When I was (a lot) younger, I did one of those jumping off a cliff into water things.
The experience has remained imprinted in my mind.
I don’t often do things that scare me but, in the heat of the moment, an unexpected sense of adventure caught me off guard.
I don’t know how high the cliff was but time was suspended, on the way down, and the exhilaration blew me away –
It blew me away and, yet, when I went to jump for a second time, I spent too long considering the action and, by the time my toes reached the crumbly red chalk of the edge, my nerve had disappeared.
I have been thinking a lot about courage recently.
About the fact that we have to do things that scare us on a daily basis; and, that, even if we’ve faced the fear before, the amount of courage required can be the same. That sometimes it takes the third – or fourth – or fifth – or hundredth time before the intensity of the fear dissipates. That the deep breath which precedes a jump into the ocean is the same as that which precedes a step into an unknown situation or a different space.
Last night, Sebastian Faulks was talking about literary heroes on BBC2. I tuned in just as he moved on to 1984 and I reached the “where exactly is this post going” point. This is what he was saying:
“Winston Smith is a new kind of hero, a hero who loses…..Winston’s heroism consists of the fact that he dares. He dares to write….he dares to think, he dares to love”
Courage is not necessarily about the outcome; the bravery is in the fact that he tried.
This shifts things.
It adds an element of empathy and an appreciation of the challenges inherent in life –
And so, this post is not about my next leap off a cliff into water (for the moment); it is about the courage to write, think, love, speak, live. About how I have spent a lot of my life being scared rather than courageous. How I have fixated on the outcome rather than the experience; worried about the reception rather than whether I am sticking to my beliefs.
This means that life has been about failing or succeeding –
And now I’m wondering whether it is also, or more so, about being constantly and openly brave.