Brave

I would be brave, for there is much to dare.

We are now in the fourth of a series of messages inspired by a 1905 poem written by Harold Arnold Walter for his mother as a Christmas present. If, by chance, you have read my previous blog posts, then you know my affinity for this poem has to do with its unusual content; a statement about character development included in a book of songs more focused on praised and adoration of the biblical God. Personal vows can be found in the hymnal’s other songs as well, but none so singularly dedicated to the concept of moral growth as Walter’s poem proves to be.

There are three stanzas to this poem, each stanza consisting of four lines and each line touting a character quality Walter pledged to keep as well as the reason for its primacy in his life. The links he built include being true because there were those who trusted him while they are apart, being pure because there were those who cared about him, being strong because there was much to endure that we must allow to take place, and now being brave, for there is much to dare.

We can easily and maybe incorrectly attribute bravery to the performance of those action heroes we see in the today’s movies. They never fear despite the life-threatening magnitude of the obstacles they must overcome, never get hurt no matter how many blows they receive, and never lose. Victory and a celluloid immortality are in the script.

Our lives, however, aren’t scripted. We can lose. We can be hurt. We can even die. All of this comes as a simple consequence of our frail nature as vulnerable human beings. There is always something at risk, even when we can muster the courage to overcome our fears. In fact that point is the essence of being brave. This character quality becomes more evident when we know we are personally vulnerable and have something to lose, but still dare to take a stance in the face of our fears.

Although Walter majored in theology at Princeton and may have found his concept of bravery in the Bible’s sacred text, my own concept is rooted in my own path as a history major. The History of Ancient Greece (course #313 for which I got an A grade) introduced me to Pericles, the Athenian general and statesman during that nation-state’s golden age. I have kept his words enshrined in a book of quotations gathered from various sources over a lifetime of study. They encourage us to consider that “The man who can most truly be accounted brave is he who knows best the meaning of what is sweet in life and of what is terrible and then goes out determined to meet what is to come.”

Walter’s own concise phrase, there is much to dare, includes this perspective; an awareness that there is much to lose that is sweet in life and that there are no guarantees of success in whatever we endeavor to accomplish. Pericles was eulogizing his soldiers as I recall. But the most peaceful of us and those of us of seemingly inconsequential status can live this sentiment as well. Threats abound without any regard for such meagre human defenses as affluence, ethnicity or nationality. Therefore bravery is not about such things. It is about a character trait worth developing for there is much in every life to dare.

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