There are some people who appear to have been born unlucky. Everything goes against them: if there is measles about, they are sure to get it. The bus in which they are travelling to an important appointment breaks down: they just miss a good post because the day it was advertised they happened to wake up too late to read the paper before they were out.
Some people have even greater misfortunes to bear, but there are others who seem to sail through life as though they were borne along by the breath of Fortune. Nothing serious ever goes wrong with them; life drops its sweets into their laps, and their less fortunate brethren look enviously upon them as they go serenely along their way.
But what, when they come to the end of their life, have they to show for the time they have spent in it? It is almost as if they had played a game of football in which all the opposing side were asleep and they had nothing to do but run up the field unhampered, and kick the ball through the goal. There would be no fun in a game like that, and if life had no hazards, in the long run it would become just as tedious.
In his great book ‘Fortitude’, Hugh Walpole frequently repeats these words: “It isn’t life that matters, but the courage you bring to it”. The hero of this novel has a vision in which he sees the state of a man and a beast struggling. He sees the same figure several times as he goes through life full of hardship and disaster. At one point, he almost gives up the struggle, and decides to live as easily as possible even though he has to give up all his aims and ideals. But he resists this temptation, and turns back to struggle again with whatever life may bring him of adversity. And then he sees the vision again and this time the man has triumphed over the beast — and the man is himself!
Great thinkers and poets through the ages have recognised the nobility of a life that retains its integrity in the face of adversity. Their thoughts are summed up in the words of William Ernest Henley:
“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.”