Tho’ much is taken, much abides; and tho’
We are not now that strength which in old days
Moved earth and heaven; that which we are, we are;
One equal temper of heroic hearts,
Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will
To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.
– Alfred, Lord Tennyson, Ulysses
I must confess at the outset that I haven’t read Ulysses. If that makes me a literary weakling then so be it. Kick copies of War and Peace in my face if you want to. I can take it.
But this verse from the end of Ulysses has always resonated with me, and it’s all to do with the key line: to strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.
Let’s break it down…
Striving is about getting involved in your life. Getting out there and engaging. Putting effort towards something that matters, simply because it matters.
“To strive” does not have include struggling or suffering, you don’t need to suffer for your art. It’s simply the act of engaging with meaning.
None of us have all the answers, and I love how we’re all seeking things that feel true. The act of seeking something that might make us better than we are, something that brings what we care about into focus, something that makes sense, brings us joy or makes a difference—not only is that the act of being confident, but it’s beautiful too.
Oh, and don’t conflate the act of seeking something with being incomplete—you’re already whole and whatever you seek is there to give your life richness or texture, not to fix a hole.
Your in-built desire to seek betterment is to be celebrated.
“Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain,” the Wizard of Oz famously said to Dorothy, and sometimes we all get wrapped up in the illusion (or delusion) of things.
But there can be little as joyful as discovering—and deliberately knowing—the simple truth of what’s behind the curtain. Whether it’s a truth you discover about yourself, an insight that leaves you changed, or clarity about the way forward, finding what is, is rare and beautiful indeed.
And not to yield…
There are challenges on every corner and with every step, and I know you’ve had moments where you’ve thought about giving up and turning back, and times when you’ve done just that.
Our ability to recognise challenge and adversity, and to still make a deliberate choice to keep going will never fail to inspire me and will always fascinate me.
It’s nothing short of heroic.
You and Ulysses…
Right now, right here, you have the ability to strive, to seek, to find, and to take a stand and not yield.
How are you using that ability?
Are you striving, seeking or finding?
Yielding or not yielding?
When you think about these elements, how’s your relationship with each one?
And when you think about what you want for yourself, which of these elements might be most useful to you right now?