Courage: Profundity on a half shell.

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By Jim Byous

What is courage?  Recently I’ve been reading and studying courage… almost to my chagrin.   I know that courage is a virtue I admire.  It’s noble.  It’s a great ideal for one to aspire.  But, man, it is hard to describe and dissect.  I hadn’t really attempted to diagnose the real meaning and meanings.  Now that I do it’s hard for me to wrap my mind completely around it.  It’s an enormous wrap.

I find that there are variations on the heart of the meaning.  For instance, to be courageous in battle or in times of physical conflict or disaster defines the most common form of courage we think of.  They give medals for it.  The recipient is called “hero”.

But, courage is more than the charging-in-despite-the-odds actions of an individual or group.  Though those can be great and admirable actions.  The idea of courage, the totality of courage, the essence of courage, is distinct and much deeper.

Sometimes courage is physical.  Sometimes it is mental.  Sometimes it is spiritual; the keeping-on, keeping-on that many around us silently face each day.  Not taking a drink, not shooting up, not eating just-one-more helping can require courage.  It is also a man comforting a friend in trouble or a mother holding the hand of a child wrapped in bandages, surrounded by monitors, invaded with feeding tubes and probes and needles in tiny veins.  Or sometimes it is the act of taking a chance in business or in life or in love knowing the odds say that you will fail, but you continuing on because you know it is the honest and correct thing to do.

That is courage.

Winston Churchill was an advocate and evangelist of courage.  His grasp of the power of will, determination and steadfast continuance helped him lead Britain through the perils of his time.  America leads the battle to defeat fascism in the 20th century but Winston Churchill lead the way by doggedly expounding his call for courage.

One quote attributed to him states, “Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.”  I don’t know if he really said it, but he should have because it holds to his message.  The perseverance to keep on keeping on.  Sloshing through the trudgery and drudgery, to fight on for a righteous cause without giving in.

That… is… courage.

However, the key word above is “righteous”.  Righteousness can simply be the will – the courage – to not give up hope, to hold a grain of, a faint flicker of faith in that which is correct and true.  Often that is the hardest.  And, often one must have courage in order to hold on to that faith or even to grasp its tiny fringes that persistently whip and twist in your mind’s gripping fingers.

Then again, it seems to me that one must have faith and hope in order to have courage.  I suppose they are the totality and quintessence of the subject; the same frame of mind, of spirit, of determination.  But the real power of those three is in the possession and implementation of all, the letting of one germinate, nurture and grow the others.

Courage – positive courage, the courage that is victorious – is a bundle of all; hope, faith, and courage.  See, to have hope without faith is hollow.  To have faith without hope is impossible.  To have courage without hope or faith is a needless sacrifice.

Conversely, standing to fight the indomitable beast knowing that you have no possibility of winning but knowing that you may slow the beast and assure the salvation of others… that revelation is the presence of hope and faith, not in one’s self, but for a greater good.

That is awe-inspiring, skin-tingling courage.

Then again, with all aside, would it not take courage to run and fight another day?  Would that be called wisdom?  Because in order to exercise wisdom one must usually have courage.  So now we have another variable.

And finally, love… love is a progenitor of the first three and sometimes all four.  If implemented alone it can create any and all of the others. But to have love without wisdom… that opens another can of twisting mental-thought worms.

The final decision to delve into the ramifications of what we may find and how it affects us and how we will deal with the acquired knowledge and IF we will implement those findings… that takes… courage.

See?  It’s an enormous wrap.

I think I’m going to lie on the couch for a while and vedge.


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