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Never Give Up On Life!

Updated on October 11, 2013
My dad understood Tennyson's poem very well although he never read it.
My dad understood Tennyson's poem very well although he never read it. | Source
Lessons passed down from father to son
Lessons passed down from father to son | Source
And from son to his son.
And from son to his son.

What do you think of your fellow humans?

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Perhaps we should begin with the quote itself; that way you might have some idea what the heck I’m talking about. From Tennyson’s “Ulysses”….

“….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.”

Now that you have your reference point shall we begin?

THE SUMMER OF 1968

I was a junior at Seattle University when I first read “Ulysses.” I had never read any of Tennyson’s works until that day and in truth I have read few since; however, there was something about that poem and in particular the last stanza that resonated with me then, so much so that I memorized it and still remember it to this day.

At the time that I was reading it the world was an unsettled place. The Civil Rights Movement was in full swing with riots seeming to occur daily. If the riots were not centered on Civil Rights then they certainly were about Vietnam as human beings rose up to speak out about what they perceived to be injustice around the world. By the time I read that poem Martin Luther King had been assassinated, Robert Kennedy had been assassinated, the Chicago Democratic Convention had turned bloody and the Soviet Union was flexing its muscles in Eastern Europe with thousands dying in the process.

I have not a clue what Tennyson’s intentions were when he wrote “Ulysses.” I never met the man so I’ll forever be ignorant as to his intentions. I, on the other hand, looked at his words as an anthem dedicated to mankind and to that unique quality of man that makes us continue to struggle forward despite seemingly insurmountable odds.

Little did I know that my father would be dead in a few short months and those special lines would take on a whole new meaning for me.

A LOOK AT HISTORY

I have always been a history buff. I never did very well in history classes because studying was not something I cared for nor was sitting in lectures listening to a teacher with the charisma of dried toast. Still, I love history and in particular moments in history when man faced incredible odds and yet moved forward into the teeth of that challenge.

Stories from the Civil War fascinated me. I visited Gettysburg once and stood looking out over the field where Pickett’s Charge took place and I was in awe of the courage it must have taken to march into that barrage of gun and cannon fire knowing the odds were great that they would die shortly. Time after time at Fredericksburg Union soldiers approached Marye’s Heights only to be mowed down by merciless fire and yet each time the order was given new rows would form and advance on the hillside. It was hopeless insanity on the part of the commanding officers but to the men it was their duty and repeatedly they fulfilled their duty. What is it about mankind that we can face certain destruction and yet keep on course?

Stories from the Oregon Trail were always favorites of mine. Men and women walking (yes, walking) close to 2,000 miles through some of the most inhospitable weather and land this country has to offer just for the chance at a better life. Cholera decimated many a family, hunger and exhaustion were their constant companions and still they took each agonizing step westward for what they believed to be the Promised Land. Giving up was not an option; perseverance was their only weapon against despair.

I have no doubt that each of you can think of many instances in history that Tennyson’s poem can be applied to but for now let’s take a look at the present day.

DO WE STILL HAVE THE RIGHT STUFF?

Oh, I think we do! Would you like an example of bravery under fire? How about the firefighters who ran INTO THE FIRE during 9/11? It is practically impossible to pick up a newspaper without finding a story about heroism in today’s world. Despite the horrendous nature of tragedies near and far there are always those who risk it all to help others.

Take a quick virtual tour of the world and see what stories you can find. Stop in Uganda for a moment and think about this: hundreds of thousands are being slaughtered in that nation and yet each day villagers get up, feed their children and try to carve out a little slice of life for their families, living in constant fear and yet going about the business of living. Hope does not spring eternal in that country but still humans move forward, doing anything necessary to plow ahead.

Shall we talk about poverty in our world, poverty so bad that most of us in industrialized nations cannot conceive of it? The pictures we see of distended bellies, of eyes staring off into the darkness of existence, it is all beyond our comprehension. How can they go on each day? How do they manage to stay sane let alone alive? But they do, and then do again, holding onto a flicker of hope so dim as to seem hardly worth the effort.

I have personally known men and women so ravaged by the effects of drugs and alcohol that they are on borrowed time each day of their lives, paying the price day in and day out for a disease that controlled them for decades. Once sober or drug-free but still suffering from body shut-down they will smile and tell you that life is good. How is that possible you ask? Perhaps Tennyson understood best of all.

http://billybuc.hubpages.com/hub/Alcoholism-My-Personal-Story

Or how about the single parents out there who struggle daily to make a good home for their children? These are the everyday people who do nothing more than breathe love for their children and do everything in their power to provide a good home. The bills keep piling up, the support system is limited and sometimes weak, the job is grueling and yet each day they get up determined to make a better life for their family. Can you say dedication? Can you say determination? Can you say….human?

