Sunday, May 27, 2018

The Courage to Live

Normally, one thinks of courage in terms of facing a battle head on. It could be a soldier leading his men through known enemy territory; an explorer sailing off to prove the earth is round; a schoolmate stepping in to prevent a bully from victimizing another on the playground.

At the most basic level, it takes courage to live life. Every second of the 24-hour cycle we humans, birds, animals and all manner of beings wake up to face "time" with no guarantee that all will go well. In most cases, people who commit suicide have lost all courage to endure the vicissitudes of life and can't see a way forward to keep on keeping on. Blame it on Prozac, haywire brain chemistry or severe trauma, nonetheless the conclusion is, "Get me out of here."

According to the Stoics of ancient times:

“Remember that the door is open. Don’t be more cowardly than children, but just as they say, when the game is no longer fun for them, ‘I won’t play any more,’ you too, when things seem that way to you, say, ‘I won’t play any more,’ and leave, but if you remain, don’t complain.” (Discourses I.24.20)

It is easy to imagine how starving refugees, sex slaves, the severely ill or injured and so on and so forth might wake up having second thoughts about being on the planet. But what about those fortunate sentient beings who have shelter, food, clothing (or fur) and yes, even love, who wake up with dread of the coming day?

This is where the notion of courage enters. To face the unknown, which is one second later than now, a contemplative thought must enter the mind: change is inevitable, a continuum of bad to good - good to bad. Like a surfer riding the waves, the only way to keep one's equilibrium is to maintain balance. The secret is knowing that in between the extremes, there is a center point of neutrality wherein lies equanimity. Whether through meditation, yoga, prayer, therapy or all of the above, the imperative of the human being is to find a balance within a whirlwind of ever-changing circumstances.

If it were easy we would be eternally sunbathing in the oasis of our quiet minds. Since it seems that our inner and outer worlds don't always provide an idyllic picture, it is up to us to keep working on ourselves, always choosing to see clearly rather than allowing a dark shadow to cover our bliss.

is - mental or moral strength to venture, persevere, and withstand danger, fear, or difficulty.  

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