Courage is the first of a series of five topics for Momalom’s Five for Ten.
It’s tempting to ascribe the word courage to those who make bold statements and big moves. The word evokes sheroes and heroes risking their lives, their future and their reputation for a grand and noble cause.
Yet I wonder, are bold statements and big moves, courageous though they may be, necessarily irreprehensible? Is courage always commendable?
COURAGE IN WORDS
A gutsy “I’ll love you for all of eternity” on the first date may feel sincere to the person saying it in the heat of the moment. While it’s likely that the person it’s being told to will have a range of reactions (where’s the hidden camera? run home fast, change name and locks? better yet move to another city?) before a response forms in his/her thought bubble, the multiple holes one could poke through such a proclamation don’t make it any less courageous.
Images of Martin Luther King, Jr. on many a stage flash across the screen proclaiming bold statements about love, freedom, humanity and civilization. His sweeping rhetoric, urgent yet timeless, has long endured the peak of the civil rights movement. The man who said “at the center of non-violence stands the principle of love” spoke powerful words that spurred new generations of activists who continue the quest for equality and peace. Courageous words? Undeniably.
Meanwhile, others would say someone like David Duke has the courage to define civil rights differently. A longtime Klan leader and now international spokesman for Holocaust denial who argued loudly against lowering the flag when Dr. King was assassinated, Duke has his own bold proclamations to make. “I don’t call myself a white supremacist. I’m a civil rights activist concerned about European-American rights.” Are these courageous words? It warrants a discussion. However, I can think of at least a hundred savvy, inclusive and aware people in my melting pot of a world with their own equally courageous (and some very colorful) language in response to Mr. Duke’s statement.
COURAGE IN ACTION
But what about actions? What about scaling the tallest of mountains? What about dumpster diving, the freegans‘ preferred way to forage for free sustenance? Is flying a plane without sufficient training courageous, or foolish, or a death wish?
Is there any courage in these bold moves? If it’s all a matter of perspective, then absolutely. Testing one’s body, spirit and gag reflex in the case of freegans, is indeed a courageous act regardless of the perceived or actual value it brings.
What about flying a plane and crashing it on a landmark building all in the supposed name of religion? Is that courageous? Without knowing he was making a statement that was perceived to have been out of line, Bill Maher, comedian and television host, was fired from his gig because he happened to agree with a conservative political commentator that the 9/11 terrorists were not cowards.
“We have been the cowards. Lobbing cruise missiles from two thousand miles away. That’s cowardly. Staying in the airplane when it hits the building. Say what you want about it. Not cowardly. You’re right”, Maher said to Dinesh D’Souza. Apparently he wasn’t supposed to speak his mind that boldly on his own talk show. How ironic that he became a victim of political incorrectness, on a show called Politically Incorrect, in a country where freedom of speech is boldly proclaimed to be of utmost value. Courage to speak your mind freely in a free country apparently comes with a price tag.
In the balance between good and the not-so-good, it seems courage sways both ways depending on perspective that propels it to manifest into a statement or an action. Courage alone does not lead to choosing positivity.
While the dictionary may have simple definitions of the word, clearly, delving a bit deeper into the meaning, interpretation and application of the word courage is not without its jagged edge. Standing on its precipice, its neutrality cowers in the face of its potential to cut and draw blood. On many occasions, it has provoked, hurt, inflamed or debased others.
As for me, I see courage as more of an everyday occurrence. An everyday impulse, necessary for survival that pads the blows of the rigors of daily life.
It takes courage to manufacture momentum where there is none; to hear the silence as well as to sift through the noise in order to heed the message; to witness action and inaction and decide where one fits.
It takes courage to assess capabilities fairly; to accept limitations and strengths and then to do something about both.
Courage is in marching on despite the lack of a paved path. It’s in trusting the unknown when the known does not feel right. It’s in questioning the answers when the answers need to be tested, reassessed or revitalized.
Courage is in being open, exposed, defenseless. It’s in being undone, rough, coloring outside the lines. It’s in acknowledging mistakes, especially ones that leave an indelible mark, an unshakable regret. Courage is in accepting what’s done and in moving on despite a troubled mind, a sagging spirit and a heavy heart.
Courage is in forgiving and in asking for forgiveness. It’s in offering help and in asking for help. It’s in looking past the surface and in seeing beyond differences.
Courage is in leaving home and venturing into a big bold world to shed a little light and a little dark on a sheltered and seeking mind, spirit and heart.
Courage is in coming home to those you love the most; whose absence, likely hanging in the back of your mind, would make you question more than anything if you could ever, ever have the courage to go on.
What about you? What are your thoughts on courage? Is it a good word I’ve somehow managed to sully in about one thousand words?
Image by divemasterking2000