The philosophy of courage involves an examination of a desire of mankind to take risk to know the unknown, to explore the unexplored, to understand the complex, to see the unseen. The human life without the elements of risks becomes a monotonous game of denials. Being a philosopher, every day I often make myself witness how an element of risk play role in life. Courage was an essential philosophical virtue in ancient times. Socrates and Aristotle affirmed this virtue, and other philosophers echoed the idea. Philosophers were made of sterner stuff in those days. Philosophy wasn’t just an education in ideas. It involved a rigorous personal training aimed to free us from false ideas, and to prepare us for whatever hardships life could throw our way. Human mind is a victim of intellectual diet being fed by the society. The so called knowledge, in the absence of wisdom nourishes mind only to take it further on the verge of malnourishment.
Consider Diogenes of Sinope (404-323BC), founder of the Cynic school of philosophy. Diogenes spurned worldly goods and lived in a barrel on the street with the dogs (the name ‘cynic’ comes from kynikos, the adjectival form of kyon, dog). Diogenes believed that society was corrupt and that social conventions were an expression of decadence. His vision of the good life involved purging oneself of all the bad influences one had inherited from society. Wisdom, in Diogenes’ view, lay in the rejection of social mores and the pursuit of a life of simplicity and reason, which is the only true way for human beings to live. Diogenes would deliver scathing moral sermons to the people who passed his barrel, which didn’t make him the most popular philosopher in town. Legend has it that when Alexander the Great asked what he could do for him, Diogenes replied: ‘Step out of my sun!’
It takes courage to look life in the eye and make it the best it can be. It takes resilience too. To walk a courageous path, one can be forced to abandon the creature comforts that one takes for granted. Fortunately, one of the benefits of philosophy is that it teaches us how to live with a minimum of comforts and possession with strength of freedom to examine, accept and reject diligently. Diogenes demonstrated this to Alexander by rejecting his offer of help. The sun would suffice, Diogenes implied – this and the opportunity for honest reflection. Diogenes was a man set on the quest of truth. His philosophy does not talk about blind rejection of everything but teaches us to be diligent while living without becoming a victim of the darkness that has surrounded us through the materialistic pleasures of the world. This is exactly what Siddartha Gautama ‘the Buddha’ and Jesus Christ too taught the world through their preaching. .
Friedrich Nietzsche, the renowned German Philosopher when quoted “Live dangerously”, necessarily emphasized upon the need to live a colourful, meaningful, multi-dimensional, selfless, roller-costar life. Do we really then think that by denying the brutal, beautiful, senseless, meaningful, idiotic, funny, weird possibilities of life we would be able to run away to the everlasting fountain of pleasure, happiness, peace, tranquility satisfaction and wisdom?
The habit of denial has reached epidemic proportions. We are running away from life. We are running away from those endless possibilities that have alchemical potential. We are running away blindly from the darkness; not towards the light but to the darker abyss of the faculties of our own mind created by our own undeveloped consciousness. We are becoming victims of our own materialistic comfort zone that made us believe in the existence of the Air conditioner while denying the beauty of summer sweat.
The smooth and easy life is as illusionary as difficult and troublesome living. Have we ever learned to take a risk to ‘consciously’ explore the darkest chambers of our mind wherein somewhere deeper the sacred secrets surviving dormant? Millions of years have passed; we are walking silently in a dimension which is unknown to us. We are surviving, not living. It seems that the mankind is gradually mutating into the species of “Amoeba”. It seems the eternal values of love, compassion, simplicity and courage had long lost somewhere, and why not, only a courageous man can love with compassion and heart- WE need to take huge risk to LOVE selflessly. Taking a risk to grow in love with a heartless soul is a bet on life which is worth taking. Defending a defenseless pauper is a risk that needs to be taken to defend not the man, but his existence as a human. Taking a risk to give helping hand to a man dying in “quicksand” of life; generate a light of hope that is enough to make him smile in his moments of survivals. It is an ability to take risk, and risk alone make man extraordinary; make him unique, different and a true human being-a Man of wisdom.
History, from time to time have witnessed the giants, the original ALCHEMISTS- right from Buddha, Jesus, Muhammad, Mahaveera; from Socrates, Diogenes, Plato and Aristotle to Voltaire, Spinoza, Russel, Nietzsche, to J.Krishnamurthy, U. Krishnamurthy, from Shakespeare to Pablo Neruda and Maxim Gorky, from Rumi to Khalil Gibran, from Abraham Lincoln, Martin Luther King (Jr) to Karl Marx, Mahatma Gandhi and Dr. B.R. Ambedkar who all their life took risk to establish the “realm of natural justice and human values” to create just and fair world filled with camaraderie, mutual trust, care, compassion and love.
WE need chaos in our soul, compassion in heart, selflessness in thoughts to carve out a truly living human out of our zombie nature. Only by taking a risk of losing the much accustomed darkness, we can set on a journey of transformation to better our inner and outer world.
The risk is a tool necessary to shape up our life. What life is life that has not taken a risk to live for the others? What life is life that has not taken a risk to face the adventures and challenges? What life is life that has not taken a risk to see the extremes? What life is life that has not taken a risk to stand strong in the defense of ever shining gems of human values? What life is life that has not dared to experience the arms of departing beloved? What life is life that has not dared to kiss the fire? What life is life that has not dared to experience love, lust, trust, betrayal, Justice, oppression, cruelty, compassion, goodness, badness, courage, cowardice? What life is life that has not evolved?
In this world of cruelties and hostilities, love and lust, trust and betrayals we all can take a step ahead with courage in heart, to take a final risk to become a light in the dark.
Aniruddha Vithal Babar, B.com, D.H.R.L., LLM (International Law and Human Rights), M.A. (Political Science with specialization in International Relations and Conflict Studies), Former Advocate; Bombay High Court and independent researcher with interdisciplinary temperament. He has respectable hold on political and Socio-legal philosophy and thought with research interests include International law, Tribal Jurisprudence (with special emphasis on the development of Naga Jurisprudence), Applied Politics, Idea of justice, Peace & Conflict Studies, Northeast Studies, Subaltern Studies and Human Rights. Presently he is pursuing his PhD in the interdisciplinary fields of Law, Governance and Conflict Management at SSLG, JAIPUR NATIONAL UNIVERSITY. He may be contacted at [email protected]