Courage is not a well understood factor of life, but we do experience it anyway. It’s a pretty important part of life, so it might profit us to understand it.
Courage is often seen in negative definition only, and that tends to distort it. This is courage as it relates to fear, but every person we call courageous has said it’s not really about any relationship to fear.
The book on the Tarot card of courage first mentions that taking further risks requires greater awareness. We have a drive to greater awareness of things, and it isn’t triggered by fear alone is it? It seems to be part of life itself. We recognize that we need to be aware, and we want to be aware of things we desire, as much as things we are afraid of. Courage is that drive to engage life even in the face of knowing our limitations and fears. This seem reasonable?
The courageous solider is between desire and fear. They are courageous because they keep the power of choice. This heroic solider in the face of danger remembers their mission, and that there are lives to save, and they are still very afraid.
He knows that if he does not do his/her part that his friends may die. Yes, confronting the consequences.
Can feeling that fear be an indicator that we need to walk toward it and have courage? Well… Be aware of it, and not be focused on ego. Ego can be a very sabotaging force, and a fear of making mistakes is ego. It isn’t wisdom. The soldier knows that in doing what it takes, they are still very much at risk of getting shot, and they choose in the face of that risk. The choice can be stay with their group, or it can be go where they need to, or “take point” because that is what their group needs.
There can also be courage in both action or ‘seeming’ inaction? There can indeed. The soldier who is ordered to take point can complain it’s not fair, and say, “Why me?” But if they have the warriors wisdom, they know they aren’t being picked on. They are on the ground of battle no matter where they go, or what they do.
Now to get out of the military metaphor… Are you ever not on the ground of life? Are you being picked on when you seem to have to do something alone? We are all here and life takes courage. It’s been said the coward dies a thousand deaths, the courageous person only one, and yet we are praised if we seem to avoid making mistakes, aren’t we? We’re told we are wise?
Courage doesn’t involve ignoring what you can see. It doesn’t mean you shouldn’t think, and that’s the line between courage and foolishness, your awareness. But courage is also taking action in the face of our limited awareness. Accepting that you can’t be error free and know everything, and acting anyway. Seeing all you could see, you do something, and accept that you could be wrong.
You often hear an interview of somebody who did something brave, and they usually say things like, “I saw what was happening, and I just acted.” Exactly. Awareness then action, and often quivering fear after, but that doesn’t make them a coward. Fear is actually quite natural. It’s an instinct. We do have a drive to self preservation, and this isn’t wrong.
I read a story about a guy in WWII. His unit was attacked and they broke and ran. He received a medal for staying where he was and shooting back at the enemy. When asked why he did it, he said he was to afraid to stand up and run. That’s a good story. His awareness was better. His instincts stronger. Those who broke and ran weren’t aware that they would be shot anyway. He was focused on what was really there, and saw it very clearly. Fear is ok. Courage is seeing, and courage is what Buddhists call “right action”.
Fear can make you look brave? I’m not talking about bravery. I’m talking about the instinct that keeps the mind clear and driven. Bravery can be an intoxication in one’s own ego.
It also depends on what you fear. A long time ago they let officers beat their men, so that the men would be more afraid of the officers than they were of the enemy. Actually, it matters more why you fear than what, because fear often makes one snap, and this is why they changed that policy. Soldiers started killing officers. Loa Tzu said, “He who treats me well is my leader, he who treats me badly is my enemy.” I have seen no exception to this.
Your thoughts are welcome. Be well friends.