What Is True Courage–including in Love?

by Nancy Huntting.

From a public seminar originally presented at the Aesthetic Realism Foundation.
Vera Brittain (1893-1970)
Vera Brittain

Every woman wants to feel courageous.  I remember at college wishing I had the courage to do something really useful for other people and the world, and being ashamed that I was too timid and selfish.  There was hardly a day that went by that I didn’t have the feeling I was cowardly in some way.  How frequently women feel this is a sign of how much courage means to us, and how much it is an everyday matter. When we don’t want to meet new people, or pretend we feel something we don’t, or join in making fun of someone knowing we should try to stop it, we feel cowardly and ashamed. 

     “There are two ways people criticize themselves,” Eli Siegel said in an Aesthetic Realism lesson, “which Montaigne wrote about in his essays.  One is cowardly; the other is cruel.”

What Is Courage?

What is true courage, and what stops us from having it?  Mr. Siegel gives this magnificent definition in his work Definitions, and Comment: Being a Description of the World:

Courage is the belief that the way things are is not against oneself, and therefore that these things should not be gone away from.

Mr. Siegel shows that courage arises from our attitude to the facts about the world–“the way things are.”  “Courage,” he continues in his comment, “is an organic like of the facts, making for a wish to know them.”  The chief thing Aesthetic Realism shows, that stops us from having courage is contempt, the “disposition in every person to think he will be for himself by making less of the outside world.”  This unjust contempt is always cowardly, because it is a dismissing or changing of the facts in order to falsely get to superiority and comfort for ourselves.

        Aesthetic Realism makes it possible for people to see that the way the world is, is for us, because its structure is aesthetic: the oneness of opposites, the same opposites we are trying to do a good job with in our lives.

Vera Brittain, World War I, & Women Now

Tonight I speak of the English writer Vera Brittain (1893-1970), and what a woman studying in consultations is learning now–to show that through Aesthetic Realism we can learn what true courage is.  Vera Brittain is best known for her 1933 book about her own life, Testament of Youth, said to be the only book about World War I by a woman.   read more