One of the most famous movie lines of the 20th century was Humphrey Bogart’s farewell to Ingrid Bergman in Casablanca “We’ll always have Paris.”
This week millions of people around the world were jolted into thinking about Paris because of the terrorist attacks that were carried out there. Parisians and tourists sitting in a restaurant or listening to a concert were killed or wounded and thousands others terrified by the sights and sounds of that night.
Although the Paris attacks dominated the news in Europe and America, there were other terrorist attacks this month—in Beirut and Mali as well as other countries. So much death and pain spread across so many nations leaves us with very little to feel thankful about as the holiday dedicated to giving thanks draws closer. For many people this will be a drab and fearful Thanksgiving Day.
But it is good to remember that we will always have Paris—the city has endured centuries of troubles and will not surrender to fear and despair. And we will always have Mali—a country that has been a crossroads of
Africa for many centuries, as well as Beirut, which has been a city since the 15th century BC and is mentioned in in ancient Egyptian scrolls. No uprising of terrorist activity, not outbursts of anger by young men with grievances will keep people from enduring and surviving into the future. So I guess that’s what we have to be thankful for this year—for the endurance of the human spirit. We will always have Paris, and Beirut and Bamako and we will always have people striving to make their way in our harsh but beautiful world.
Perhaps after all a good way to end this would be to consider the familiar Victorian poem by William Ernest Henley, “Invictus”. Although often ridiculed as an overly heroic statement by a minor poet, it may have something to say to us today.
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.