Monday, 21 July 2014

Invictus


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 Henley is known to many people by means of this single poem. He wrote it in 1875, when his foot was amputated following a tuberculosis infection. This short poem has inspired a number of leaders over the years. It was Nelson Mandela’s favorite poem due to its strong message of defiance and determination. It is said that he often recited it to his fellow prisoners at Robben Island during his 18 years of imprisonment there. Among other things, this poem played a significant part in enabling him to go through the years and years of detention. It is amazing to think that how written word can influence people and shape history in decades and centuries to come, usually beyond the wildest imaginations of its original authors. Would the history of South Africa be any different, if this poem was not written more than a hundred years ago?


Image Credit: Alizee

Friday, 4 July 2014

Socratic Dialogue


"People did not go to Socrates to learn anything - he always insisted that he had nothing to teach them - but to have a change of mind. Participants in a Socratic dialogue discovered how little they knew and that the meaning of even the simplest proposition eluded them. The shock of ignorance and confusion represented a conversion to the philosophic life, which could not begin until you realised that you knew nothing at all.

... the Socratic dialogue was never aggressive; rather it was conducted with courtesy, gentleness and consideration. If a dialogue aroused malice or spite, it would fail. There was no question of forcing your interlocutor to accept your point of view; instead, each offered his opinion as a gift to the others and allowed them to alter his own perception."

(The Case for God – Epilogue by Karen Armstrong)


This method of Socratic dialogue was invented nearly two and a half millennium ago. I wonder how many of our personal, social, cultural, religious and political conflicts could be resolved if we start to favor such kind of thinking again. World could become a much better place if we are able to rise above from our standpoint and give ourselves a chance to understand others point of view.