Saturday, September 16, 2006

Courage

"Courage is a weapon we must use." ---Over The Rhine

The Cowardly Lion of Wizard of Oz fame got it mostly right. Courage is indeed part and parcel of living a full throttle life, and it's something we must cultivate from day to day, moment to moment, as life challenges us and throws its ubiquitous curve-balls. And sometimes those curve-balls just keep coming.

Yesterday I travelled to a relatively distant Northeastern city to accomany my step-father to an appointment at a large hospital. He has what turns out to be a inoperable tumor of the pancreas---inoperable because it's wrapped around the celiac access artery, making resection too risky. Thus, chemo and radiation ensue, and if that doesn't call for courage, I don't know what does.

For many, simply getting out of bed in the morning is an act of heroism. For all the talk of heroes these days---whether they be of the costumed superlative type, or the anonymous garden variety public servant who rushes into burning buildings to save strangers---there are many among us who have been, are, and will continue to be unsung, perhaps only to be feted by their loved ones upon their passing from this earth, that is if they have loved ones to celebrate them at all.

Pain, infirmity, loss of function, economic loss, grief, loneliness---so many are challenged by these life-limiting effects of disease and death. Still, so many also simply wake up each morning, set feet upon the earth, and move through yet another day, perhaps lucky enough to be kissed by sunlight or breeze, take a few moments to touch the soft fur of a dog, or feel the tickle of a dragonfly taking momentary respite on the back of one's hand.

We are challenged at every turn: our patience, our tolerance, our ability to listen, to feel, to communicate, to observe, to respond, to withold, to move forward, to be still. At times the world calls for our action, at times it yearns of rou lack of action, our ability to sit there and do nothing. But even inaction takes courage, wisdom, and above all, compassion.

What the world needs more than anything is bodhisattvas, active servants of peace, “clothed,” as Longchenpa said, “in the armor of perseverance,” dedicated to their bodhisattva vision and to the spreading of wisdom into all reaches of our experience. We need bodhisattva lawyers, bodhisattva artists and politicians, bodhisattva doctors and economists, bodhisattva teachers and scientists, bodhisattva technicians and engineers, bodhisattvas everywhere, working consciously as channels of compassion and wisdom at every level and in every situation of society; working to transform their minds and actions and those of others, working tirelessly in the certain knowledge of the support of the buddhas and enlightened beings for the preservation of our world and for a more merciful future.----Sogyal Rinpoche
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