The key to Courage ? Tragedy

Olivier Emberton writes: "We could have had it all - sung Adele, and in six words she summed up every heartbreak ever: the feeling of something that could have been, but was not." That is the essence of tragedy: The gap between potential gain and potential loss. However, "the problem with our instinctive sense of tragedy is that it teaches us to avoid anything where a potential gain might be lost. The bigger the potential gain, the greater our aversion"

 So here's some controversial advice:

  • Love-ache? Write a book
  • Struggling with weight problems? Launch a company
  • Career confusion? Climb the Everest

The sheer confidence taking on bigger tragedies imbues in you simply annihilates smaller, more mundane tragedies. By extension, the key to courage is to experience ever larger tragedies.

I promised I'd tell you more about "Wu-Wei" (pronounced oooo-way) today though. From the book "trying not to try" by Edward Slingerland:

"For the early Chinese thinkers … the culmination of knowledge is understood, not in terms of grasping a set of abstract principles, but rather as entering a state of wu-wei. The goal is to acquire the ability to move through the physical and social world in a manner that is completely spontaneous and yet fully in harmony with the proper order of the natural and human worlds (the Dao or “Way”). Because of this focus on knowing how rather than knowing this or that, (...) the ideal person in early China is more like a well-trained athlete or cultivated artist than a dispassionate cost-benefit analyzer."

Philosopher Henri Bergson was fond of spontaneity. And it seems to me like another word for courage. Just like unlocking your phone becomes automatic due to sheer repetition and you stop "thinking" about it, it's when you've experienced enough potential losses that living simply flows out of you and courage becomes second nature.