These days, there is a lot of fear floating around. The media talks about things that can kill or maim us. The government talks about terrorists and deadly plots. I have talked to many people, relatives and close friends, who confess to feeling afraid and that all this talk of fear only makes them feel more afraid. There is a lot of talk about safety, making people feel safe, making people do things that are supposed to make us safer. This obsession with fear and safety is enough to make one wonder, what has become of us?
I'll be the first one to admit that life is scary and that fear is a part of being alive. That's just the way it is. I also think there's nothing wrong with admitting to being afraid or to having been afraid. I've been scared many times in my life and there is certainly more ahead for me to fear. Most of the times I've been afraid, I was fortunate to not be immobilized by my fear. I usually found that when I was afraid, I became more focused on the task at hand. But there have been times. Times when I doubted myself, just froze, couldn't think, couldn't act. I don't believe the inability to think and act in the face of fear makes one a coward any more than taking action in the face of fear makes one a hero. I believe that to take full measure of a person, you have to see the full arc of their life, or at least a good portion of it. Only then can you draw any useful conclusions.
There is a lot of talk in the media about courage and heroism, usually involving the men and women serving in the armed forces, police, and fire fighters. While I have tremendous respect for people who put their lives on the line everyday to protect and defend others, I think we've compartmentalized the concept of heroism. So much that we fail to see average people who show courage by going about their everyday lives, facing trials that every living person faces, the sadness of illness and death, the countless slings and arrows. We've come to expect others will keep us safe and in the process, we've lost touch with our own individual, everyday courage.
What if we had the courage to not give into paranoia? What if we had the courage to accept that others see things differently than us? What if we had the courage to not demand that everyone look, act, feel, love, worship, or vote exactly the way we do? What if we had the courage to realize that we are not perfect, that we have dark thoughts, yes, that we are sometimes afraid?
Let's call terrorists what they really are - saboteurs. People who want to hurt us can only evoke terror if we give them permission to do so. Think about that the next time you have the courage, yes the everyday courage, to fly on an airliner, or ride the subway, or report a crime, or help a loved one retain some tiny particle of dignity in the face of a hideous, terminal illness. Remember that and find your courage.