The Spirit of Invictus

Sunday, January 17, 2010
If you haven't seen the movie Invictus yet, please make time to do so.

It is the story of former South African political prisoner-turned-President Nelson Mandela; the 1995 South African World Championship rugby team; and the path to national reconciliation upon the end of that country's apartheid regime.

There were two parts of the movie that were truly poignant for all those that currently struggle for freedom against repressive regimes throughout the world, such as Cubans, the Burmese and Iranians.

The first was when Mandela -- brilliantly portrayed by actor Morgan Freeman -- explained how during his 27-year prison sentence in Robbins Island, he and other inmates would cheer for any team that was playing against South Africa's rugby team, as a way to express their opposition.

This would change upon the end of the apartheid regime. So, as President, when asked about his new enthusiastic support for South Africa's rugby team, Mandela answered:

"If I can't change upon circumstances changing, how can I ask others to change?"

What a day it will be when Cuba's current repressive circumstances change, and upon the island's dictatorship coming to an end, all Cubans can join together in pursuit of national reconciliation.

And what a day it will be when Cuba's Mandela's -- those courageous individuals spending decades in prison for their current pursuit of human rights and democracy -- can participate and lead in a future government.

Until that day comes -- and history has consistently shown that it will come -- we pray that they continue finding the strength to confront and overcome the tragic circumstances they face.

Which leads to the second part -- when Mandela reveals and recites his source of strength during incarceration.

It was the Victoria-era poem, Invictus -- which reads:

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.

-- William Ernest Henley, British poet, (1849-1903)