Hope, Intentionality


“It’s a bold move to Photoshop yourself into a picture with your girlfriend and her kids on a ski trip with their real father. But then again, Michael is a bold guy. Is bold the right word?” (Jim Halpert, “A Benihana Christmas” episode)

I experience frequent bursts of courage. They aren’t stretches or phases or anything else that might imply a lasting nature. No, my courage to make bold moves, decisions and statements comes in bursts; exciting little spurts that I find irresistable in the moment, and often regrettable after the fact. It’s true. When the courage hits me, it cannot be resisted. I am its dancing marionette. And boldness is a fickle, laughing puppeteer, swinging my arms and legs, opening my mouth and speaking for me. If I didn’t enjoy the passing moments of courage so much, I might build up some defenses against them. Isn’t it fun though? Isn’t it a thrill to say what you really long to say to someone, or to sign on for a challenge before reasoning with yourself against it? The power of that thrill, that self-daring willingness to try and willingness to fall, holds sway over me. Goethe (or whoever really made the statement) was right: boldness does have power and magic in it. He said it had genius too but maybe the presence of that characteristic shouldn’t be assumed. At least with me, it’s pretty hit or miss.

What is consistent is this experience of being true to myself. That’s what matters, according to Shakespeare, right? I have come to appreciate the integrity, the sincere engagement between my will and my actions that is involved in moments of boldness. Whether shallow and trite, or deep and meaningful, if the matter at hand requires any degree of courage, if it requires facing a moment of hesitancy with stubborn resistance, I am likely to consider it worth the effort. Is it always worth the effort? Is the bold choice always the right, the prudent, the wise choice? Are my instances of courage untainted by folly or selfishness? Nope. Lesson learned time and time again. Am I better off resisting though? I loathe the thought of becoming someone who is only guided by an “I know better than to try” or “I know better than to expect” attitude. How easily I might adopt that mindset! How self-contained and protected it would be! I won’t lie. Sometimes I wish for a little self-defense against the optimism and willingness to try that seems to come naturally to me. Sometimes self-contained and protected sound comforting. I’d not only have to sacrifice the boldness though; the self-respect would have to go too.

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