Forget the dictionary definition on this one—we’re venturing forth without it.
I think we should lift the veil that makes courage an attribute for some and not others. The veil is a trick of separation used by those who desire to be better or worse than others. We are not better or worse except by human creation (do not utilize any God anywhere for such better/worse assignments—that is nothing more than human projection). If better/worse is a good organizational tool, then let’s not use the tool for a foolish enterprise. A hammer is good for pounding, but lousy for chopping. However, human beings are not tools, though we might want to know who is good at what. Nonetheless, that doesn’t mean someone who is good at something or not, is a better or worse human being. On this point, we’ve got to keep the filing straight.
One of the more amazing things I find about living, about the lives of others, the history and the future of us and of life, is our courage. We are left to live, no matter how much help we may or may not get. We are left to die, no matter how hard we try to live. We struggle mightily for love and acceptance, and whether we get it or not, we still have to have both the courage to try and the courage to accept. And we do. I think that no matter how we come across, we are lessons in courage.
Oh yeah, you might think—and what of foolishness? Just how does someone who is eminently qualified for a Darwin Award have courage? Courage is not located in only the astute or the experienced. Ever watch a nervous puppy explore a corner, a shadow, or something unknown? Smarts has not yet been attained, but that doesn’t stop the puppy. It could get killed and those watching it may not be able to stop the puppy in time, though they could see the problem coming. A Darwin Award candidate maybe, but hindsight is not the same as foresight. The fact is, living and learning are about taking risks (being too safe is itself risky) and the veracity or foolishness of that risk is often measured by the outcome. I suggest it is not the outcome that is our litmus test of courage, though many may wonder just how stupid a Darwin Award Candidate can be.
Courage is not a bumper-sticker philosophy. I suggest that courage cannot be dismissed as the attributes of some and the bane of many. Courage is not about victory or defeat, or expected or unexpected outcomes. I am asserting that courage underlies every sentient being’s very existence. We have to have the courage to live, the courage to die, the courage to learn, to teach, to work, to interact, to explore, to love, to dance, to sing, to cry, to create, to do and to be. And I don’t mean we have to have courage because I’m imploring us to have it, I mean we have it simply because we live. Courage, despite our context, our condition, our goodness of fit, or our ragtag efforts, is a state we all live in and with, whether we know it or not. We do not earn courage, we are born with it and can only seem to give it up or allow it to be taken away. But in reality, we cannot do either. Courage may seem like something elusive, but it is ever present. Courage does not have to be recognized, but when we do, we bring it from the elusive to the present.
So, let’s bring courage into the present, into our conscious understanding. We all know we are revealed. It takes courage to face who we were, who we have become, who we are likely to be—and it takes courage to be so in the arena. Just because many don’t see us, doesn’t mean we are hidden, we’re just not seen. Those folks who witnessed gladiators fight may have known that all those gladiators who were about to die in front of throngs of fellow human beings, still entered the fray. Yes, they may have had no choice in the entrance, but they did have a choice in the manner of their death. The spectators entered the same arena and they may have felt safe from the consequences they witnessed, but consciously or unconsciously, they must have known their death would also be revealed and they sought models, however crudely constructed. I wonder if those of us now alive understand this. I wonder if we know our lives and our dying will somehow be scrutinized, in detail or in general. We will be interpreted.
In other words, to use poker terminology, courage is like knowing that one way or the other, at some time or the other, we have to go all in. As long as we’re realizing that, why don’t we realize another rather important attribute though it may seem like an anticlimax: What we may be really talking about is the courage to feel good about ourselves—and others. Given our propensity to regulate and classify ourselves and others as better or worse people, feeling good is clearly not for the faint of heart, though one with strength or faintness of heart still possesses courage and stands revealed.