Recent years seem to have brought an interest in the iconography of Britain’s World War II motto, “Keep Calm and Carry On.” Created in 1939, it fed into what would become the ideal of British Stoicism; stiff upper lip while putting on the kettle. Sociologically, it’s fascinating to watch how that adage is both embraced and rejected by British society. The Queen, a film about the days following the 1997 death of Princess Diana, deals in many ways with that ideal.
The phrase itself can be found on coffee mugs, t shirts, website titles . . . something about the solid background with it’s crisp all-caps is striking. And now there are tons of derivatives: “Keep Calm and Read Jane Austen,” “Keep Calm and Do Yoga,” “Keep Calm and Play Ultimate Frisbee.” The possibilities are endless.
In my own office, I have a collection given to me by friends, including:
“Keep Calm and Teach On”
“Keep Calm and Read On”
“Keep Calm and Write On”
“Keep Calm and Carry On”
as well as the less literal
“Be Original and Don’t Plagiarize”
“Keep Integrity and Don’t Steal”
“Stay Professional and Be Honest”
“Show Respect and Give Credit”
What is the appeal of these phrases, this specific piece of nostalgic propaganda? Perhaps it is merely the simplicity of it. Two commands linked by the most used coordinating conjunction that tell the viewer, in essence, to keep a cool head and focus on moving forward. Viewed from that perspective, I find it to be a soothing mantra. Don’t wallow, don’t sulk, don’t panic. Use your inner strength to stay focused on the moment and make progress toward the next moment, knowing it will bring you closer to resolution.
Over the next week, instead of freaking out when things go a bit fumble-bumble (perhaps I’m reading too much Dr. Suess these days!), take a breath, steady yourself, and carry on. I’ll do the same.
PS. A special thank you to one of my personal heroes, Jodi Chapman of Soulful Journals, for featuring this blog in her newsletter. If you haven’t checked out this website, please do (and look for a post and a quote from yours truly!). The posts are always so inspiring! I will also admit that I have a pretty healthy addiction to their etsy products at This Is It! Creations. Their notepads and journals are some of my favorite gifts for friends, teachers, and (occasionally) myself.