A call to courage

Think of the word ‘courage’ and what comes immediately to mind is the image of a soldier.

This heroic individual is ready to lay down for the sake of others what is most precious to him – his life. The common run of people cannot reach this height of bravery, but we are nevertheless called upon to exercise a good deal of courage in this battle we call Life.

As soon as the individual reaches the age of discretion, he finds he has to make difficult decisions, take paths whose destinations are not fully known. If he wants to preserve his integrity and lead a life of meaning, he will have resist temptations and overcome obstacles. There is hardly anyone whose life is smooth and trouble-free. We all come face to face with problems, worries and setbacks. They are an integral part of living and can be overcome only through an unremitting exercise of courage.

History has a galaxy of great names, people who took up challenges in varying fields, faced them boldly and made the world a better place. To name a few, there is the Greek philosopher Socrates who embraced death rather than retract his reasoning; Andreas Vesalius who went into graveyards in the dead of night to dissect bodies and study the anatomy of the human body, an activity then considered a sacrilege.Coming to modern times, there is Martin Luther King who sacrificed his life for minority rights and Mahatma Gandhi who roused the entire nation against British might. 

Is courage then a weapon given to a few extraordinary individuals? Going by what Nelson Mandela said, this is certainly not so. “I learned,” he said, “that courage is not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.”

Little wonder then that we find people of substance and courage at all times and in all places. The human spirit is one of the most powerful forces for good on earth. Each Republic Day sees young children being feted for their extraordinary feats of bravery. What is more, similar deeds of bravery may be seen in one’s own backyard.

A teenager, with whom I am well acquainted, had this story to tell. She was walking along a busy thoroughfare when she saw a little boy break away from his mother and rush into oncoming traffic. While all stood petrified, this young girl sprang into the melee and got hold of him. Traffic on both sides screeched to a halt. Tragedy was barely averted and mercifully both remained unharmed. When she reached home, she was in a state of shock.

“Did I do wrong? Did I disobey rules?” she asked all a-tremble. “Not at all,” I assured her. “What questions would you ask yourself if the boy had been killed? Maybe you would have accused yourself. It was an act of pure courage.”

As Andre Maurois has said, “Our minds have unbelievable power over our bodies.” There is a word for it. It is called ‘courage’.

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