Friday, December 25, 2009

Invictus: "My head is bloody, but unbowed..."

Steve and I have always loved movies, and we try to go as often as we can to maintain that wonderful part of what felt to be a more normal life. Steve and friends Dick and Bob nearly dragged me to Avitar, but by the end of the film, I, too wanted striped skin and a tail.

But for sheer noble inspiration -- for those of us who cull out the best in the human condition while still asking "what happened to my life?" -- seek out Clint Eastwood's new film Invictus. It stars Morgan Freeman and Matt Damon, from two of my lifetime favorites, The Shawshank Redemption and Good Will Hunting, respectively.

Invictus chronicles Nelson Mandela's early administration and his triumph over decades in prison. Mandela's character, i.e. Freeman, identified a guiding poem, as a tool which "helped him get up" on days when he would have otherwise stayed down.

I looked up the original poem, written in 1875 by English poet William Ernest Henley. The text follows, and its message is spot on for anyone dealing with chronic illness. By the way, "Invictus" is Latin for "the Unconquered."
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 gait,
How charged with punishments the scroll.
I am the master of my fate:
I am the captain of my soul.

Steve and I -- and of course, everybody else -- deal with "the clutch of circumstance...the bludgeonings of chance." But we do our best to see ourselves as the captains of our souls.

Take care. Linda Gromko, MD                                                                                 

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