A Scout can face danger although he is afraid. He has the courage to stand for what he thinks is right even if others laugh at him or threaten him.
~ Boy Scout Handbook, 11th Edition
I seldom do brave.
Even as a kid, when we are supposed to be All-Go-No-Quit, I often did. Fifth grade. I’m a chubby little Boy Scout, my balls smooshed by the harness the ROTC volunteer has strapped me in. The expression on my face vacillates between bravery and terror as I stand in the queue atop the retracted bleachers in the gymnasium of Bowling Green State University. One by one my peers summon the courage to lean back, trust the rope, and hop down the wall. Not me. I don’t do heights either, you may recall. I freeze. Refuse to lean back. To trust. My efforts have won me nothing but a lifetime of avoiding risk.
Danny Evans of DadGoneMad describes a similar experience in his memoir Rage Against the Meshugenah: Why It Takes Balls to Go Nuts. He and a couple of coworkers were once given the opportunity to go on a helicopter ride over Los Angeles. There were only two seats, however, and as he dawdled, trying to convince himself to go, the other two jumped at the chance. Evans writes, “It’s almost as though there were two parts of my brain fighting with each other. There was the part I had lived with since I was a little kid – the part that wanted to please everyone and stay within the safe zone. But there was a more mature version of me trying to take over, trying to live my life on my own terms, which meant pouncing on that opportunity to ride in that helicopter and just generally do what I wanted to do.” Though the specific reasons for our backing down may have been different, Evans and I are similar in that we both grew up spending a lot of time listening to the wrong part of our brain.
There he is, getting his own ball-smooshing harness strapped on.
In a recent post, I wrote about the kindness my son Ethan displayed, while attending Boy Scout summer camp, toward a friend faced with a daunting task. And my blog-buddy Razz, always Johnny-on-the-spot with the keen observation, didn’t let me down: “As much as I liked the excellent writing and story, I couldn’t help but think about how many of us in later life become slaves to our comfort zones.”
Indeed. It took bravery to sit down next to his friend when others stood by and snickered. And it took bravery to climb that wall.
There he is, searching out the precarious path to the top. I’d like to say that he made it, but he didn’t. He hit a patch with few reliable anchors and decided to come back down. Unfazed, he decided to tackle the other side of the wall.
You can’t really see him all that well. You’ll have to take my word for it that he’s WAY the hell up there at the top. I get dizzy looking at this picture. Imagine how I felt standing at the bottom, watching him do something so brave. So NOT me.
I could make some shit up. About how this whole thing is a metaphor for life. How we take the path that seems right but often end up stuck on unsure footing. How in such times it is befitting to search for other paths that lead to the same destination. How bravery is a good thing.
But it’d be empty talk. Time for action . . .