I want to talk about fear. Courage is one of the cardinal virtues in Stoicism. It is very, very important. You see, a stoic must be willing and not only willing but also happy about facing anything that comes his way. As I write this words I smile cause I remember the attitude that a stoic should have, it gives me peace.
What is fear? I want to dissect it so we can understand it fully.
The dictionary says as follows: distressing emotion aroused by impending danger, evil, pain, etc., whether the threat is real or imagined;
That definition is not enough.
Fear is the reason we don’t take action. Fear is the painful experience of knowing what needs to be done and staying paralyzed. Fear is the slow killer of dreams. Fear hides behind our rationalizations. Fear laughs at us when we say we want to achieve something. It takes many forms, most of them to keep it hidden so we don’t know what is the reason we don’t act. Fear is the ultimate barrier. It separates us from other people and separates other people from us. It disguises itself as insecurity. Fear makes trust impossible. Fear makes humans vengeful and spiteful. Fear is the enemy of greatness and the best friend of mediocrity. Fear makes a man live a life in the shadows like gollum, too afraid to come to the light. Fear is treacherous and misguiding. Fear seduces man with petty excuses and tells him he cannot have the best. Fear makes a man undeserving. Fear makes a man crawl through the dirt like an animal, like a snake. Fear makes a man forget his greatness and justifies his inaction. Fear makes a man blame everyone but himself. Fear, the great enemy.
And still, I think that fear is not sufficiently described. When we go about our days, we don’t realize it but it is there, constantly. When we don’t clean, when we don’t do the best that we can, when we lie, when we fake our identities, when we don’t do anything about our dreams. Fear, sneaky bastard.
I’m too tired. I don’t feel like doing that today. Next time I see her, I’ll ask her number.
That is fear. Fear speaking behind curtains, just like Grima in The Lord of the Rings murmurs King Theoden behind his back. That is fear in our lives. Saying: it’s ok, we’ll do it tomorrow, today we are tired and all that familiar stuff.
The problem with fear is precisely this, it hides, and even worse, we don’t want to see it.
We can think of our lives as trivial and normal, but no! Believe me my friend, you are now, here, in the very battle of your life.
You and I are going to die, literally.
We all have our great war and greatness lies at the other side.
First we have to realize this. This is the great battle of our lives. That project you have been thinking of? That girl you want to go out with? That city you want to visit? That book you want to write? Inner peace? Those are the manifestations of your personal battle. Anything that you want to achieve, that is your battle.
Once the decision to be great is taken fear takes its true form. Fear stops being Grima and becomes Sauron. Fear becomes our greatest enemy. Fear stops being the advisor of mediocrity and becomes a great dragon. This is the moment when we must kill it, overcoming it and rising above it.
Once we know our fears we must face them to rise.
This is why courage is one of the cardinals virtues of stoicism, greatness requires courage. There are going to be many battles in our lives and so we need to be sure of what we stand for. As stoics, courage is our answer. Everytime we encounter fear, we act with courage.
Why do the stoics feel happy about everything, even our fears? Fears shows us our way. It shows us the obstacles to overcome for us to rise into greatness. As stoics, nothing is despised everything is embraced gladly.
From now on, listen. Listen very carefully. There is a voice inside each of us that knows. That knows right from wrong, at least personally. That voice is courage. Fear wants to be the one talking, and if we let it talk enough, just like King Theoden, we will become dull and weak, like dirt creatures. Courage gives us light, who do you prefer Gandalf or Grima? Or for those of you who haven’t seen the movie, a lion or a snake?
It is our light not our darkness that most frightens us.
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