You will never do anything in this world without courage. It is the greatest quality of the mind next to honor. – Aristotle
Courage. It is a force we have all heard about, but few of us consistently experience it.
Courage is the force that allows one to take the actions that are uncomfortable or scary (such as a extra pull-up).
If you are like most people, you have likely asked yourself, “how can I have more courage?” The following excerpt may describe you.
“YOUTH: Maybe what you are saying is right. Actually, I’m sure it is, and courage really is what I am lacking. I can accept the life-lie as well. I am scared of interacting with people. I don’t want to get hurt in interpersonal relationships, and I want to put off my life tasks. That’s why I have all these excuses ready. Yes, it’s exactly as you say. But isn’t what you are talking about a kind of spiritualism? All you’re really saying is, “You’ve lost your courage, you’ve got to pluck up your courage.” It’s no different from the silly instructor who thinks he’s giving you advice when he comes up and slaps you on the shoulder and says, “Cheer up.” Even though the reason I’m not doing well is because I can’t just cheer up!
PHILOSOPHER: So what you are saying is that you would like me to suggest some specific steps?
YOUTH: Yes, please. I am a human being. I am not a machine. I’ve been told that I’m all out of courage, but I can’t just get a refill of courage as if I were filling up my tank with fuel.”
Ichiro Kishimi & Kumitake Koga, The Courage to Be Disliked
It is as the youth says. We are not machines. We can’t simply create courage – or can we?
If a brain surgeon opened your brain and decided to zap a certain section, you would re-experience a past memory. They could zap the location 300 times, and you would experience that memory 300 times. At the very least, while you cannot manufacture courage, you might be able to train courage.
Going further, it should also be noted that courage is not something that is impossible to grasp.
“The faith which creates the courage to take them into itself has no special content. It is simply faith, undirected, absolute. It is undefinable, since everything defined is dissolved by doubt and meaninglessness.
The vitality that can stand the abyss of meaninglessness is aware of a hidden meaning within the destruction of meaning.”
Paul Tillich, The Courage to Be
With the recognition that we aren’t robots but courage is attainable, the question becomes how? My own experience is that there is not a “how-to-guide” because it would muddle the emotional message.
“To understand Lao Tzu’s logic you will have to create eyes. It is very subtle. It is not the ordinary logic of the logicians; it is the logic of a hidden life, a very subtle life. Whatsoever he says is on the surface absurd; deep down there lives a very great consistency.
The Tao that can be told of
is not the Absolute Tao;
This is the first thing he has to say: that whatsoever can be said cannot be true. This is the introduction for the book. It simply makes you alert: now words will follow, don’t become a victim of the words. Remember the wordless. Remember that which cannot be communicated through language, through words. The Tao can be communicated, but it can only be communicated from being to being.”
Osho, Absolute Tao
Here’s the solution:
- Courage is essential to getting more in life.
- While we are not robots, courage is trainable.
- Courage can be attained through a subtle energy, which cannot exactly be forced.