The Courage to Create.
I started reading a new book yesterday, The Courage to Create by Rollo May. It's one of those reads that you want to pause after each sentence to allow the insight to seep a little deeper, and then reread again. I kept feeling the need to stop and record in my journal all the beauty May was offering. I refrained though, partially because if I did it would take me months to finish the book...but mostly because I didn't have a pen! Anyhow, below is an excerpt that I found particularly enlightening.
What is Courage?
This courage will not be the opposite of despair. We shall often be faced with despair, as indeed every sensitive person has been during the last several decades in this country. Hence Kiekegaard and Nietszche and Camus and Satre have proclaimed that courage is no the absence of despair; it is rather, the capacity to move ahead in spite of despair.
Nor is the courage required mere stubborness-we shall surely have to create with others. But if you do not express your own original ideas, if you do not listen to your own being, you will have betrayed yourself. Also your will have betrayed our community in failing to make your contribution to the whole.
A chief characteristic of this courage is that it requires a centeredness within our own being, without which we would feel ourselves to be a vacuum. The "emptiness" within corresponds to an apathy without' and apathy adds up, in the long run, to cowardice. That is why we must always base our commitment in the center of our own being, or ele no commitment will be ultimately authentic.
Courage, furthermore, is not to be confused with rashness. What masquerades as courage may turn our to be simply a bravado used to compensate for one's unconscious fear and to prove one's machismo, like the "hot" fliers in World War II. The ultimate end of such rashness is getting one's self killed, or at least one's head battered in with a policeman's billy club-both of which are scarcely productiove ways of exhibiting courage.
Courage is not a virtue or value among other personal values like love or fidelity. It is the foundation that underlies and gives reality to all other virtues and personal values. Without coarage our love pales into mere dependency. Without courage our fidelity becomes conformism.
The word courage comes from the same stem as the French word coeur, meaning "heart". Thus just as one's heart, by pumping blood to one's arm, legs, and brain enables all the other physical organs to function, so courage makes possible all the psychological virtues. Without courage other values wither away into mere facsimiles of virtue.
In human beings courage is necessary to make being and becoming possible. An assertion of the self, a commitment, is essential if the self is to have any reality. This is the distinction between human beings and the rest of nature. The acorn becomes an oak by means of automatic growth; no commitment is necessary. The kitten similarly becomes a cat on the basis of instinct. Nature and being are identical in creatures like them. But a man or woman becomes fully human only by his or her choices and his or her commitment to them. People attain worth and dignity by the multitude of decisions they make from day by day. These decisions require courage as ontological-it is essential to our being.