29 December 2010

If... and Christmas!

If… Rudyard Kipling

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!

So I found this poem when I was reading Bridget Jones:  The Edge of Reason (which incidentally is not a bad book… I picked it up in some transient location somewhere out of a lack of things to read… I’m rationalizing).  I found it to be remarkably reflexive of the whole deployment experience (the poem, not Bridget Jones).  While things here gone well overall, the experience is still at times trying.  Deployment has a way of stretching your every last nerve in every direction.  Enduring the experience is an accomplishment in and of itself.  Surprisingly after the experience is over, it’s generally positive in hindsight.  I know I have dozens of “one time at band camp…” stories that I subject my fellow soldiers to all the time gloating about how wonderful of a time I had in Afghanistan.  The work of transitioning a deployment from a reality to a memory is the most difficult part… an endurance test of its own nature… one that I think is captured in Kipling’s poem.

In other news, we just finished up with the Christmas holidays.  I set the Christmas tree on fire just yesterday.  I understand that lighting Christmas trees aflame upon the conclusion of Christmas is not a tradition, but I highly recommend that we make it one as it provides a youthful anticipation reminiscent of Santa Claus.  The crackling and uncontrolled flames alongside the wanton sense of destruction make for a very positive experience.  Above you will see a picture of the Christmas tree in the days before Christmas… note its unsuspecting look of innocent ambition… it never saw what hit it.

I helped cook breakfast on Christmas morning.  Cooking is one of my favorite pastimes (aside from setting Christmas trees aflame… and using the word aflame) so it allowed me a little release.  We cooked sausage, scrambled eggs, and pancakes for approximately 80 soldiers with wonderful results.  The morning looked grim at first after a handful of near electrical fires (due largely with issues related to scaling down 220 volt power sources to 120 volt power).  With a faithful crew of electricians/cooks we managed to put breakfast on the table just in time.  The breakfast was nice as it gave us a break from realizing that we were away from home on Christmas morning.  The amount of work that people put in organizing and setting the whole venture up reflected the spirit of the holidays.

After the breakfast, I had the pleasure of getting to watch my daughter open her presents over Skype.  She was extremely happy about all the tape and paper that she got, and did not seem too annoyed by all the toys that she had to separate from them.  One remarkable thing about this deployment has been the proliferation of technology as part of the soldiers array of crap they carry around with them.  Unlike my previous deployment, we can enjoy special moments in person by proxy via webcam in the privacy of our rooms (instead of in shared computer lab facilities).  We have better access to stay in touch with those at home.  Honestly, I think soldiers have surpassed the military in their ability to use modern infrastructure to communicate.  I know more about what individual soldiers have done all day and how they are feeling through Facebook (across a wide variety of locations within Iraq) than I know about them through the official military channels.  Sometimes I feel like I live in a BestBuy commercial.

Well that’s it for now...

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