KICKIN’ AND SCREAMIN’

We come into this life kickin’and screamin’ and most of us go out exactly the same way. Our hold on life may be slipping from our grasp but whatever we have left to hold onto we grip with a fierceness that is superhuman. Is it fear of death that makes it so? Do cancer patients doomed to a few remaining days fight to their last breath because they fear the Great Beyond or because they do not want to let go of this precious gift they have been given?

When I was holding my father as he died from a heart attack the grip he had on my hand was fierce. The pain was twisting his face into an ugly, wretched mask. He had to know he was dying but he was holding on with every ounce of strength left in him because that’s what we humans do. We do not let go until the choice is taken away from us.

http://billybuc.hubpages.com/hub/Remembering-My-Fathers-Death-January-9-1969

“To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.” No truer words have ever been written in describing the very nature of mankind. We are a race of survivors and we cling to the specialness of life with a singular purpose. It is a wonder to behold and it truly is something to be proud of as a member of this race.

We have our faults. There can be no debate about that point. As a species we have performed unspeakable acts upon our fellow men and women and at times our pettiness is beyond comprehension. It would be easy to condemn our race as pitiful and merciless, incapable of greatness because of our egos and limited scope of the larger picture. I think that would be short-changing us. We have our dark side and we have a long journey ahead of us to reach our potential. Still, we are strivers. Still, we are seekers. Still we are discoverers. Still we do not give up!

2012 Bill Holland (aka billybuc)

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    • Natashalh profile image

      Natasha 5 years ago from Hawaii

      I must frequently be online right after you post things on the weekends!

      I don't think I have ever read any Tennyson, though friends have tried to convince me to in the past. I love the quotation and think it is very well explicated. I think my favorite quotation from literate is from Walden. Voted beautiful and up!

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 5 years ago from Olympia, WA

      You do seem to get here quickly Natasha....and yes, Walden is wonderful and if I had had a second choice it would have been by Thoreau. Thank you my dear for being so faithful!

    • Kathleen Cochran profile image

      Kathleen Cochran 5 years ago from Atlanta, Georgia

      Though much is taken, much abides . . . one of my favorites too.

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 5 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Kathleen, yes, great quote. You are a writer who appreciates the finer things in life. Thank you!

    • Deborah Brooks profile image

      Deborah Brooks Langford 5 years ago from Brownsville,TX

      Billy I am so glad there are those that do not give up. like you said the firefighters that ran into the buildings on 9/11..

      this is a great hub

      I voted up my friend

      Debbie

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 5 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Thank you Debbie! Truth be known most of us don't give up despite the odds and that is why we are so incredible.

    • Tams R profile image

      Tams R 5 years ago from Missouri

      The truth is (in my opinion), even those who claim to give up do not truly give up. In their minds they continue to seek what it is they wish to achieve. Lack of action may seem to be the true notion of quitting, but in fact as long as the mind is still capable of uttering a single syllable there is hope for change.

      As far as the human race, I believe many people do not wish to contribute in a positive light and things will become much worse before getting better.

      As I said in another hub by Tsmog, I believe someday we will find our way back to the old-fashioned family values as life seems to be in constant rotation. From clothing to hairstyles we are evolving but stay the same. Perhaps this is the reason for the circles of things such as addiction as well, therefore the terms, "Breaking the Cirlce" or "Breaking the Cycle" come into play.

      Nice hub. Glad to have the opportunity to read another by you. Great day! I like your favorite quote as well.

    • old albion profile image

      Graham Lee 5 years ago from Lancashire. England.

      Up and awesome billy. Your insight is deep and your writing is sharp with an excellent flow. voted up and awesome.

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 5 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Hey Tams, nice to see you again. I've been fairly busy but I'm going to drop by your site shortly. Thank you for your detailed and well-conceived comment. I love hearing from you and I wish you well.

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 5 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Old Albion, I do what I can. Thank God the nuns insisted on proper grammar when I was in school. :) Seriously, I appreciate your comments and as long as I have someone willing to listen I'll keep telling my experience, strength and hope.

    • tammyswallow profile image

      Tammy 5 years ago from North Carolina

      Exceptional writing! I have always loved Tennyson for being the romanitic who wrote the Lady of Shallote. I forgot what a country man he was. I love your quote and the testament to the power of human strength. It serves as a great challenge to examine my own life to see if I am doing all I can do. Bravo!!!

