Skip to main content

Courage, mon coeur

I was talking to a bright nine-year-old lad a few weeks ago, who was lamenting the loss of his favorite pillow.

"What did you like about it?" I asked him. "It had the word courage written across it," he replied.

"Did you know that the root of the word courage comes from the word for heart in other languages?" I inquired.

I could see his remarkable green eyes reveal the workings of his mind as he took in what I told him, could see the light of thought dawn within them. He simply said, "No, I never knew that."

I gave him a pillow I had and told him that on this pillow, the word courage was written on the inside, rather than the outside, of the pillow. He thanked me, tossed the pillow up in the air, and ran into the next room.

Courage, mon coeur. I am deeply humbled by the human struggles in Egypt, Libya, Bahrain, and other countries, and by the sheer courage of these people, most of whose names we will never know. A young man interviewed today on NPR commented that during the Egyptian protests, he watched one of his friends be shot dead, and yet, he returned to Tahrir Square.  Another man on today's news risked his life to try to get into Tripoli to see his daughter. And, on a smaller, safer scale, I applaud the efforts of people in Wisconsin and their courage. Unions there have already agreed to pay-cuts and paying their own health care, which will create significant savings. Taking away a union's bargaining rights does not create immediate savings. It does take a basic right away from hardworking people who help make our country good where it can be called good, teachers being among those hardworking folks.  There is no more important profession than teaching, and this country has a long history of not respecting (or fairly compensating) the caring, educated people who prepare our children for their futures.

What strength is in my own heart? Enough strength to die as an anonymous protester to help free a country from 30 years of dictatorial, abusive powers? I don't know, can't know, unless and until that moment comes.
I do know that the seat of my strength and inspiration is indeed inside that organic symbol, the heart. I have learned from watching our fellow brothers and sisters in other countries, that if one cannot feel injustice, one cannot correct it. We must mind the heart, my pun intended here, and beware the "dream of reason" that Goya alerted us to: "El sueño de razón produce monstruos". Así es, especially when we do not pair our thinking with our feeling, when we mistake will power as solely a mental device, and forget the lesson that linguistic history teaches us: Courage comes from the heart.

Next post:  research on connections between our brains and our hearts, based on medical research.


Popular posts from this blog

Life without Television, Part 2

I began life without television with relief, which was consistent Monday through Friday. The first few weekends, though, felt awkward, anxious, lonely. When PBS has good programming on Saturday nights, it is extraordinarily good. Father Brown, Phryne Fisher, New Tricks... Extraordinary acting, high production values, and I fantasize about the pudgy, brilliant priest just perhaps having an innocent crush on one of his special parishioners, which would be moi. 

I called a friend one Sunday. "Maybe television helped with my anxiety more than I realized," I said. She told me about her aunt who, after her husband's death, kept the television on in his "man cave" 24/7. He has been gone years now. The television goes on, everlasting, in his absence. I don't blame her. Much of my frequent and prolonged television viewing began with grief.

After my sister died, I would watch almost anything, especially late at night when sleep eluded me. I even watched Convoy with …

Whose day?

Years ago, I made some collages using pages from a desk calendar from the Metropolitan Museum of Art. The image that leads this post is one. Inside the hearts and flowers is a picture from the MMA collection of  a Japanese screen made in the 16th century. It is titled Tagasode, which means Whose sleeves?  The title comes from a 10th-century poem:

The fragrance seems even more alluring than the hue, Whose sleeves have brushed past? Or would it be this plum tree blossoming here at home?
Iro yori mo ka koso awaredo omohoyure tagasode fureshi ado no ume zo mo
The word haunts: tagasode. Whose sleeves? The question floats in my mind like a cloud on a still day. The sleeves materialize in my mind's eye. I hear them move through hushed air. I can imagine, though not name, the scent of the person to whom those sleeves belong. It's not unlike smelling the scent of your infant's clothes, or holding the perfume bottle that belonged to your don't need to open it... you know tha…

Glad to Hear It

This past week, Larry Wilmore and company mentioned Rachel Dolezol again on The Nightly Show. I don't remember who made the comment, but either Wilmore or one of the panelists said, "Did Rachel Dolezol do anything bad? No, she really didn't. Why did we get so uptight about that?" I was glad to hear it. Three cheers for being human.

I looked briefly at what's on Google currently about her and the now much-discussed Shaun White. I intend not to enter any of that fray mentally or verbally. I still maintain that humanity trumps color. We have a long way to go until we can leave our "paint by numbers" mentality behind, but we've made progress. Good changes can come, even in the midst of chaos and controversy. Maybe White and Dolezal will help us see that eventually.

As long as I'm here and continuing on the subject of color, I think I'm not alone in the fact that I don't like being called "white." As for my background, it includes …