"It matters not how strait the gate, How charged with punishments the scroll; I am the master of my fate: I am the captain of my soul." - William Ernest Henley
Had I been more present in the moments that filled the first half of my life, I'd probably have been aware of this poem. As it stands, I only just saw it for the first time two days ago.
Written by Victorian-era English poet William Ernest Henley, the poem is attributed to Henley's sense of stoicism. Wikipedia defined modern day stoicism as "someone indifferent to pain, pleasure, grief, or joy." I'm not a big fan of that definition, as it goes entirely against the concept of being completely vulnerable. But I do absolutely believe in persevering through whatever pains life may throw at you. Henley had one of his legs amputated at age 17 after contracting tuberculosis of the bone. It's said that stoicism inspired him to write the poem as he was dealing with the pain of the amputation.
We all face adversity. I've never felt that it was worthwhile in comparing battle scars. The severity of the battles that we've each faced is subjective. All that matters is that to us, they are battles. All that matters is that we must all do our best to persevere. Henley's Invictus will provide me a little bit of additional inspiration when I find myself in the trenches.
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 punishments the scroll,
I am the master of my fate:
I am the captain of my soul.
To put it in more modern terms, and to quote Rocky Balboa from the movie Rocky Balboa:
The world ain't all sunshine and rainbows. It is a very mean and nasty place It will beat you to your knees and keep you there permanently if you let it. You, me or nobody is going to hit as hard as life. But it ain't about how hard you're hit, it is about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward, how much can you take and keep moving forward. That's how winning is done!
Again, a bleaker outlook than I'd prefer, but the message is important. No matter what obstacles we face, we have to find the strength within ourselves to keep moving forward and to win.