Readings on Courage
by Fiona Heath
“Courage is the price that life exacts for granting peace.” Amelia Earhart
“Courage is not the absence of fear, but rather the judgement that something else is more important than fear.” Ambrose Redmoon
When people are merry and dance, it sometimes happens that they catch hold of someone who is sitting outside and grieving, pull him into the round, and make him rejoice with them. The same happens in the heart of one who rejoices; grief and sorrow draw away from him, but it is special virtue to pursue them with courage and to draw grief into gladness, so that all the strength of sorrow may be transformed into joy.
You can’t test your courage timidly. You have to run through the fire, arms waving, legs pumping and heart beating wildly with the effort of reclaiming something vital, lost, laid aside or just plain forgotten. When you do that, you discover that we shine most brightly in community, the whole bedraggled, worn, frayed and tattered lot of us, bound together forever by a shared courage, a family forged in the heat of earnest struggle.
Richard Wagamese, Embers
A poet is somebody who feels, and who expresses [their] feelings through words.
This may sound easy. It isn’t.
A lot of people think or believe or know they feel — but that’s thinking or believing or knowing; not feeling. And poetry is feeling — not knowing or believing or thinking.
Almost anybody can learn to think or believe or know, but not a single human being can be taught to feel. Why? Because whenever you think or you believe or you know, you’re a lot of other people: but the moment you feel, you’re nobody-but-yourself.
To be nobody-but-yourself — in a world which is doing its best, night and day, to make you everybody else — means to fight the hardest battle which any human being can fight; and never stop fighting.
It takes courage to grow up and turn out to be who you really are.
e e cummings
To live fully and willingly in the world of the living is more brave even than going open-eyed toward death. All too often we do neither, and, clinging to some safer middle ground, end by feeling neither our terrors nor our joys.
Perhaps all the dragons in our lives are princesses who are only waiting to see us act, just once, with beauty and courage. Perhaps everything that frightens us is, in its deepest essence, something helpless that wants our love.
Rainer Maria Rilke, Letters to a Young Poet
We have glamorized the way of the warrior for millennia. We have identified it as the supreme test and example of courage, strength, duty, generosity, and manhood. If I turn from the way of the warrior, where am I to seek those qualities? What way have I to go?
Lao Tzu says: the way of water.
The weakest, most yielding thing in the world, as he calls it, water chooses the lowest path, not the high road. It gives way to anything harder than itself, offers no resistance, flows around obstacles, accepts whatever comes to it, lets itself be used and divided and defiled, yet continues to be itself and to go always in the direction it must go. The tides of the oceans obey the Moon while the great currents of the open sea keep on their ways beneath. Water deeply at rest is yet always in motion; the stillest lake is constantly, invisibly transformed into vapor, rising in the air. A river can be dammed and diverted, yet its water is incompressible: it will not go where there is not room for it. A river can be so drained for human uses that it never reaches the sea, yet in all those bypaths and usages its water remains itself and pursues its course, flowing down and on, above ground or underground, breathing itself out into the air in evaporation, rising in mist, fog, cloud, returning to earth as rain, refilling the sea.
Water doesn’t have only one way. It has infinite ways, it takes whatever way it can, it is utterly opportunistic, and all life on Earth depends on this passive, yielding, uncertain, adaptable, changeable element…
The death way or the life way? The high road of the warrior, or the river road?
I know what I want. I want to live with courage, with compassion, in patience, in peace.
The way of the warrior fully admits only the first of these, and wholly denies the last.
The way of the water admits them all.
The flow of a river is a model for me of courage that can keep me going — carry me through the bad places, the bad times. A courage that is compliant by choice and uses force only when compelled, always seeking the best way, the easiest way, but if not finding any easy way still, always, going on.
Ursula K. Le Guin
We rightly think that the virtue of courage requires a certain psychological flexibility. A courageous person must know how to act well in all sorts of circumstances. We recognize that there can be times in life when the stock images of courage will be inappropriate, and the truly courageous person will recognize this extraordinary situation and act in an unusual yet courageous way.
Courage is a word that tempts us to think outwardly, to run bravely against opposing fire, to do something under besieging circumstance, and perhaps, above all, to be seen to do it in public, to show courage; to be celebrated in story, rewarded with medals, given the accolade, but a look at its linguistic origins is to look in a more interior direction and toward its original template, the old Norman French, courage is the measure of our heartfelt participation with life, with another, with a community, a work; a future. To be courageous is not necessarily to go anywhere or do anything except to make conscious those things we already feel deeply and then to live through the unending vulnerabilities of those consequences. To be courageous is to seat our feelings deeply in the body and in the world: to live up to and into the necessities of relationships that often already exist, with things we find we already care deeply about: with a person, a future, a possibility in society, or with an unknown that begs us on and always has begged us on. To be courageous is to stay close to the way we are made.
David Whyte, Consolations
“Courage is when you know you’re licked before you begin, but you begin anyway and see it through no matter what.” Harper Lee, To Kill a Mockingbird
“Courage doesn’t always roar. Sometimes courage is the quiet voice at the end of the day saying, ‘I will try again tomorrow.’” Mary Anne Radmacher
“Sometimes standing against evil is more important than defeating it. The greatest heroes stand because it is right to do so, not because they believe they will walk away with their lives. Such selfless courage is a victory in itself.” N.D. Wilson
A Unitarian Universalist perspective on courage from Quest for Meaning.
This essay from UU minister Victoria Safford considers courage and integrity.
An On-Being essay on Brene Brown’s understanding of courage and vulnerability.
Writer and eco-activist Terry Tempest Williams offers words of resistance and courage.
April 24, 2018
March 30, 2018
March 30, 2018