I’ve been thinking a lot about the subjects of courage and fear. They are complimentary and contradictory emotions and actions. Both are vital to our existence. Both are also under the auspices of Ares. Recent events in my life have brought thoughts of fear and courage to the forefront, so I thought I’d discuss some anecdotes and why we need both fear and courage in the world, and how we can weave into our spiritual lives.
My first story is slightly old. A few months ago, a friend of mine had an existential crisis wherein she started asking the big questions about life, namely ‘is there a point’ and ‘what if there’s no God’. She assessed her life and her happiness and the mere thought of it being whisked away at any given moment literally terrified her, and she would start having panic attacks and crying inconsolably. It really broke my heart; while I once asked these same questions, it’s hard for me (and I’d assume others) who have already made their mind up on the matter. It is very difficult for me to see someone in that kind of pain.
Anyway, my friend decided I was probably best equipped to help her deal with her crisis. While I was flattered, there is another theological block in the way: she is a Lutheran and a regular church-goer. Not exactly my forte. In addition to her being terrified, I was apprehensive because I didn’t want to be responsible for aiding someone in losing their faith in the world. So, I gave her what advice I could, performed some minor miracles, and gave her my copy of De Anima, because everyone needs a little more Aristotle. She got through it, and we’ve had fun having theological discussions ever since.
My next story also involves a friend. He passed away this week when his aircraft went down in the Horn of Africa. He’s one of the best warriors I’ve ever known, and despite the obvious and eventually fatal danger of his job, not once did I ever hear of him complaining. I can only imagine the fear he felt in the last moments of his life as his plane fell from the sky. Yet, despite that fear, I know he would not have panicked. I bet if I could hear the voices on the recorder his would still be as calm and clear as ever. Most of us will never have to look our own demise in the face so unexpectedly or so intimately, and I doubt I’d be as graceful.
My last little anecdote involves a young lady I met recently. With dark curly hair, a bright smile, and a mind so sharp you can cut yourself on it, she is pretty much everything I’m looking for in a mate, and probably more. I mean, she’s a teacher and felt that wasn’t enough, so she’s gone back to school to become a pediatric oncologist. While it may be too soon to say, she is definitely “the one” material. I knew I had to talk to her and ask her out, but if you’ve gotten anything from my blog so far, you probably understand I’m not on speaking terms with emotion like that.
That’s where I had one of those little spiritual epiphanies. If I let my fear stand in the way, I’d always be haunted by the “what if”, so I made my move. We’ve been chatting back and forth for the past three days, so needless to say it went well. I’d like to say it was my attempt at being courageous that made things work, but I know I had help. It sounds silly, but as much as I was afraid I’d get rejected, I was afraid of how I’d look in front of my gods.
I like to think that Ares, as the god of courage and manliness, but also of fear and panic, is constantly testing everyone. It may be vanity or hubris, but I think the gods take at least cursory interest in our lives. We obviously feel fear for a reason; we’d probably be extinct without it, as it keeps us from jumping into volcanoes, hugging bloodthirsty beasts, or pressing the big red nuke button (or it should). Fear can put necessary limits on our actions to prevent us from being another Darwin Award recipient.
Fear is also a hinderance, which is why we have courage. If you let fear creep into every facet of your life, you become unproductive and paranoid. Just look at OWS movement or the Tea Party – both are essentially ruled by fear as much as anything else. It takes courage to stop and admit your own faults and turn them around. Being courageous isn’t about being fearless, it’s about acknowledging that fear and moving past it. The most satisfying and fulfilling things in life – finding a partner, getting that dream job, having children, travelling the world – all these things involve risk, sometimes serious risk. It is this risk that creates fear, but moving past that fear is what makes those things worth doing.
Being courageous is not easy, and it’s not meant to be. Only you can decide the level of risk you are willing to take on. Sometimes, you will fail. You will probably fail more times than you succeed. It is that failure, that ability to move beyond fear that makes a person strong. Fear results in being forgotten, courage makes you immortal (figuratively speaking). Follow Ares past fear and into strength. Be bold or go home.