On Being Invictus
When the author William Ernest Henley was 12 years old, he contracted tuberculosis of the bone. Despite many treatments, the disease spread to his foot and his doctors advised him that in order to save his life, they would have to amputate both of his legs directly below the knee. Being a stubborn young man, he agreed to have one leg amputated which was finally done when he was only 17 years old. To psyche himself out of overcoming the possibility of being a cripple for all of his life, he wrote the poem above.
I N V I C T U S; invicta, malis
In Latin, the word Invictus means: “unconquered.” Throughout the course of history, this poem earned great prominence. Winston Churchill paraphrased the last two lines to stir courage within the hearts of his people while his country was being threatened by the Nazi invasion of World War II. While imprisoned for speaking out against apartheid, Nelson Mandela often read this poem aloud to himself and to the other political prisoners in Robben Island as a mantra to help him pass away the long years of his unfair jail sentence in South Africa.
I also remember former President Barack Obama reciting the same poem as a tribute to Mandela during his funeral while the world mourned the passing of such an amazing human being. Most currently, His Royal Highness Prince Harry used the theme as an inspiration for his “Invictus Games,” an international sports competition among the wounded, injured, sick armed service men and women; which also honors their unconquerable spirit.
For my own special memory of this poem, Invictus was given to me and my fellow Kappa Alpha Psi brothers while I was studying at Cal State Northridge. We were instructed to analyze how the poem’s theme of fighting the good fight and perseverance applied to our own challenges that we experienced in life. We were told to memorize it, and years later, I realize how meaningful that act was. What most people may not know, is that a chiropractor goes through years of intensive, demanding, and competitive study and four types of rigorous board certification exams before they are allowed to practice. While my studies were challenging, they were not a problem for me. It was passing for the National Boards. But, look at us now! So, for me, Invictus reminds me to always believe that one can overcome anything! Persistence will pay off!
I firmly believe that everyone has the potential towards Being Invictus, – or at least they are striving to get there. My patients are a source of inspiration for me. From the man who was in the chronic stage of pain but changed his outcome over time because he focused on coming in for his spinal decompression machine treatments instead of surgery, to the woman who decided to take out sugar in her diet, along with chiropractic treatments, so she can reduce her carpal tunnel pain. These folks are my daily examples of Being Invictus.
To these patients, and to other readers, I dedicate this blog to you. Being Invictus means YOU made the decision that PAIN WILL NEVER STOP you from achieving what you want in life. “Being Invictus” means that you are deciding NOT to relinquish your power over pain as you journey to becoming the happiest and healthiest version of you!
Here’s to a New Year and New You!
Yours in good health,
– Dr. Michael Howell, DC