Thinking About “THINKING”

In my library there are more than four thousand books, many in Hebrew, some in Greek, German and French, most in English. As I dust the many shelves, homes to these tomes, I often wonder what will become of them after my death.

My children may want several volumes but editions of Talmud, Mishnah, Midrash, Rabbinic commentaries and Responsa are not among them. I often invite guests in my home to help themselves to any volumes which meet their interest.

As a former professor of Biblical literature, most of the English-language books are those which deal with the history of ancient Hebrew literature and Bible commentaries. Not volumes suitable for bed-time reading. More for scholarly interest.

I am a collector and the library consists of 60 years of collecting. It would take between 50 – 60 boxes to pack them and to ship them to a library or collector who might wish to have them. It is beyond my ability now to do the packing and heavy lifting. And where would I store the filled boxes?

My file cabinets also are filled with scraps of paper which once had significant meaning for me but now I cannot remember why I saved them. “Dust collectors”, my wife used to call them.

Recently, I came across a poem which I had saved for decades. I think about it frequently and my thinking is disturbed because, although it was published in an English newspaper in 1905 by Walter D. Wintle, he remains an unknown poet of the 19th century. There is no information available about his life.

But among his poems, one in particular achieved international fame in the English-speaking world. It was called simply “THINKING”. Its lines are rhyming with inspiration and wisdom, a guide for all of us.

“If you think you are beaten, you are
If you think you dare not, you don’t
If you’d like to win, but think you can’t
It’s almost certain you won’t.
If you think you’ll lose, you’re lost
For out in the world we find
Success begins with a fellow’s will
It’s all in the state of mind.
If you think you’re outclassed, you are
You’ve got to think high to rise
You’ve got to be sure of yourself before
You can ever win a prize !
Life’s battles don’t always go
To the stronger or faster man
But sooner or later, the man who wins
Is the one who thinks he can.”

I have always treasured this poem and regret that we know nothing about the life of Walter D. Wintle.

But whoever he may have been, when he published this poem in 1905, he touched the lives of all of us forever. It is meaningful in our national political life here in Israel. Would that our people would adhere to Wintle’s sage advice.

About the Author
Esor Ben-Sorek is a retired professor of Hebrew, Biblical literature & history of Israel. Conversant in 8 languages: Hebrew, Yiddish, English, French, German, Spanish, Polish & Dutch. Very proud of being an Israeli citizen. A follower of Trumpeldor & Jabotinsky & Begin.
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