Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Day 57: Why I smile everyday

I watched Invictus, meaning Unconquered, this afternoon and was taken by the poem that Mendela recited to fellow comrades while incarcerated and which inspired him to find inner strength and persevere. The poem was written by William Ernest Henley.

Out of the night that covers me,
Black as the pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may be
For my unconquerable soul.

In the fell clutch of circumstance
I have not winced nor cried aloud.
Under the bludgeonings of chance
My head is bloody, but unbowed.

Beyond this place of wrath and tears
Looms but the Horror of the shade,
And yet the menace of the years
Finds and shall find me unafraid.

It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishment the scroll,
I am the master of my fate:
I am the captain of my soul.

The poem is so powerful and I can only glimpse an understanding of what the suffering must have been like for Mendela or for any political prisoner or for anyone fighting today - fighting for freedom and democracy as Mendela was, fighting the pain of an amputation as Henley was, or fighting cancer, fighting death, fighting any form of enslavement or persecution or debasement. I say that I only saw a glimpse because I have never had to fight anything in my life. Granted, I had my small struggles, but they were tears that could be washed away with ice cream, nothing in comparison to the world, yet everything to me. But I have been so fortunate to be born into such a safe country where freedom prevails that it is difficult to relate to this poem directly. I can only relate with empathy. So I wrote a response.

Response to Henley:

I am captain of my soul
I am master of my fate
I am unbowed, unafraid
This is all I can relate

I am no freedom fighter
I know no wrath and tears
Nor Horror of the shade
Nor menace of the years

With freedom of my thoughts 
and freedom to further strive 
Always I stand straight
and into light I dive 

My fortune I will not waste
To circumstance I will not fall
I am master of my fate
I live this freedom for all

Don't ever take anything for granted, but that doesn't mean that I should give up my life either. I stand tall, I do my research in the north, because that is the result of having full freedom to live. If I don't live, then what are the political prisoners, the cancer patients, the oppressed fighting for if not the life I have. So I cherish it and love it. And I will not forget about those who are fighting. Right now, in this small way, this is how I can help them. Once I have learned of the world, I hope to help them more by joining their fight for freedom, life, and earth. That is my vision.

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