ROFL: Random Outbursts From Lar! LarryNocella.com

23Jul/11Off

The Bravest Act

If you're doing something dangerous, but you don't know it's risky, does that make you brave? Say you walk across a lake of thin ice, but you think the ice is solid and safe. Are you courageous for talking that stroll? Are you brave once you realize how dangerous the act was? Are you foolish or just ignorant?

If we humans stand any chance of evolving, we need to clarify our notions of bravery. Courage has been defined by Hollywood culture as something that occurs in split-second intervals, a flashy physical activity that looks a lot like an action-film sequence.

Define bravery, and it too often goes like this: Diving into gunfire to save a wounded comrade! Leaping from a speeding car as it goes over the cliff! Crashing through a burning building to save a crying baby / adorable dog / nubile lass! CLANG! KERASSSH! BABOOOM! YEEEEHAAAA!

I'm tired of our stories and myths defining courage in such a limited way, rooted in rare situations of war, disaster or violence. People who act heroically in those situations will often humbly say things like, I don't feel brave, I just did what I had to do, it was all a blur, it was over in seconds, I didn't even think about it, anyone would have done the same thing.

This isn't to take away from their exceptional behavior, but exceptional behavior only occurs in exceptional moments. How many times during our lives will any of us be exposed to live gunfire, a cliff-bound car or a lightly charred nubile lass? Does that mean we'll never have a chance to learn how brave (or fearful) we are?

I've never believed that the only way to be brave is to pursue a law-enforcement, military or rescue career. I think there's so much to human experience that courage can manifest in many other, more subtle ways. Further along this thought-path, it's rarely made sense to me when awards are given for split-second actions. I'm much more impressed with sustained action. Instead of the reflex that comes from the result of training or primal sub-conscious automatic survival instinct, I'm more impressed with sustained and repeated courage across the span of a lifetime. When you have to time think about what's happening and time to back down or run, but you stand your ground? That's bravery.

At the end of all these thoughts, I realized that loving someone is a brave act. I think it might even be the bravest act we can do.

Yet as soon as I think that, I feel the mental gravitational pull of the action-film definition. How can love be brave? Almost everyone loves something. Shouldn't bravery be a rare thing?

I don't think so. Just because we have gotten used to the presence of a miracle doesn't make it any less miraculous.

Now of course I don't know you, but I can almost guarantee you don't think of yourself as especially brave. To do so seems a bit arrogant. Let me save you some potential angst and tell you: you are brave. I'll bet you love someone and I'm going to remind you how courageous that is. It's like you're walking on ice you think is thick and solid, but I'm about to point out how thin it is.

You know, deep in your heart, that those you love are temporary. They are all mortal and one day they will die or be killed, by disease, by age, by a madman, by one (or more) of a thousand things in a million ways. That loss will cause you immense pain. Yet you keep on loving them.

Are you nuts? Why bother to love anyone? They are going to be gone someday. There is no doubt. None. So why do you keep doing it? You know the ice is thin, but you keep walking. Are you crazy?

No. You're brave. You face not the possibility of pain, but its inevitability. Yet you keep going. You keep loving.

As I was writing this, I stopped and thought about these things and scared myself. Everyone you and I love is going to leave one day, either by natural or unnatural causes. There is no doubt. It's so unpleasant to think about we often avoid it just to stay sane, and yet, I think we should face it just for an instant to appreciate it all.

We know how fragile life is and we continue to love. What kind of madness does it take to allow our hearts to be captivated by something so delicate? You know you're going to get hurt. It's going to happen. It's a question of when. It would be much more logical to love something eternal, like a stone, death or taxes. Or better yet, a plastic bottle.

But no. We keep loving.

All this time, your whole life, you've been so brave. It sounds amazing, ridiculous, exaggerated. You look at yourself in the mirror and you wonder "Am I brave?" If you love someone, you are. If you put your heart out (sensibly) you are. Courage is all around us and within you.

This isn't to say in a blithering emotional gush that everyone is brave and dilute the meaning of bravery, because it is possible to be cowardly regarding love, but oddly enough, such creatures seem to be in the minority. The fearful run from love, or chase others away. They choose to love no one because they fear the hurt, they hide behind a thousand schemes. The foolish love too easily, and their love becomes an artificial thing, robotic even.

Instead of heroism being defined as split-second action, I vote that we admire our courage and realize how brave we are to love. The miracle of love is around us all every day, and you are part of it making it happen. Imagine where we could go, where our world would be if we all deeply and openly appreciated that.

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Larry Nocella writes the blog ROFL: Random Outbursts From Lar! at LarryNocella.com. He's the author of the novel Where Did This Come From? The world's first CarbonFree(R) novel according to Carbonfund.org. The book is available as an Amazon Kindle eBook. It is also available for reading online. P.S. You don't need a Kindle to read Kindle eBooks. Download the FREE Kindle app for PC, Mac and smartphones. You can then purchase Kindle books or download free ones. Enjoy!

 


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