9. “The COURAGE to change the things I can”
In making this drawing, I may have made an error. “Courage” was one of the first words I looked up in the 1934 Webster’s dictionary. I suppose I was curious to learn how any dictionary would define that familiar word, so I went looking for it among the crinkled old pages.
The definition: “Courage n. the heart as the seat of intelligence, or feeling”
Say what? If you’ve read my other comments, you’ve heard me say I was surprised by certain definitions. This one was by far the most unexpected. Where, for instance, was the reference to BRAVERY? Where was the steadiness of nerve when confronting great danger? What did the HEART have to do with anything?
I say this drawing may have been an error because there is something I didn’t initially notice about this definition. This definition is labeled as “archaic”, which is Webster’s way of saying it is outdated—people don’t use it that way anymore. The word hasn’t been used this way since Shakespeare’s time.
Trouble is, I didn’t notice the “archaic” label until after the drawing was complete. What was the drawing? It was a mom standing outside of a burning house in her nightgown. Inside a flaming upstairs window is a nursery and crib. Just out of view, a group of people are lunging to catch her as she starts to run back into the house. One hand is a fireman, trained never to let people return to a burning structure. Another hand is a woman, perhaps a neighbor, who is desperately clutching at the woman’s hair to stop her. The third hand is that of a child, probably the woman’s own, trying to keep her mother nearby.
The woman is clearly going inside, regardless of the well-meaning hands. She has already broken the grasp of the fireman. She is yanking her own hair out of the neighbor’s grasp. She has become blind to the presence of her already-rescued child and is turning with determination to go after the remaining one upstairs.
This image is emotionally wrenching to me. Sure, the image is dramatic; perhaps melodrama. But I personally know many ordinary people who lack common BRAVERY in the face of physical DANGER who would react in the same way as this woman.
It’s not a warrior’s great bravery that compels this woman; it is her love. It’s not danger that she is focussing on; it her infant’s immense need she is drawn by. She has not made a mental calculation about her odds of succeeding. Instead, her heart has become the seat (or the foundation) or her intelligence. She is not thinking with her mind alone; she is giving total authority to her heart.
Under everyday circumstances, this woman might be a very timid person. She might never disobey a fireman. She might meekly follow her neighbor’s advice. She might put her older child’s needs ahead of her own. But with the rising of her courage, she makes decisions from only one place; her loving heart. This drawing is a portrait of that type of inwardly igniting courage, and I needed that same courage to walk away from the grave that addiction was beckoning me towards.
I myself don’t have the courage necessary to confront danger or evil alone. I can’t, but He can.
I considered switching my drawing to a more modern definition of courage. But instead I left the illustration and definition as-is. I saw no reason to change the words which held so much truth about my own experience. My courage did not come from fierceness or numbness. My courage came from the Divine flame that I suspect flickers inside every heart. I hope Shakespeare himself would approve of my definition of “courage”, even if my modern counterparts protested. My sponsor always says, “Will” is the most important ingredient in recovery. I would like to believe that perhaps that can be extended to include Will Shakespeare. ; )