Courage – Bushido Tenet #2

Courage is the quality of mind or spirit that enables a person to face difficulty, danger, pain, and even death without fear…it’s bravery.

When you think of samurai warriors, ‘fearless’ should be one of the first things that come to mind. It’s no surprise this was one of their 7 tenets.  

Now, samurai warriors of old had countless opportunities to prove their courage on the battlefield. There were many tumultuous times throughout the samurai reign. And warriors stood up and fought in the face of certain death. But there were long periods of peace in Japan. And to uphold the samurai way, these warriors had to be void of fear in their entire lives. 

The samurai prepared themselves for death at all times. From the moment they woke up to the moment they went to sleep, they made themselves ready to die…so they didn’t fear it. And that fearlessness did permeate throughout the rest of their lives.

I am afraid of a million things, heights, car accidents, looking dumb, not being liked, getting embarrassed…I can’t even watch a scary movie. That’s embarrassing. And the other day my wife and I were walking downtown, and a guy in a big extended cab pick-up truck nearly ran us over. My wife screamed an obscenity and threw a water bottle that hit his truck. You can probably imagine what happens next. Breaks slam. Door flies open. This tank-built guy, hustles out of his car ready to rumble. Not with my wife of course…with me. Now, if I had already started the urban samurai, maybe I would have cracked this guy in the face. But I hadn’t. Needless to say, I calmed him down enough. He cursed at us a few more times, then got in his car and left. And although my wife claims she was impressed on how I handled myself, I was scared to death. No lie. Terrified.

Is courage something your born with or raised with? Either way, I didn’t get it. Not like that.

It’s weird, because I carry around this self-confidence in certain areas of my life, but totally lack it in others. Or when I’m around certain people or put in certain situations, I just become scared. I read in one of the samurai books that when raising children if you scare them often, even as a form of play, they will grow up to be cowards. So is that something I just have in me that can’t be changed? We’re about to find out.

If you prepare for death every day, like the samurai did, you will not fear death. I believe that. And maybe being prepared for death does make you courageous in other areas of life. If I thought I was going to die today, would I hesitate to call someone that was angry with me? Would I hesitate to approach someone about an opportunity? In a social situation that would normally make me nervous, would I be nervous? No, I probably wouldn’t. Maybe it’s that simple.

But I think I should take it one step further. There are not assassins waiting outside my door, and there never will be (I know…that would go down as the biggest jinx of all time.) There are no territorial battles I need to fight in. There is not certain death right around the corner…not for me.

So death, by murder, isn’t likely to happen to me. But it’s about personal death. You need to find what your personal death is, and accept that. What are you deathly afraid of? A spouse cheating? Financial ruin? To be publicly humiliated? Your darkest secret coming out? If you can prepare like all those things, or even that one thing, is going to happen every day, and not live in fear of that, that calm should sprinkle around the rest of your life.

Now this is not to say, live in depression about these things. It’s about acceptance of these things that you fear the most. That will make you fearless. That will make you have courage.  

First Kendo class tonight. This is when I learn how to bash people with swords.