      I would love to hear your thoughts on Emerson's Self Reliance. :)

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 5 years ago from Olympia, WA

      "A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds." You, Tammy, have some depth to you, but of course I already knew that. How could I not love Self Reliance? It is interesting how much heat he took for his beliefs about individualism, like he was speaking heresy. Much of society, of course, lives in another fashion. To me, part of our very nature is to "walk free and know no superior," to find new paths to walk and explore all possibilities. Anyway, I'm rambling...I love your smile...I love your heart and intelligence...and I greatly appreciate your friendship and support.

    • Happyboomernurse profile image

      Gail Sobotkin 5 years ago from South Carolina

      What a powerful and inspiring essay. You touched my heart with this thought-provoking hub and I related to so many things you said.

      I was heading into my junior year of high school in the summer of 1968 and well remember those troubled times.

      My own dad had a massive heart attack that year but survived it and I was blessed with another 15 years in which we began a new, much closer father-daughter relationship.

      My brother died of alcoholic cirrhosis of the liver at age 45 finally succombing to that horrible disease after many attempted and failed efforts at rehab.

      One of my former co-workers lost her husband on 9/11 when he ran into that fire to save others.

      Yes, there is the potential for good and bad in all men and women and Tennyson's words put it well - most of us have a strong will to survive no matter what our fate.

      Voted up across the board except for funny.

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 5 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Happy, thank you and I'm glad you didn't vote funny; if you had I would have to question my writing ability. :) Many similarities in your story and mine; I'm very sorry about your brother but what a gift to have your father around for fifteen more years. I am happy that you had time to build on your relationship. Thank you so much for sharing part of your story with me.

    • Happyboomernurse profile image

      Gail Sobotkin 5 years ago from South Carolina

      Thanks for your kind compassionate comment. I have always been acutely aware of what a gift it was to have those extra fifteen years. Am sorry you lost your own dad so suddenly and never had that second chance.

      One thing I wish to say may sound odd since we don't know each other at all but when you described your Dad's last few painful moments I had a flashback to my mom holding my dad's hand when he was in the hospital recovering from his first, massive, very painful heart attack. Morphine didn't help the pain and he said later that only my mom's touch helped ease it.

      Your dad didn't have the chance to tell you how much you holding him meant to him and how it did ease his suffering in his final moments. Sometimes I sense things like this and I'm feeling that really strongly about your dad. Just know that your being there did bring comfort.

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 5 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Happy, that is such a warm, thoughtful thing for you to say. I have come to terms with that very point over the years and today I am grateful that I was there in his last minutes. Thank you so much for your humanity in reaching out. From your name I will assume you are a nurse and if so I have no doubt you are a very good one.

    • Happyboomernurse profile image

      Gail Sobotkin 5 years ago from South Carolina

      Thanks again for your kind words.

      I'm so glad to hear that you've come to terms with that point and that you've even reached a level of gratitude that you were able to be there in your dad's last minutes.

    • Born2care2001 profile image

      Rev Bruce S Noll HMN 5 years ago from Asheville NC

      Well Bill, you've done it again. Tennyson's name is a familiar one, but alas, I have never read his work. But I have read yours and will continue as long I see, feel and hear the heart of the lion in it.

      So many of our young men missed the relationship with their biological father or even a man who acted out the part in goodness and kindness and love.

      I'm not sure you recognize how this hub affects those who, directly or vicariously will benefit from its meaning.

      Although I agree with the power of this quote, I believe change is in the wind. I believe we should strive and never give in to the power of surrender, more in the form of Gandhi and the non-violent resistance in the face of certain death.

      You surrendered Bill! You surrendered to a power greater than you and I. I think, though I didn't know Tennyson either, that his, and our, greatest strength is the wisdom to know when to pursue and when to surrender to something bigger than we are.

      I absolutely love your heart! Man to Man - You are a phenom!

      Young men need to hear about your life, in the raw. Keep telling the story, sir. Keep telling the story!

      Your friend,

      Bruce

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 5 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Bruce, it is damn good to hear from you again. I had a weird thing happen where I couldn't get on your site; Hub kept saying you weren't available or some such nonsense. So I'm glad to find you in the flesh so to speak. Thank you, Sir, for those warm words. I will continue to speak from the heart and follow people such as you who understand the price that sometimes has to be paid to truly appreciate life.

    • GoGreenTips profile image

      Greg Johnson 5 years ago from Indianapolis

      Very interesting! I have never read Tennyson, but like you am a fan of history. I love reading about it, diving inbto it, learning about different opinions and viewpoints.

      Like you I hated history in school, perhaps because what you got was one-sided and just a bunch of regurgitated facts. But if you go on an adventure hunt for history you will be truly amazed as to what we as humans have accomplished and still will accomplish.

