Maybe everyone knows that the word “courage” came from the French word for “heart.” And it is the heart that leads into courageous action, more than any rational effort can do. Therefore, appeals to the heart should always make us more courageous, right?
Maybe that’s true except in the cases of protective parents and similar relationships. This dance by Rukmini Vijayakumar dramatizes the tussle between the courageous little son, Krishna, and his concerned mother, Yashoda. He uses logical arguments to get her to let him go into the darkness of the forest with the cowherds.
Maybe it comes down to trusting each other’s courage for any progress to be made on the dark. I feel this mostly when reading other poets’ works—where I find connection with the emotional movement, there’s also resistance in me. Keeping with the poem takes trust.
And maybe I love poetry because of this inscrutable power it has to inspire trust and, along with it, connection, hope, and vision. I just finished reading Willie Perdomo’s poetry collection titled The Essential Hits of Shorty Bon Bon, which bravely, boldly blasted energetic and unfamiliar music in my poetic ear.
I tricked out bombs & slung bricks—-
No mirror to be found. The angels
Rocked inferno stances, greedy
Chased greedy, night was dressed
In flight & snow told more tales
Than a dead man in a new world.
When the collective unconscious is getting us down, it can be hard to do anything at all.
But we know what to do: reconnect with those we love and trust. Courage comes from heart-connection. For example, my son follows the Merriam-Webster Word-of-the-Day and reports on them to me, his word-nerd mom. “Inscrutable,” he said yesterday. And I quipped that there ought to be a blank entry in the dictionary for that one.
…The real never matches the display
Even when you try it one dream at a time—-
Not looking kills you just as looking might.
Last chance to rewind, to pick up more
Than what’s left & what you find funny
Is that nothing’s funny—-between future
And fury, what pulls you is here to stay.
These excerpts are from the penultimate poem in Perdomo’s collection. I often like this moment in poetry books: often a little hint at eternity, catching you unsought.
Maybe whatever creates courage is completely inscrutable, unfunny, and common to every present moment. I think Robert Louis Stevenson explains courage particularly well, and certainly better than I’m doing here.
It is a commonplace that we can not answer for ourselves before we have been tried. But it is not so common a reflection, and surely more consoling, that we usually find ourselves a great deal braver and better than we thought.An Inland Journey, Robert Louis Stevenson
Maybe he’s one of the more optimistic writers that I love. But I agree with his work of encouraging others to trust that inscrutable source: a good heart.
I wish sincerely, for it would have saved me much trouble, there had been someone to put me in a good heart about life when I was younger; to tell me how dangers are more portentous on a distant sight; and how the good in a [person’s] spirit will not suffer itself to be overlaid, and rarely or never deserts [them] in the hour of need.An Inland Journey, Robert Louis Stevenson
Here’s a luminous talk and reading by Perdomo to inspire you to dip into that spirit.