I’ve never really understood poetry but there have been some poems that have hugely influenced me.
The first was “If” by Rudyard Kipling and it still influences me today. For some it’s a cliché and for others Kipling represents everything that was wrong with the British Empire. Which is a shame because he wrote some great stuff.
But I came across a very short poem recently that stopped me in my tracks because in eight short lines it has captured the very core of what drives me. I’ll come back to that in a minute.
In the work I do for big corporates Dan Pink is the motivation guru. He’s written books and has a TED talk all of which are good and I recommend. But above all that he has a line which sums up a lot of what’s wrong in the world.
“There’s a gap between what science knows and business does”
I love that line but there’s something a little bit wrong with it. When you really think about it there is no such thing as a business. There are people who work in an organised way together to try and make a profit for their owners.
What Dan Pink should have said was
“There’s a gap between what science knows and what people do”
The thing is science as we know it has only been around for a 100 years or so; before that it was philosophers. Hence scientists get the letters PhD after their names. Doctor of Philosophy.
Philosophy and philosophers go back to the earliest recorded musings of mankind and the weird thing is that scientists today are now proving to be true what philosophers were writing about 3,000 years ago.
So Dan Pink should have said:
“There’s a gap between what philosophy has always known and people are still doing today”
And that brings me to the poem.
It was written by Sara Teasdale who was born in 1884 and committed suicide in 1933.
When I have ceased to break my wings
Against the faultiness of things,
And learned that compromises wait
Behind each hardly opened gate,
When I have looked Life in the eyes,
Grown calm and very coldly wise,
Life will have given me the Truth,
And taken in exchange – my youth.
I’m totally driven to break that cycle of perpetuating the gap between what science knows and what people do. I don’t want people to have to keep on reinventing the wheel, using up their lives learning lessons that have been known for thousands of years.
Maybe I’m tilting at windmills but what I know is this.
90% of what I’ve learned in the last five years, that has saved me from oblivion, was there for me to learn when I was 18; leaving home for the first time to start my adult journey. But I had no one to point me in the direction.
And it takes a poet to capture in just eight lines and fifty words the price of that ignorance.