Our story begins in a deep, dark forest. Light barely cuts through the moss covered trees and the only sounds are the distant cries of songbirds. It is an old wood, untouched for centuries. Men have told stories about this place; warning their children never to venture here. They speak of monsters in the dark and deep holes that swallow you up without warning. This is a place lost to time and long forgotten. Is it the wilderness of our souls, the backwoods of our mind.
Suddenly, the silence is broken by the sound of horse hooves quickly galloping. Two knights cut through the thick underbrush and explode out into a clearing. The younger of the two, Percival charges forward, his eyes burning like fire. He kicks his horse harder, quicker, but it is really he who is chomping at the bit. When he set out of the woods he was called mad, foolish. He was told that this journey was a death wish, suicide. At yet, here he is, the new terrain excites and delights him; he lives for a life of challenge. Fueled by passion he charges forward and he never looks back.
Behind him is the other knight, Lancelot, he is much older and marches his horse along at a steady pace. As he makes his way through the forest he pauses often, poking at a growth of moss, searching for animal tracks and sometimes just listening to the birds. When we reaches the edge of the clearing he takes a moment and runs his hand along the scar across his face. Lancelot mutters under his breath, "Hello, old friend."
How do we respond to the fear of the unknown? In this story we are presented with two ways, bravery, as demonstrated by Percival and Courage, Lancelot. Bravery is an emotional state that can blast away fear. Like an explosion it rapidly turns night into day. When we are swept up in bravery we feel invincible, powerful, and ready to take on the world. But this feeling comes from naivety. We are brave because we have never been hurt, we are brave because we think that it'll be different for us. Many of us being life brave but harsh reality beats it out of us.
Courage is something else entirely. It is feeling fear, even welcoming it, and proceeding on anyway. Courage is an intimate love affair with failure and refusal to be defeated. It is an eternal fire in a storm of darkness. Courage is born of pain, vulnerability and heartbreak. Courage is earned.
Are you courageous?