Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Which Courage?

Confession: I don't know why I am writing this.
Just that, in life, this applies.
I think it's philosophy.
I think it's life.
Don't know.
- Richard Chirombo

The story of life in Malawi, and how its citizens have managed to weave their way through life's maze, is not inseparable from the story of courage.
Not courage in the carnal sense; courage in the broad sense.
What is courage in the carnal sense? The willingness, almost selfish desire, to sacrifice one's life on the alter of history; to, then, be remembered forever.
In which case, people only remember the good, green leaves, and leave out the dry leaves- the bad chapters in the life no longer full, as to be traceable.
The bad thing about this sort of courage is that it is, as the name implies, dark courage- selfish (one-centred), and devoid of objectivity, empty on gratitude and praise, and, therefore, stingy on truth.
What truth there is, if we may come to think of it, in throwing the thick skin of truth outside the window, all for the sake of that feel-good, good for nothing experience that feeds so well into hero-worshiping and pat-my-back expediency.
It (this carnality-wise existence) is so positive-minded it sacrifices truth for the sake of history, and pleases to a fault.
So, the carnally-courageous man and woman is a self-pretending, 'deep-skinned', 'holy' individual, so resistant to human flails and like-shortfalls.
The carnally-courageous man and woman, in the eyes of themselves and their self-proclaimed worshipers,never beats his wife or husband, girl or boyfriend, never chastens their children, but (instead) they pay their rentals in time, honour their debts two days before receiving their own wages, eat their neighbours' mangoes only when on the brink of starving, and express gratitude for every strand of their hair dyed at a fee, and always say sorry for doing the right thing.
No wonder, then, that it is carnal-courage that world leaders upload. But the leaders simply happen to stand in front of a small, visible picture on top of the small hill that is public life because others, too, partake of this selfish desire, and, in its waters, their eyelashes plummet.
For once, there are sports stars, religious leaders (the money-minded type), media tycoons, and others who soak their beards and dyed-hair in the blue waters of lie-coated fame.
Who, after all, abhors fame- even if they did not deserve it?
What about courage in the broad sense?
Having expounded on, and trod on the hot sands of, carnal courage, it is only sensible to dive deeper into the intricacies of broad-sensed courage.
This, for a start, stems from the willingness and drive to (not die manfully, as mostly applied in the carnal sense, but)live decently.
This is where decency and corrupt-mindedness part ways.
The broad-sensed courageous man and woman will strive to live a meaningful, satisfactory life. It does not matter who gets satisfied (leaders, the common, over-taxed citizens), and when- whether in this mortal life, or when all these things are past and gone, and all is but dust for the sun's rays.
This sort of individual strives to live decently. That is, to have responsibility towards the other (not only close friends, relatives, loved ones, and the people on life's road we have bumped into), and live for the self and others, reaching out to all people dutifully, and tendering to, and nursing, their troubles as if they were part of the self.
In which case, problems become a leg, a foot, an eye, a straying hair, a nail, eye lashes, brain tissue. That is, other people's problems and their own problems matter.
Such people reach out to others, and rejoice in so doing. Their courage is directed at events, circumstances, and not individuals. They are men and women of issues and circumstances, and never individuals of the stomach (self-aggrandisement).
In their minds, all the time (at least for the time in their lives that they are free from refreshment and recreation, for this is important in life), they want to explore ways of living productively, and worthily. Their obligations are, therefore, two-fold: To a supreme being, or deity, and fellow human beings (of course, they don't look at others as 'human beings'; they look at others as 'the human being', with individual needs, accomplishments, desires, hopes, and fears). But never, entirely, to themselves.
In which case, living decently has come to mean the pursuit of enjoyment where pain can be avoided, and the realisation of common goals where selfish motives are all too possible.
All these things are done in the hope that, when everything will be past and gone, including themselves, there should on earth one thing remain: legacy.
What people will make of it, and out of it, will be subject to the interpretations of their own time, their own mentality, their own attitude, and their own discretion. Their own interpretation, too.
The man and woman who lived courage in its broad sense will have nothing to do with it, and will never try to stretch an invisible hand through (by way of) their presence on the national currency, national monument, national stadium, dual carriage road, or multi-purpose shopping mall (as some people do- by attempting to 'commit', or achieve, mortality by naming things after their own names, as apposed to the names of their own children, children who will live after they are long gone).
This is different, so different from the carnally-courageous man, in that the carnally-responsive individual is always afraid of a future they will never be there to live.
