Thursday, September 07, 2006

true courage

Today, I thought I would type out a passage from Rollo May's wonderful book The Courage to Create for what I see as its relevance to current events, specifically Bush's recent admission of secret CIA prisons operating overseas.
Bush's greatest failure as a man and as a President is not, in my opinion, what most would fault him for.
It's not his mistakes in Iraq, for example, but rather his refusal to admit his mistakes or take appropriate actions to correct them.

Maybe someone should send him a copy of Rollo May's book.
Apparently he likes the existentialists.
He claims to have enjoyed reading Camus' The Stranger this summer.
Who knew?

It is the seeming contradiction that we must be fully committed, but we must also be aware at the same time that we might possibly be wrong. This dialectic relationship between conviction and doubt is characteristic of the highest types of courage, and gives the lie to the simplistic definitions that identify courage with mere growth.

People who claim to be absolutely convinced that their stand is the only right one are dangerous. Such conviction is the essence not only of dogmatism, but of its more destructive cousin, fanaticism. It blocks off the user from learning new truth, and it is a dead giveaway of unconscious doubt. The person then has to double his or her protests in order to quiet not only the opposition but his or her own unconscious doubts as well.

Whenever I heard- as we all did often during the Nixon-Watergate days-the "I am absolutely convinced" tone or the "I want to make this absolutely clear" statement emanating from the White House, I braced myself, for I knew that some dishonesty was being perpetrated by the telltale sign of overemphasis. Shakespeare aptly said, "The lady [or politician] doth protest too much, methinks." In such a time, one longs for the presence of a leader like Lincoln, who openly admitted his doubts and as openly preserved his commitment. It is infinitely safer to know that the man at the top has his doubts, as you and I have ours, yet has the courage to move ahead in spite of these doubts. In contrast to the fanatic who ahs stockaded himself against new truth, the person with the courage to believe and at the same time to admit his doubts is flexible and open to new learning....

Commitment is healthiest when it is not without doubt, but in spite of doubt. To believe fully and at the same moment to have doubts is not at all a contradiction: it presupposes a greater respect for truth, an awareness that truth always goes beyond anything that can be said or done at any given moment. To every thesis there is an antithesis, and to this there is a synthesis. Truth is thus a never-dying process. We then know the meaning of the statement attributed to Leibniz: "I would walk twenty miles to listen to my worst enemy if I could learn something."

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“Knowing is not enough; we must apply. Willing is not enough; we must do.” -Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

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