I chose my online identifier and the title of my blog for several reasons. First, “Invictus” is one of my favorite poems, and its meaning has grown for me recently.
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.
The title of the poem means “Unconquered” in Latin. It was written by 19th century poet William Ernest Henley as a demonstration of his resilience following the amputation of his foot due to tubercular infection when he was 25.
Henley was a famous atheist, and Mormon apostle Orson F. Whitney wrote a retort to the poem which, President Gordon B. Hinckley commented, “[missed] the point of the original poem, that each individual gets to decide how to respond to the things he can't control in this life.” In his 2000 First Presidency Christmas Devotional address, President Hinckley said of Invictus, “It is a great poem. It places upon the individual the responsibility for what he does with his life. Through these many years, when I have been faced with difficult choices I have repeated these stirring words.”
Now, I am at a point in my life when I finally have to take responsibility for affirming an essential part of who I am. I am a son of God. I have an “unconquerable soul” and I must now decide, in President Hinckley’s words, how to respond to this thing I can’t control: the presence in my life of this orientation (the inception of which was beyond my control). I have made that decision. I have decided to embrace it because I have come to accept that to deny and repress this fundamental aspect of my identity any longer renders me a cipher.
In making this decision, in taking this responsibility, I am very much a pilgrim on a journey. I don’t know what the destination is. That’s not really important to me right now. What is important is the journey, and that I have begun.