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.”
“They are Man’s and they cling to me, appealing from their fathers. This boy is Ignorance and this girl is Want. Beware them both, and all of their degree, but most of all beware this boy for on his brow I see that written which is Doom, unless the writing be erased.”
― Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol
Peace thrives on understanding and dies on ignorance. The Dalai Lama is quite clear on this point: “Where ignorance is our master, there is no possibility of real peace.” Helen Keller declared: “I do not want the peace which passeth understanding; I want the understanding which bringeth peace.” Ralph Waldo Emerson penned: “Peace cannot be achieved through violence; it can only be attained through understanding.”
Understanding is not as easy as it seems especially when we live in a complex, diverse and fast paced world where value systems are being continually challenged. But “lasting peace” is worth the effort.
“The marvelous richness of human experience would lose something of rewarding joy if there were no limitations to overcome. The hilltop hour would not be half so wonderful if there were no dark valleys to traverse.”
Today, I spoke with a friend who has experienced great sadness over the past few years. And yet, he radiates joy. Without going through dark and difficult times, he confided, you cannot understand the full measure of joy. Helen Adams Keller was well acquainted with suffering from an early age. Born a healthy child, she contracted an illness when she was 19 months old that left her deaf and blind. Helen Keller broke through the barriers that isolated her from participating within her community. She became a writer and an outspoken anti-war advocate. She campaigned for women’s suffrage, labour rights, and socialism. In 1971, she was inducted into the Alabama Women’s Hall of Fame.
Helen Keller embraced life, with its limitations, and experienced the joy of living abundantly and completely.
The writer has spoken: Joy embraces the full spectrum of the human experience.