I am the captain of my soul. -- "Invictus"
The kindest interpretation of these lines is that they invoke, like Rudyard Kipling's "If," the virtues of the British "stiff upper lip" attitude towards adversity. Unfortunately, as inspiring as these lines appear, they are pure balderdash.
We are not the masters of our fate. Fate masters us. We live, we die. We are not the captains of our souls. Check and I will bet you have a navel – an irrefutable physical sign that you are joined to the human race with all its foibles.
Do not misunderstand. I am not opposed to a certain kind of individualism. It is commendable for each to do the best he can with what he is and what he has been given to benefit himself and others.
Still there is that navel.
We are born into a family, in a country, at a certain place and certain time. Countless permutations of benefits and deficits are imposed on an individual before he has uttered his first word. More are to follow as he makes his decisions among choices that he has not chosen. In the end, one looks back and realizes there are right decisions that reap ill rewards and wrong decisions with consequences that cannot be escaped.
No, the writer of "Invictus" for all his bravery had it wrong. Ecclesiastes is closer to the mark.
I returned, and saw under the sun,
That the race is not to the swift,
Nor the battle to the strong,
Neither yet bread to the wise,
Nor yet riches to men of understanding,
Nor yet favour to men of skill;
But time and chance happenth to them all.
"Invictus" encourages selfish individualistic fantasies. The Preacher, Ecclesiastes looks at life as it is and invites gratitude and charity in the midst of the unanticipated challenges of life.