In our culture we normally think of courage as related to action, as overcoming fear to do something. As society we value individualism, or as it is frequently called "rugged individualism." The two things -- courage and individualism -- are frequently linked in our cultural mythology, so that courage is often mythologized as actions by individuals often struggling against the flow of society or their own social group. This emphasis on individualism and action, means that most Americans come to fear the inactive reliance on others. Acting to help others is good, while being helped by others is bad and shameful. Thus, often our greatest fear is of becoming helpless, by illness, circumstance or age, and having to take a passive role dependent upon the help of other.
Over the past year, I have observed (through daily phone conversations) the struggles with fear of my 85 year old mother, as she has to let go of doing things and accept (reluctantly and with much rebellion) the assistance of others in caring for my 96 year old father. If courage involves overcoming fear, than sometimes the most courageous path is inaction and acknowledging dependence.
learning to let go,
accepting help from others,
work-worn hands at rest.
November 15, 2008
For other poems on the theme of "courage" see One Single Impression Sunday November 16, 2008.