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Rudyard Kipling: I am, by calling, a dealer in words

I am, by calling, a dealer in words; and words are, of course, the most powerful drug used by mankind.

Not only do words infect, ergotise, narcotise, and paralyse, but they enter into and colour the minutest cells of the brain, very much as madder mixed with a stag’s food at the Zoo colours the growth of the animal’s antlers. Moreover, in the case of the human animal, that acquired tint, or taint, is transmissible.

May I give you an instance?

There is a legend which has been transmitted to us from the remotest ages. It has entered into many brains and coloured not a few creeds. It is this: Once upon a time, or rather, at the very birth of Time, when the Gods were so new that they had no names, and Man was still damp from the clay of the pit whence he had been digged, Man claimed that he, too, was in some sort a deity.

The Gods were as just in those days as they are now. They weighed his evidence and decided that Man’s claim was good — that he was, in effect, a divinity, and, as such, entitled to be freed from the trammels of mere brute instinct, and to enjoy the consequence of his own acts.

But the Gods sell everything at a price. Having conceded Man’s claim, the legend goes that they came by stealth and stole away this godhead, with intent to hide it where Man should never find it again.

But that was none so easy.

If they hid it anywhere on Earth, the Gods foresaw that Man, the inveterate hunter — the father, you might say, of all hunters — would leave no stone unturned nor wave unplumbed till he had recovered it. If they concealed it among themselves, they feared that Man might in the end batter his way up even to the skies.

And, while they were all thus at a stand, the wisest of the Gods, who afterwards became the God Brahm, said, “I know. Give it to me!”

And he closed his hand upon the tiny unstable light of Man’s stolen godhead, and when that great Hand opened again, the light was gone. “All is well,” said Brahm. “I have hidden it where Man will never dream of looking for it. I have hidden it inside Man himself.”

“Yes, but whereabouts inside Man have you hidden it?” all the other Gods asked.

“Ah,” said Brahm, “that is my secret, and always will be; unless and until Man discovers it for himself.”

-- Rudyard Kipling, quoted from A Book of Words

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Hmm, let's see, I'm trying to remember the magic word.

Oh yeah, I remember, they're all magic, every sentence an incantation, every book a book of spells, all scripture holy...

“All is well,” said Brahm.

My favorite Kipling

Macdonough's Song

Whether the State can loose and bind
In Heaven as well as on Earth:
If it be wiser to kill mankind
Before or after the birth--
These are matters of high concern
Where State-kept schoolmen are;
But Holy State (we have lived to learn)
Endeth in Holy War.

Whether The People be led by The Lord,
Or lured by the loudest throat:
If it be quicker to die by the sword
Or cheaper to die by vote--
These are things we have dealt with once,
(And they will not rise from their grave)
For Holy People, however it runs,
Endeth in wholly Slave.

Whatsoever, for any cause,
Seeketh to take or give
Power above or beyond the Laws,
Suffer it not to live!
Holy State or Holy King--
Or Holy People's Will--
Have no truck with the senseless thing.
Order the guns and kill!
Saying --after--me:--

Once there was The People--Terror gave it birth;
Once there was The People and it made a Hell of Earth
Earth arose and crushed it. Listen, 0 ye slain!
Once there was The People--it shall never be again!

jrd3820's picture

“If history were taught in the form of stories....

it would never be forgotten"
Kipling from his collected works. I had a professor once tell me that Kipling said that after I had told all of history is fiction anyways, might as well make it into stories.
Kipling was born in Bombay to a Professor of Architectural Sculpture. George Orwell described him as “The prophet of British Imperialism.”

He was the first English author to receive the Nobel Prize for Literature. I wrote a short essay on him in undergrad. He had interesting thoughts on America and “freedom.” He read Culture and Anarchy by Matthew Arnold as a young child. It basically says that the worship of freedom leads to rampant anarchy or…. Everyone doing as they like which is why British Imperialism was necessary.

