of stoicism.

IF – 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 a 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!

As you see from the poem, it is advice on keeping calm in the face of adversarial challenges, knowing that you are in control of your own emotions. You are in control of how you react to the environments you are put into.

As Marcus Aurelius reminds himself in Meditations:

Today I escaped anxiety. Or no, I discarded it, because it was within me, in my own perceptions — not outside.

Remember that there are things that happen in life that are outside your control meaning you cannot change them. What you can do, however, is change how you react to them. While the shit-storm of life is swirling around you, and you feel like you’re drowning, like there is nothing you can do about your situation, whether it be in love, finance, or career, remember that you have control over yourself and how you react to the problems on hand.

No one can take that from you.


Further Reading

Meditations -Marcus Aurelius
IF – Rudyard Kipling

The Stoic Within

The art of living a virtuous life.

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