Believing things to be true because one wishes them to be true is a prime malady of the human condition. It is an opposite of objectivity, reflecting a shortfall of intellectual honesty. It has led to wars, famines and other guarantors of human suffering.
Meditation for Sunday of Week 31 in the season of Ripening
- It takes a great deal of courage to stand alone even if you believe in something very strongly. [Reginald Rose, “Twelve Angry Men” (1954), Act 2]
Courage is an action taken at risk to the self. It is the active component of dignity. By now, it should be clear how each of the elements of dignity – wisdom, caring and courage, inculcate the habit of ego-transcendence and lead to spiritual development.
Documentary and Educational Films
- This Is Not a Film: a brilliant Iranian film makerstands his ground with “a defiant ‘no’ to Iran’s repression” after he is convicted for portraying Iranian government and society honestly
- Call Me Kuchu, about the first openly gay man in Uganda, where homosexuality was a crime, and how he died struggling for human rights
- Citizenfour, on Edward Snowden’s whistle-blowing, exposing widespread government invasion of privacy
- Thomas Powers, The Killing of Crazy Horse (Alfred A. Knopf, 2010).
- Malala Yousafzai, I Am Malala: The Girl Who Stood Up For Education and Was Shot By the Taliban (Little, Brown & Company, 2013).
- William Ian Miller, The Mystery of Courage (Harvard University Press, 2000): “[Miller] had planned to take up the topic of cowardice. Instead, he found himself intrigued and baffled by the opposite of that vice.”
- Eileen Markey, A Radical Faith: The Assassination of Sister Maura (Nation Books, 2016). Maura Clarke was a Catholic nun who followed post-Vatican II liberation theology, spending the final twenty years of her life serving oppressed and persecuted people in a repressive El Salvador. She was murdered at the age of forty-nine, along with three other women, two of them fellow nuns.
- Katy Tur, Unbelievable: My Front-Row Seat to the Craziest Campaign in American History (Day St./William Morrow, 2017). “Trump insulted many female reporters, but Tur seemed to be the one he hammered hardest.”
- Richard Gergel, Unexampled Courage: The Blinding of Sgt. Isaac Woodard and the Awakening of President Harry S. Truman and Judge J. Waties Waring (Sarah Crichton Books, 2019): “Gergel’s book is a revealing window into both the hideous racial violence and humiliation of segregation in the period immediately after World War II, and the heroic origins of the legal crusade to destroy Jim Crow.”
- Sonia Purnell, A Woman of No Importance: The Untold Story of the American Spy Who Helped Win World War II (Viking, 2019): “Under her command, saboteurs put up misleading road signs to direct troops the wrong way (and ‘preferably over a precipice’), and laid explosive horse dung on roads. What sounds almost like high jinks took extraordinary courage and resourcefulness, and its contribution to the invasion can’t be overestimated.”
From the dark side:
- Chris Walsh, Cowardice: A Brief History (Princeton University Press, 2014): “The book can be seen as a kind of extended footnote to William Ian Miller’s ‘The Mystery of Courage’ (2000), and it has some of the same problems, not least a tendency to mystification.”
"Ah! It is crushing me!" cried the old man. Madeleine raised his head, met Javert's falcon eye still fixed upon him, looked at the motionless peasants, and smiled sadly. Then, without saying a word, he fell on his knees, and before the crowd had even had time to utter a cry, he was underneath the vehicle. A terrible moment of expectation and silence ensued. They beheld Madeleine, almost flat on his stomach beneath that terrible weight, make two vain efforts to bring his knees and his elbows together. They shouted to him, "Father Madeleine, come out!" Old Fauchelevent himself said to him, "Monsieur Madeleine, go away! You see that I am fated to die! Leave me! You will get yourself crushed also!" Madeleine made no reply. All the spectators were panting. The wheels had continued to sink, and it had become almost impossible for Madeleine to make his way from under the vehicle. Suddenly the enormous mass was seen to quiver, the cart rose slowly, the wheels half emerged from the ruts. They heard a stifled voice crying, "Make haste! Help!" It was Madeleine, who had just made a final effort. They rushed forwards. The devotion of a single man had given force and courage to all. The cart was raised by twenty arms. Old Fauchelevent was saved. [Victor Hugo, Les Misérables (1862), Volume I – Fantine; Book Fifth – The Descent Begins, Chapter VI, Father Fauchelevent.]
Film and Stage
- Winter’s Bone, a tale of crackling realism about “ a modern-day Antigone, making ethical demands that are at once entirely coherent and potentially fatal,” the film “is spectacular for its humanity, austere beauty and heart-stopping urgency”
- The Insider, telling the story of Jeffrey Wigand, who exposed the corrupt, amoral and deceitful tobacco industry, which systematically markets a known carcinogen to children
- The Red Badge of Courage, a dramatization about the moral successes and failures of a war hero who realizes on redeeming himself from previous acts of cowardice that he is as afraid as he had been before
- Ben Hur, a “story of a prince of Judea who sets himself and the interests of his people against the subjugation and tyranny of the Roman master race, with all sorts of terrible consequences to himself and his family”
Music: Composers, artists, and major works
- Beethoven, Fidelio: a woman descends into the pits of a prison to rescue her husband and another man (performances conducted by Bernstein, Levine and Harnoncourt).
- Rossini, Matilde di Shabran (1821): a young woman risks death to save another’s life (performances by Frizza and Corti).
- Rossini, L’Assedio di Corinto (The Siege of Corinth) (1826): a young woman risks her life to save her father’s (performances by Benini, Schippers and Muus).