Rudyard Kipling set an impossibly tall order for ‘man’ with his poem ‘If’, and by all means it’s a poem that could replace all religious texts. There is a lesson laced in every line of that poem. Not one word too much, not one word too little, it’s just right. Right like that wish granted just when you need it. Right like that silence in your mind just when you want it.
Lately, I’ve been increasingly thinking of the part of the poem where he says:
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
And stoop and build’em up with worn-out tools
These lines resonate within me like nothing else does. So much so that I can hear my soul say it to me. So much so that they keep me going every single day. I haven’t suffered a personal loss nor a material one. In fact, some might say it’s not much of a loss at all considering the number of people who live in abject poverty or those who don’t have a job or something more tangible. However, that’s not why I write this after months of trying to cope with it. My loss is more visceral than that. It’s not tangible in the weighing sense of the word. It’s like the tearing off of a piece of me that I feel can never be replaced.
So I think incessantly of what Kipling said. Because I poured my soul into the thing I lost and it was broken. They were sheafs of paper, but more than that they were a part of my soul. I put everything I had into them. I bared my heart, placed it on a platter and watched it beat in soft, sure rhythms. It made me happy to see the papers in my cupboard. They had a finality to them; like the sun has when it rises each morning, like your eyes have when they look at you, like the milkman has when he arrives each morning. They’re just there; a part of your every day life. A part that stays without an effort. So, when I see that they’re lost, it aches to think what was done to them. Were they burnt, torn or simply tossed away, I don’t know. What I do know is that they were destroyed. It’s a mystery. It’s a story which I don’t know the ending of. First comes the self-berating of not taking care, then comes the pseudo belief of finding it again, and finally comes the pain of losing.
Loss can be of many kinds. Some of it is replaceable, some of it is good for you, while some of it is a reminder of that fracture in your soul that you’ll carry around for the rest of your life. Over time you won’t need to explicitly call it out because it’ll become a part of your existence much like that scar under your chin.
And then, it’ll be there even when you won’t. That is why I often think, ‘If’.