“Where words fail, music speaks.” — Hans Christian Andersen
Courage. What is it? I’ve never truly understood it, especially in childhood when I knew whatever it was, I didn’t have it. I remember a speaker at our assembly period in school starting her presentation by announcing that bravery wasn’t the same thing as courage. Undoubtedly seeing a lot of little faces staring at her in confusion she decided to use our trip to school every day as an example. She suggested that it took nothing for us come to our school building, but if we lived in one of the many war-torn countries of the world, just crossing the street could be the greatest act of defiance and courage. Her point was obvious, but since there were roving gangs of juvenile delinquents on that last block to our school in the 50’s, I was in continuous dread every day I had to walk it. I felt a complete coward and stopped listening to the speaker.
Realizing long ago that facing those gangs, literally or just in my Hollywood-induced imagination was my own act of courage, it left me with a lingering doubt about the nature of true valor and how to find it. Naturally I’ve moved a long way from that assembly speaker, but even with all the nuances making courage a much larger and more illusive concept, like most people, I still worry about being able to find it when I need it. This dilemma haunts fictional characters as well as real people, and many authors know they can build much more interesting narratives around characters who fear courage will allude them when they need it most. Whether it’s a specific challenge or a general state of bravery, the fear that they won’t measure up is what makes them believably human and so much more captivating. Continue Reading