On the other hand, the broad-sensed courageous individual is always concerned of, or about, the future they will never be there to see (of course, mortality being equal), but which future should be good. That is the remarkable, distinguishing mark- the future, to these people, must be differently sweet, so differently sweet.
The people who will be there are, therefore, made judges. Which is not possible with the canal fellas, who are always striving to sugar-coat their presence, in the hope of manipulating the future.
That is why, more than the one life they have, they will try to influence things more than once. They will try to do this by shaping people's opinion in favour of themselves (and never in favour of others. These are people who hate succession plans; sometimes, they even hate mortality, procreation. They may not marry, or date, or court. They want the world for themselves, by themselves, to themselves. They want the world to be themselves).
So, they go about naming public places after their own name. At family level, they will call their son 'Junior' as one way of making themselves visible in a world they may not be too visible. They will construct school blocks in their maize gardens.
Not only that, the carnally-courageous individual, because of that touch-less fear of death, will try to soil the names of others, name-call, where possible, and become their own best judges, their own spokespersons. Their own advocates. Their own hand-clappers. Their own freedom fighters.
Freedom fighters? No, it's never freedom (common freedom) they fight for. They fight for their comfort, betterment, aggrandisement, and happiness.
That is not freedom; it is addiction to freedom and, in a way, prisonership to such freedom- a kind of self-servitude. Now, prisonership is not stewardship. And freedom does not bind; it sets free.
While freedom may oblige individuals, or nation states, to do something, it does not restrict as to make it, in any way, 'impossible'. No, that is not the freedom we know; or, if such freedom we have not come to know, believe in.
Lastly, in between the carnally-courageous individual and the broad-sensed-courage individual is the courage pretender. Yes, courage pretender.
The courage pretender, another breed of human beings, has no clear side, no clear point, no clear hopes, no clear fears, and, therefore, no well-marked direction.
The courage pretender goes with the wind. The courage pretender follows the sun when it sets. The courage pretender hates the moon when it comes, and hates it when it goes. They hate the dark shapes on the moon.
They abhor the morning sun, for one, and bemoan the setting sun, for another. The pretender hates the past they never saw, and praises the future they have never seen.
Such individuals will hate the Biblical Adam for going against the ways of his Creator, and black-speak Eve for bowing to the enticings of the homeless snake.
They will talk of Adolf Hitler, and express how hard their blow would have felt, as it landed on Hitler's hairless head! They are always imagining things.
They will watch 'Nat Geo Wild'television, see the lions and tigers pounce on a monkey with a one-week old baby, and wish they were there to arrow the lions, and the tigers, and the leopards, to death for their 'thoughtless' deed. They will forget that, to the lion and the leopard and the tiger, the mother-monkey is but ndiwo (relish, enough for the day).
Narrow judgement kills them. Really.
What broadness there is, when one only thinks in 'if I were', 'hard it been', 'he would have', 'she would have', 'No, but' terms? It must be vanity. Really.
The courage-pretender thinks that things would have been better if they were there.
It is all wishful thinking. Really.
Because- common sense dictates- they were not there (in the first place).
Would not have been there (at all).
And may not be there- in the future after their future is but the past.
That is not all there is to the courage-pretender, though; the courage pretender does not stand for the broad-courage individual. The pretender will, also, not be against the broad-courage individual.
The courage pretender does not support the canal-courage individual either. But they don't oppose them, too.
Instead, the courage-pretender will think that they know what they want. In many ways than one, they don't- though they make themselves believe they do, and live like they do (in their private places).
And the courage-pretender may, at the same time, think they do not have a side, because they do not believe in their side, let alone know any such side.
But they will not oppose, too.
They are like warm.

But hopeful, anyway. That something must, in the jungle of truths, half-truths, and untruth, be true.
Just that it is not in them that the truth may be found.
It is not them that are the mine, in which deposits of truth lie hidden. To come out one day, and shine for all the world.
And be the sun for all the world.

However, one thing is clear- looking at the different ways, the many ways, people stick to (or will try to stick to) courage one way, or the other.
Courage must be sweet.
Courage must be good.
Courage is sweet.
Courage is good.
Courage is admirable.

Sweet courage.

Of the three courageous individuals here explored, only one will say 'Sweet courage'. Why? Because the mention of these two words demands certainty, sure-footnotes, steadfastness, and some degree of morality. Not academic morality, but life morality.

There is only one, though all desire sweet courage.

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