Monday, July 2, 2012

acts of daring

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Speculation du jour:

All acts of daring require a willingness to die and yet, as Gautama was alleged to have aptly observed, "All fear dying. All fear death." As a result, a sense of cowardice shadows the daring that anyone possesses.

What a lily-livered chicken I can be: I don't want to die and so I will protect and defend and do what I can to control the circumstances around me -- all in search of safety, all in an attempt not-to-die. Yet all of my intellectual and emotional efforts are in vain, as any afternoon drive past the graveyard will attest.

It seems a thorny thicket, this pilgrimage between eek and ahh. Sometimes it tears the flesh and scares the pee down our legs. But I think it is worth slowing down and taking a look not just at the cowardly-lion fears that natter and nag, but also at the acts of daring we accomplish over and over again without a second thought.

Acts of daring ... it sounds so marvelous. The mind scurries to some clash and clamor of a battlefield littered with confusion and loss and insanity ... an extreme place where no one in their right mind would go ... but if they did go, how frightened they might be. Others may be called "heroes" by those whose milquetoast nostrums seek to make sense of it all, but I'm no "hero." I don't want to die. "Acts of daring?" Leave me out of it!

But let's slow the imaginative heroics down a bit and survey the scene with more care and caring. OK, death is scary. OK, I defend and protect. OK, life may require daring, but I have all the attributes of a cowardly custard. OK ....

And yet how are things when tying a shoe or changing a flat tire or adding up a column of numbers or writing a term paper or kissing a friend or painting a picture or building a shed? In the very moment of doing such things, where are you? Nothing fancy or philosophical ... just where are you when doing something that requires your very good attention. In my view, you are dead ... literally out of the picture ... gonzo. And that is what is required in order for any effort to be a success: Die and let the doing do the doing. And that is what anyone does in perfectly ordinary, non-heroic ways. It's just what works. Death comes and goes in every moment ... literally ... and no one makes a big deal out of it. In a nanosecond, what was pulsing with unnameable life is gone and all that is left is a recollection of a moment of daring, a moment of doing, a moment of death.

If any of this makes any sense, then our courageous nature is not so much something to display or defend or encourage or wish for ... it is, rather, something to acknowledge and get used to. Accepting or bestowing medals is not the point. Every moment is an act of daring ... it's just what anyone does and the trick is to recognize what they're already doing and could not hold onto if they tried. Tying a shoe, changing a flat tire, adding up a column of numbers, writing a term paper, kissing a friend, painting a picture or building a shed.

Dead man walking. Walking man alive. Isn't it worth considering ... fearing what is already par for the course ... how much sense does that make?

Conversationally, referring to acts of daring or acts of cowardice may be OK. "All fear dying. All fear death." But these are just nudges and reminders ... if the sky is already blue, it's unlikely to be any bluer because I say so.

Hero and coward alike ... one act of daring after another.
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