Of Kipling and Superman

When I was approximately 9 years old, though maybe 10, I fell in love with Rudyard Kipling’s “Jungle Book” and couldn’t put it down. That’s a figure of course especially since I “read” Kipling by way of long playing records from the Library for the Blind—big scratchy slow disks that required a bulky oversized government issue record player, but let’s say I couldn’t put the book down.

I loved so many things about the “Jungle Book” I can still call them to mind. Kipling praised curiosity, a thing all children need to hear.

“It is the hardest thing in the world to frighten a mongoose, because he is eaten up from nose to tail with curiosity. The motto of all the mongoose family is “Run and find out,” and Rikki-tikki was a true mongoose.”

And I loved Kipling’s recondite, arcane Victorian prose:

“Now Rann the Kite brings home the night That Mang the Bat sets free— The herds are shut in byre and hut For loosed till dawn are we. This is the hour of pride and power, Talon and tush and claw. Oh, hear the call!—Good hunting all That keep the Jungle Law!”

I marched around reciting those lines in my Superman costume.

Little Superman knew nothing of colonialism. He liked animals, magic, and abstruse lingo. He liked a thick alternate reality to days of being bullied in the schoolyard. Who wouldn’t’ want to live with real wolves like Mowgli?

By the age of 10 I knew I’d never be bored. Books. Fantasies. Living nose to tail with curiosity.

Oh don’t give up on curiosity. Please. I love you, you stranger, don’t let them take this precious gift from you.

Read some Kipling. Kipling:

“No price is too high to pay for the privilege of owning yourself.”

 

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