Mandela: Gratitude for an Unconquerable Soul

Nelson Mandela

Among the many things the world has to be grateful for the life of Nelson Mandela is, of course, his indomitable spirit. A spirit that inspires us to overcome huge resistance and endure many tortures along the way to fight for what is right.

The notion of an “unconquerable soul” comes from the poem Invictus by the English Victorian writer William Ernest Henley. We learned in Mandela’s autobiography Long Walk to Freedom and in the film Invictus that he recited the poem to himself every day of the 27 years he spent imprisoned.

The poem begins:

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.

And concludes:

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.

What a life. Well worthy of an epic opera – if one hasn’t been written already – to celebrate him. A journey toward ultimate human fulfillment in the archetypal sense that psychologist C.G. Jung described: From athlete, to warrior, to statesman to sage.