T.S. Eliot (Lost Generation) referred to him as a ‘nearly great writer.’ Eliot could be a bit full of himself sometimes though because Kipling created characters children will never forget such as Rikki Tikki Tavi.

All that being said; he was a master with words and words have colors, and his are very vivid.


”In the early days the Astrologer-Physician, as he called himself, dreamed that the secret of Man’s eternal unrest was laid up in the sun, moon, and stars; and consequently, since all created things were one in essence, that an universal medicament for Man’s eternal woes could be discovered upon earth. So he searched the earth and the heavens for those twin secrets, and sacrificed himself in the search as a matter of course.”

I am not sure people have really stopped looking to the skies for the answers. I haven’t. Maybe others have, that’s ok. I’m usually late to the party anyways.

“But, this time, the seekers who headed it, unlike the Priest and the Lawyer, admitted that they knew very little. Experience had taught them to be humble. For that reason their knowledge was increased.”

It’s really the only way to increase knowledge isn’t it? You have to be humble enough to know that you don’t know everything. In fact even the smartest human beings know very little in comparison to all the knowledge there is to possibly be known. Once you know that you don’t know anything you have room to learn. The more people learn the more they realize they know very little. Arrogance is not just a turn off in personality; it shows a lack of intelligence. The more sure someone is of themselves on every aspect of life, the less likely it is they know much about this world, and that is about one of the only things I am sure of.

”But such virtue is not reached or maintained except by a life’s labour, a life’s single-minded devotion. Its reward is not only the knowledge of mastery and the gratitude of the layman, which may or may not bring content. Its true reward is the dearly prized, because unpurchasable, acknowledgement of one’s fellow-craftsmen.”

I think that’s more important than people realize. Whatever your craft is, it is important to study other craftsmen in that arena, even if you don't necessarily like their work. Study all of it.

Toomai of the Elephants in one the stories in The Jungle Books. It’s about dancing elephants. I had a professor try to tell me it is about so much more and I’m sure it is, and I just reread it really quick and I get it…, but I still say it is about dancing elephants.

“I will remember what I was. I am sick of rope and chain--
I will remember my old strength and all my forest-affairs.
I will not sell my back to man for a bundle of sugarcane.
I will go out to my own kind, and the wood-folk in their lairs.”

“I will go out until the day, until the morning break,
Out to the winds 'untainted kiss, the waters' clean caress.
I will forget my ankle-ring and snap my picket-stake.
I will revisit my lost loves, and playmates masterless!”

Idk, if you can get just one or two of the stories from The Jungle Books individually, but if you can I suggest Toomai of the Elephants.

This edition has a really great intro.

I had to go searching for this one, but I knew it was out there, I remembered using it before.

“The individual has always had to struggle to keep from being overwhelmed by the tribe. To be your own man is hard business. If you try it, you will be lonely often, and sometimes frightened. But no price is too high to pay for the privilege of owning yourself.”

oh btw...he was a freemason

“I like nonsense, it wakes up the brain cells. Fantasy is a necessary ingredient in living.”
― Dr. Seuss

I used to love the Jungle Book as a kid,

but I have completely forgotten who Rikki Tikki Tavi was. Oh, that's right, he was the mongoose. I wanted a mongoose as a pet when I was little. I used to think they were so cool, because they could take out a cobra.

Anyways, the whole point of this comment was to comment on your comment about how history ought to be taught as stories. Well, I think everything should be taught as stories, not just history. We have all these brain cells which are designed for social interactions, and stories are how we remember social interactions. We have evolved to be great at remembering stories. When I used to study for school, I would turn everything into a story. When I bushwack through the woods, I link landmarks together into a story to retrace my steps (well, I used to before the GPS days).

“The welfare of the people in particular has always been the alibi of tyrants.” — Albert Camus

I know a place

where it is!

When we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the Universe.
~ John Muir

Ahh, yes, Kipling, not to be

Ahh, yes, Kipling, not to be overlooked...