Vintage knocker on painted door, Montreuil-sur-Mer, France.
"Courage is one step ahead of fear." - Coleman Young
I have flown hundreds of flights, both international and domestic. But with every year that passes, I am more and more anxious about flying across the Atlantic. The tragic disappearance of Air France 447 just amplifies the worry. Yes, I know flying is considered the safest mode of transportation. Yes, I know it's ridiculous for someone who's traveled as much as I have to give flying a second thought.
But in the past few years, the only way I can endure a long-haul flight is to pretend I'm not on a plane; to distract myself with books, music, movies and conversation. Still, my heart is in my throat during takeoff, landing and during turbulence mid-flight. If you were sitting next to me, you'd never suspect I was nervous; I'm one of those people who remains calm in a crisis. And I'd probably be reassuring you that it's only a bit of temporary turbulence, while silently praying for a safe landing.
So I think long and hard about criss-crossing the Atlantic, when an opportunity arises - even one that could open intriguing doors for me. By happenstance, such an opportunity has just presented itself. This morning, as I was trying to talk myself into being brave about crossing the Atlantic (after all, I did it just last month), this message from Michael Bungay Stanier arrived in my inbox:
"Courage is almost always a contradiction in terms. It means a strong desire to live, taking the form of a readiness to die." - Gilbert Keith Chesterton
"...Even though the etymology of the word harks back to the Latin word for "heart," the truth is that the battle to be courageous first gets played out in your mind. On the one hand you have that little voice saying "play it safe, don't be foolish, don't step away from what you know."
"And on the other, you have the call to something a little bigger, a little different, a little unknown. Notice the chatter. Rather than rushing through, linger a little at these crossroads. If this is a discussion, then it means you'll have a choice. Who's winning the debate? Courage? Or fear?"
"Courage is doing what you are afraid to do. There can be no courage unless you're scared."- Eddie Rickenbacher
"A courageous act isn't necessarily a grand thing. It doesn't necessarily involve fireworks and marching bands and unfurled banners against the sky. But it does involve action. A small step.
"It might be a step towards something, the beginning of a Great Work project, a Yes. It might be a step away from something, a breaking of an unproductive pattern, a No. But it's a step. When your mind is log-jammed, sometimes the easiest way to break things up is just to get moving."
"Anxiety is a thin stream of fear trickling through the mind. If encouraged, it cuts a channel into which all other thoughts are drained." - Arthur Somers Roche
"If the choice we face - and we face this in a thousand different ways every day - is between courage and fear, then it's a delicate balance that can tip either way. Just as if you let fear hold sway, it eventually cuts a deep channel (and Roche's metaphor is actually a good description of the neuroscience behind the way we think), so, too courage can cut its own path over time.
"You will of course occasionally tip to fear. But practice one or ten, or a hundred small, even invisible acts of courage a day and you tip the balance inexorably to your favour."
"A great deal of talent is lost to the world for want of a little courage." - Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
Photo of rusty door hinge and peeling paint, Montreuil-sur-Mer, which seems like a predictor of what happens when we remain stagnant too long.
Bob Herbert has written a brilliant piece slamming Republican faux outrage against racism, as they denigrate Sonia Sotomayor.