I am banned from acts of Daring Do, Mrs G has put a kibosh on anything that I might class as fun. This is mainly because my definition of fun is the same as her definition of danger.
This means that I am unable to:
- Go into space
- Get a pilots licence
- Bungee Jump
Actually I think I am verboten from doing any activity where my feet leave the ground.
This is a shame because I quite like the stress of dangerous situations, or at least coming out the other side. Over the weekend I hit a patch of black ice and had to deal with a car that was a little out of control but managed to save both the skid and the cost of an insurance claim. I was a little impressed and happy with myself afterwards but would have preferred not to have been in the situation in the first place.
So why would I want to throw myself off bridges with elastic bands around my feet, or be in the vacuums of space with the constant danger of rogue George Clooneys crashing into my wessel?
In one sense these are controlled dangers, they have been risk assessed to be as safe as possible. Can things go wrong, of course they can but life is full of risks. It is by being in danger’s path that you can learn about how brave you could be if you had to rescue someone else.
Hero is a label that is often bandied around to make it irrelevant. Acts of real daring do are few and far between, and I’ve never been in a situation to reveal whether I would flee or fight to save someone from danger. The closest I ever come is stopping someone from making a mess of a spreadsheet, on more than one occasion I’ve prevented a misguided fool from putting a 3D pie chart in a presentation.
Courage is very elusive, at times it seems the human races default setting is as cowardly as a Panthera leo on its way to the Emerald City. At other times the term bravery is applied to a myriad of actions without consideration of the degree of bravery it may apply to. It is a term that covers much, but comes to mean less.
Not that I am saying that people who are labelled brave are undeserving of some epithet, but how can we categorise bravery?
- Is bravery the act of going beyond what is expected of you?
- Does bravery have to involve the risk of personal sacrifice?
- Are you braver if you know what the dangers are before you act, as opposed to an adrenal reaction driving you forward?
- Do you have to fight to be brave?
Martin Luther was brave to post his theses in Wittenberg, so were the men standing on the boats in the English Channel on that morning on June 6th, and the lone white-shirted man before tanks in a Chinese square in 1989. So what is bravery, perhaps it is just standing up for what you believe despite knowing the risks. The act of putting others before yourself. Fiction is full of these selfless acts of bravery; Aragorn calling forth Sauron, Indiana Jones taking on the challenges for the Holy Grail or Galactica jumping into the colony to rescue Hera.
That is true bravery, when the chances of success seem slim yet the cost of failure is great. I’ve yet to be in a situation where the cost is too high.