This poem by William E. Henley is immortal for its universality and meaning. Coming from the Latin language, the title means, “unconquerable”. That was how the author felt upon coming up with this wonderfully written piece of literature in spite of his debilitating troubles during this time: He was weakened with tuberculosis, made physically disabled by a leg amputation, and haunted by his impoverished childhood.
Clearly, Invictus is Henley’s cry of rebellion against the endeavors of his circumstances to thwart his spirit and what would become as an inspiring hymn for the coming generations to attune to. Yet, it is but simpler to read it than to actually live it.
The question now is how William E. Henley was able to muster the resilience and strength of mind when he was surrounded by the gravest of circumstances. The answer lies in the following lines:
“I thank whatever gods may be
For my unconquerable soul.”
He acknowledges the generosity of the omnipotent supreme being/s in giving him the zest for life. Henley kept a nonperishable fire that will burn through the obstacles brought by the natural imbalance of destiny, for he kept his faith in the Heavens intact.
…And when he wrote with conviction that he is the master of his own fate, and he is the captain of his soul, he already knew that with his faith solid, he and God are i n s e p e r a b l e.
I realized that, aside from the central theme of this poem which is to continue thriving while keeping our head high amidst our problems, Mr. Henley is also telling us something about surrendering our entire selves to nothing and to no one but God. Through such initiative, God will take the form of us as we take the form of God Himself. When we fuse the core of ourselves with His, we become the same as God: Indestructible, whose power prevails all, unconquerable… INVICTUS.
A crucial step towards channeling our inner invictus is taming our ego. The time when we allow our ego to dominate us is the time that we separate ourselves from God. I came upon this while skimming through a self-help book that I pulled out from a shelf at the bookstore. When our primary function is our ego, we begin to believe that we are an independent entity that is uninfluenced by the rest. We think that we must have everything in our control. Consequently, we become frustrated with ourselves when we are enslaved by bigger and more serious problems, until we start pointing fingers and spreading anger, hatred, resentment, and envy. We devolve into heartless human beings with despair but no hope and an eye for nothing but the worst in the world.
But when we willingly let God into our lives, interconnectedness and belongingness are felt. We are more receptive now to the beautiful things in sight. We accept that though we are blessed with our talents and our freedom and we can plan for tomorrow all we want, we still exude humility to profess that God knows what’s best for us and is always a step ahead. It will dawn on us that true power does not mean being able to control everything; rather, it is rising above our plights with God’s guidance no matter how much they try to weigh us down. The unshaken belief that we are never alone in good times and bad times, for we would find ourselves in God and the other way around: a Friend, a Confidante, Savior, a Brother, a true Father. To learn to love our lives and ourselves for what they can be AND what they are right now. To become more optimistic about the future because whatever happens, not only is God with us, he is also within us. After all, He gave a piece of Himself to each of us. It’s up to us now to give value to that. We may be uncertain about many things but never of Him. The Invictus has God as a constant in his or her life.
So as we catch ourselves in the middle of rejoice, joy, triumph, victory, anguish, hopelessness, guilt, grief, sadness, disappointment, impatience… Let us turn to God to praise, glorify, thank; ask for penance, grace, and peace of mind, strength, and many more. Invictus starts as a sense of becoming and transforms into a sense of being. And in placing our trust in God, the Invictus in us is, at long last, unleashed.