Stoicism and the Poem IF by Rudyard Kipling

Rudyard Kipling (1865-1936), in a photogravure from 1926 from www.Columbia.edu

The following YouTube of an animation of Rudyard Kipling reading his poem IF spoke to me this morning. I wanted to share it here because I learned something. English not being my first language I still find me learning many things and I find that the discovery of a new word is as magical today as it was when I was a child.

The caption for the poem on YouTube reads:

poetryanimations — December 08, 2008 — Heres a virtual movie of the great Rudyard Kipling (1865 – 1936) reading his wonderful wise much loved ode to stoicism the poem “If”.

What caught my attention was the word ‘stoicism’. Up until now, I had associated ‘stoicism’ or being ‘stoic’ with something that was not positive – somehow the words stoic and apathetic were mixed up in my mind (English not being my first language, I am not surprised. I make many such mistakes). But I loved the poem so much and I would never have labeled it ‘stoic’ and definitely not ‘apathetic’ and so I did some research and found the following Wikipedia definition of Stoicism.

I had no idea that (and I’m quoting from Wikipedia) “Stoics were concerned with the active relationship between cosmic determinism and human freedom, and the belief that it is virtuous to maintain a will (called prohairesis) that is in accord with nature. Because of this, the Stoics presented their philosophy as a way of life…” I just thought ‘stoic’ people were people who didn’t care.

I loved the poem in the video so much that I searched and found the words so I could print them out and read them myself. You can find them here.

Stoicim reminds me of the phrase from the Tao Te Ching that says ‘when nothing is done, nothing is left undone’. Or in this translation of chapter 3 – No action “If no action is taken
Harmony remains.”

I feel free of my judgment about the label ‘stoic’. I love learning.

I look forward to reading your comments and maybe we can have a Deep Conversation.