Archive for February 17th, 2012

When I was growing up, I knew of two “British” poems which seemed forever to bounce around in the back of my head as challenges – gauntlets thrown down at the foot of destiny. (I blame it on growing up in Kennedy’s “Camelot” – whether real or imagined…)  The two poems were “If“, by Rudyard Kipling, and “What I Live For” by George Linnaeus Banks.
I’ve had “If” posted on my poems page for sometime now.  I stumbled upon Banks’ poem today, so now, I’ve posted it as well.
I don’t know if all young boys think about growing up to be a man (“If” is nothing, if not a test for manhood) and what kind of man they’d want to be, but I certainly did.  I guess it comes from reading too many super-hero comics when growing up…
Anyway, read and enjoy!!

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Every day, we lose more than a thousand veterans and with them the wisdom of age and lessons of history.  American culture puts a huge premium on youth and beauty and even on inexperience and naiveté, but it is hard to see how any of these traits have utility in making us prosperous and safe.  To be sure, it is more pleasant to hear platitudes from vibrant, attractive people with hairless, sculpted bodies than it is to hear the unvarnished truth from someone with a leather face and less glibness than experience, but older people are more likely to speak with authority.
And with passion, too, for the older we get the more we recognize that, when the day is gone, it is gone forever and it can’t be retrieved.  So there is an urgency to the things that mature people say, which is why they talk incessantly and won’t shut up.  So much of their lives have already passed that they don’t have enough time left to recount the lessons in it.  And they are worried that you aren’t listening, which is why they tell the same stories, and deliver the same aphorisms, over and over again.
If it seems that we keep making the same mistakes, it is because we pay insufficient attention to people who have been through it all at least once before.  In the end, we will survive rather than perish not because we accumulate comfort and luxury but because we accumulate wisdom.
   ––    Col. Jack Jacobs (Ret.), a Congressional Medal of Honor recipient (and Douglas Century)
From their book:  “If Not Now, When?

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