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 5 years ago from Olympia, WA

      GoGreen, you are absolutely correct. Guess what subject I taught in school? Yes, the horrible history student ended up teaching it. :) Thanks very much for dropping by and taking the time to leave a good comment.

    • profile image

      KatrineDalMonte 5 years ago

      Hi Bill, another great hub.

      I think that the basic idea of a person is self-determined unfoldment, and a central factor in such unfoldment is Will. Will is a way we have of being and doing. We unfold by control and use of Will, therefore the will must take itself in hand for greatest personal completeness.

      Have a great day.

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 5 years ago from Olympia, WA

      So very true Katrine; I believe you said it much better than I did in my hub. Thank you for your continued support.

    • EclecticFusion profile image

      Lisa 5 years ago from Tennessee

      Very wise and insightful article! All of your articles are! Voted it interesting(because it is!), awesome(because you are!), and up! Great work!

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 5 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Now I am blushing for sure Lisa! You are being too nice to me. I'm just a person. I stumble more than I walk smoothly and if it weren't for mistakes I don't know that I would ever learn, but I keep on trying and that's all any of us can do. Thank you for your friendship.

    • dmop profile image

      dmop 5 years ago from Cambridge City, IN

      Never giving up is certainly a hallmark of human nature. It seems that in the darkest of times is when the human spirit is at its height. Voted up and awesome.

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 5 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Dmop, I agree totally! We have our faults but we are still pretty amazing. Thank you for taking the time to visit my site and comment.

    • raciniwa profile image

      raciniwa 5 years ago from Naga City, Cebu

      Another great hub Bill...and you inspire me more in this hub...

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 5 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Raciniwa, thank you as always. I have found so many hubbers, like you, who inspire me, so it's nice that I can return the favor. Thank you my friend!

    • cclitgirl profile image

      Cynthia Calhoun 5 years ago from Western NC

      Powerful words. I needed to read this today. As I head off to work, I will think of this. (HUGS)

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 5 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Cyndi, stay true to yourself and all else will fall into place. Have a peaceful day and thank you!

    • Eiddwen profile image

      Eiddwen 5 years ago from Wales

      Your honesty I know is inspiring many and myself being one of those.

      Your warmth and strength is what has made you into who you are today and I hope you know this and feel pride in yourself.

      Brilliant once more;take care and enjoy your dya.

      Eddy.

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 5 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Eddy, what did I do to get all of this attention in one day? Look at all of these messages from you...what a great way to begin my day! Thank you my dear; it's taken a lot of work to get to this point but I do feel that I am a warm human being and I'm happy you see that through my writing. Blessings to you today and the weekend.

    • phdast7 profile image

      Theresa Ast 5 years ago from Atlanta, Georgia

      An excellent and inspiring quote by Tennyson. And a wonderful journey through your life and into your thoughts in the HUB. Thank you.

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 5 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Phdast7, you are very welcome and thank you!

    • Ruby H Rose profile image

      Maree Michael Martin 5 years ago from Northwest Washington on an Island

      Another wonderful story from the heart. Inspirational, we never do know what we read or what we say, how it is going to affect us and them someday. Wonderful writing.

    • mwilliams66 profile image

      mwilliams66 4 years ago from Left Coast, USA

      Another extraordinarily insightful hub Bill. I found myself hanging on every word. But this is nothing new. Your writing is as inspiring as it is beautiful.

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 4 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Melissa, you are very kind! Thank you my friend!

    • pstraubie48 profile image

      Patricia Scott 4 years ago from sunny Florida

      Absolutely!! You nailed it. Kicking and screaming...in and out of this world. And along the way. This hit home with me in a very personal way on many levels, billybuc. You are an insightful writer...that's why I keep returning to see what new words I will find as I visit. Voted up and shared.

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 4 years ago from Olympia, WA

      sptraubie, thank you very much! I have to get away from the insight every once in awhile so I don't implode! :) I appreciate your kind words; I think you know that to be true.

    • RobinGrosswirth23 profile image

      Robin Grosswirth 4 years ago from New York

      I voted up so many hubs tonight, forgot to add that to my commentaries, alas, I am new at this.

      That said, I loved this hub and I love that quote. The power of survival is strong. I agree, we come in kicking and screaming and go out just the same.

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 4 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Robin, sometimes I think we spend more time replying to hubs than writing. :) Welcome to HubPages and thank you for the kind words.

    • Cogerson profile image

      Cogerson 4 years ago from Virginia

      Thanks for sharing this wonderful story/favorite quote and how it has passed down through the generations in your family.....it sounds like you and my dad had a lot in common....reading your hub I could easily picture him writing the same words as you have.....voted up and across the board.

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 4 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Bruce, I would have enjoyed meeting your dad. Thank you for the great comment and the share!

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