28
May
07

If You Can Keep Your Head

I finally got through one of my many stacks, and I came across a Runner’s World article honoring John J. Kelley. Winner of the 1957 Boston Marathon, he’s a proven competitor who has inspired many distance runners with his grace and humility. For me, one event in particular from the article stands out. During Kelley’s induction speech into the National Distance Running Hall of Fame, he didn’t tackle the expected topics related to his early days in the running field.

As the article relates:

“It seems that Kelley had strolled around Utica the previous afternoon, and happened upon a Copernicus statue. This got him thinking about man’s place in the firmament, one of his favorite topics. ‘It occurred to me that when we’re young, we naturally think of ourselves as the center of our universe, and we hope to eventually establish a niche in some hall of fame. But in the development of the individual, the humbling effects of a larger universe take their toll, so by the time an honor such as this comes along, we hedge a little about accepting it.'” (link)

I was so sure of my importance in earlier years. Even today I sometimes get caught up in what I’m working on, what’s most important to me. And it takes days like today (Memorial Day in the States) and articles like this one to remind me that bigger issues exist. One unexpected benefit to this blog has been the placement in context of different things I think about, especially when I’m looking back through history.

Even Copernicus had room in his personal universe for humility:

“For I am not so enamoured of my own opinions that I disregard what others may think of them.” (link)

We live in a crazy time teeming with opportunity, but that opportunity comes at a price. What are we sacrificing to create new universes? What future consequences will we face? Today’s rapidly changing world reminds of Rudyard Kipling’s famous “If:”

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! (link)

What’s at the center of your universe?

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