Three Quotes and a Bookmark about Courage – By @philgull

By Philip Gull


Three Quotes and a Bookmark about Courage


Last Thursday was a momentous and utterly arbitrary day. It marked two thousand years and six decades exactly since Julius Caesar crossed the river Rubicon and changed the course of history inexorably and for all time, ad cetera et infinitum, etc., etc.


Big Rib and I decided that our commemoration of this great and glorious day would be to make some suspect topicals for Rubicon drinks.


They were esoteric, engaged with nothing actually happening in the news, and wisely weren’t posted for snowballing retweets and digital adulation.


But Rubicon Day was not in vain. Marc’s personalised New Year’s note demanded more courage from me – and made me think about the forms and applications courage should take.



A Brief Poetic Interlude


How does one


Don Rubicon?




At first glance, JC’s river-crossing seems to be a type of courage against external challenges and obstacles: against Roman Law and rival factions and the Republic. But it must also have been a second type of courage, a type Marc wants me to foster. A self-contained courage. A courage which doesn’t display itself in brave, heroic acts against the obstacles Fate, in her filmic moods, presents, but a courage that turns its beating fists inwards for positive change. Did our friend Julius cross the river unthinkingly? No. He no doubt struggled with doubts, with fears of inadequacy, with internal monologues prophesising failure – just as we do when we hold a sharpie, and try to change our own worlds.


‘Courage’ is a word we instinctively know, and seek to align ourselves with, but it slips away from simple definition. It lends itself naturally to aphorisms, maxims, axioms, apothegms, dictums, mottos, proverbs and epithets.


So I went away, hunter-gathered – and here are three of my faves.



  1. The Insightful One


‘Courage is a mean with regard to fear and confidence.’  


This, I think, is the closest and truest offering of what courage is in a creative environment. Fear – as opposed to anxiety, or nervousness – can really inhibit creativity, I’ve learnt at SCA in the bad weeks. And to a lesser extent, so can confidence, I’ve learnt in the good weeks. Both fear and confidence put self before work. But courage is an awareness of self that lets you approach work more freely. I love the idea of courage being a middle ground for a creative: not that it’s easy to get to, but if you can get it to be a status quo of sorts, it can probably be really fruitful. I hope. I don’t know yet. But I’m going to put in work to find out.



  1. The Practical One


‘Courage charms us, because it indicates that a man loves an idea better than all things in the world, that he is thinking neither of his bed, nor his dinner, nor his money, but will venture all to put in act the invisible thought of his mind.’


And so, my fellow SCAers, gifted in minds and mettles and never called black by pots or errant kettles, this is what we must strive towards. Nor bed, nor dinner, nor money, but to act our minds. Courage brings. It brings fears into the world to confront them – but it brings ideas, hopes and convictions also. Somehow, courage is absolutely concerned with its impact on the world, but functions by appealing to an impulse higher than the world itself.



  1. The Playful One


Cowardly Lion: Courage! What makes a king out of a slave? Courage! What makes the flag on the mast to wave? Courage! What makes the elephant charge his tusk in the misty mist, or the dusky dusk? What makes the muskrat guard his musk? Courage! What makes the sphinx the seventh wonder? Courage! What makes the dawn come up like thunder? Courage! What makes the Hottentot so hot? What puts the “ape” in apricot? What have they got that I ain’t got?

Dorothy, Scarecrow, Tin Woodsman: Courage!

Cowardly Lion: You can say that again! Hunh!


But courage brings pitfalls too, and none pittier than self-importance. In real courage there is a vulnerability which can be child-like, and here, I think, is the creative courage that allows us to strive for the idea over ourselves. You can puff your chest out with two feet planted firmly on the ground.


What makes the dawn come up like thunder, indeed.






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