Tuesday, May 6, 2008


"Courage!" he said, and pointed toward the land,
"This mounting wave will roll us shoreward soon."
The Lotus-Eaters.

These opening lines of Tennyson`s poem The Lotus Eaters have stuck with me ever since I read them in high school. I`ve always been moved by visual ideas and here the picture from Homer via this Victorian poet, of Odysseus rallying his crew to see the loom of land ahead which gives them hope of survival after many days storm tossed on unknown seas has always been a powerful one for me: long before I went to sea myself and needed to hear those words in earnest.

I painted this picture on the side of a wooden box and later, on the computer, experimented with putting the lines together with the image. Combining words with images interests me, as you can tell from this blog, and here I am borrowing from Tennyson to dig a little deeper into my own understanding of courage.

There are so many forms of courage. What they all have in common is the link to a common ground shared by all who must achieve an end beyond their usual abilities. People are supported by all of life at that moment and it acts through them. It does n`t have to be a big heroic act, it just has to be a courageous thing for that person to do. The person who finally puts aside an addiction through sheer will power would have done a courageous thing within their life experience. A soldier, continuing to think and act cooly while under fire might simply be carrying out what he has practiced many times to do: courage, for him might take a different form, like refusing to follow an illegal order. There must be so many people who are living lives that call for courage that it would seem to be a common human capacity that we all can reach for, a kind of constant in the human condition, rather than a rare event associated with heroic deeds.

Odysseus is calling to his companions to rise up out of despair, to take heart, reach within themselves for the strength that lies deep within all of us and step forward. It is such a powerful thing to do that I feel it yet.

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