We live in times of uncertainty, but of one thing I am certain: We can create compassionate communities wherever we are. I am grateful for my blogging community. We have learned how to forge connections across the globe. Together, we have built a virtual community that supports and encourages, shares knowledge and wisdom, fosters hope and resilience.
A ship is safe in harbour, but that’s not what ships are for.”
William G.T. Shedd
It is easy to talk about courage when the sun is shining and you are surrounded by a support network that strengthens your resolve. In fact, courage is often masked by “group think.” We feel security within community. At times, it is easier to stop asking questions, to accept conventional wisdom, and to forget to exercise our minds altogether. Yet, we are at our best when we embrace the adventure and chose courage as our steady and secure companion.
“Have courage for the great sorrows of life and patience for the small ones; and when you have laboriously accomplished your daily task, go to sleep in peace.”
A dialogue on courage would be incomplete without Teddy Roosevelt’s “The Man in the Arena.” On April 23, 1910, Teddy Roosevelt gave a speech entitled, “Citizenship in a Republic,” at the Sorbonne, Paris. Thirty-five pages long, the unforgettable passage is found on the seventh page.
Many years later, Nelson Mandela gave a copy of this speech to François Pienaar, captain of the South African rugby team, before the start of the 1995 Rugby World Cup. (As a point of interest, in the film based on those events, the poem Invictus is used instead.)
“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”
26Th President of the United States
A single feat of daring can alter the whole conception of what is possible.”
Graham Greene, The Heart of the Matter
The year was 1874. The art world would witness the first independent presentation of Impressionist art. If only we had a time machine to take us back, we would be in the presence of Cézanne, Pissarro, Renoir, Degas, Monet, Manet, and his sister-in-law Berthe Morisot. They were considered lunatics in their day. Louis Leroy, a French engraver, painter and successful playwright, was a vocal critic. He wrote,
“Impression I was certain of it. I was just telling myself that, since I was impressed, there had to be some impression in it – and what freedom, what ease of workmanship! A preliminary drawing for a wall paper pattern is more finished than this seascape….Wallpaper in its embryonic state is more finished.” (Referring to Claude Monet’s painting “Impression: soleil levant.”)
And that, dear readers, is how the term, Impressionism, was established in the art world.
Creativity and artistic endeavour moves societies into new territory. Artists, musicians, writers, poets, philosophers, and scientists are the trailblazers who establish the structure for growth and knowledge acquisition. Even today, they are at work.
“Everyone has talent. What is rare is the courage to follow the talent to the dark place where it leads.”
“There are all kinds of courage. It takes a great deal of bravery to stand up to our enemies, but just as much to stand up to our friends.”
J. K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone
Traditional societies are generally divided into communities linked by social, economic, religious or blood tied. We like to participate in tribes whether we call them family, friends, groups, teams, clubs, or buddies because they form our support network and offer a measure of certainty. Since we want their approval and acceptance, we have reservations about moving forward in a new direction. Erma Bombeck once said “It takes a lot of courage to show your dreams to someone else.”
Choosing a different path and becoming an outlier from the status quo, takes enormous courage. Yet, to remain faithful to the “tribe” and surrender personal fulfillment is a sacrifice far too great.
“Courage is the price life exacts for granting peace.”
Amelia Earhart, attributed, Another Country
Courage is being scared to death…and saddling up anyway.”
Without fear, courage is meaningless. When we or, someone we love, is in danger or in pain, when our way of life is threatened, or when we experience loss and suffering, that is the moment everything changes. There is an immediate awareness that the only option before us is courage.
Fear is part of our human experience. At some point we will all feel the wrenching emotion; avoidance is not an option. Mark Twain once said, “Courage is resistance to fear, mastery of fear, not absence of fear.” This was echoed by Nelson Mandela. “I have learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.”
We build our lives with protective mechanisms to circumvent danger and tragedy. We search for security in a world of uncertainty. Perhaps, we do not recognize the generous amounts of courage that resides deep within our souls.
“Security is mostly a superstition. It does not exist in nature, nor do the children of men as a whole experience it. Avoiding danger is not safer in the long run than outright exposure. Life is either a daring adventure, or nothing.”