I was recently introduced to Rudyard Kipling’s poem, ‘If’. I usually avoid Kipling because of his racist and imperialistic tendencies. However, I quite enjoyed the poem – to a point.

My favorite bit:

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

I don’t think he intended the Buddhist themes, but I enjoyed them.

What I most certainly did not like was the patriarchal conclusion of the poem. Kipling concludes that if you can do all of these noble things, then, “You’ll be a Man, my son!”

I took the liberty of re-writing the poem with a modern (or post-modern?) riff on the poem. I don’t think Kipling would approve. I’m fine with that.

If you can strive for peace,
Yet not demand it with harsh words;
If you can hold compassion for others,
Yet not grow to hate yourself.
Love yourself,
And not let self blind you to the world;
If you can see the light in enlightenment,
Yet not be consumed by striving;
If you can be visited by sickness,
And not let the darkness make you ill;
See old age coming,
And greet it as an elder;
If you can meet with death,
And still taste the sweet in life;
If you can see injustice, ever work for change
And not let your heart grow hard –
Then savor every moment,
For you know not your own strength.

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