Wednesday, April 12, 2006


keys of virtue, originally uploaded by keysofvirtue.

In my admittedly half-hearted, but better-than-nothing attempt to imitate Ben Franklin and work on one virtue a week, I've dedicated the last seven days to courage.

This is what I learned:

1. I feel least courageous when I wake up in the middle of the night or after a nap. The world feels shadowy and unpredictable and treacherous at times like that.

2. Maybe I should take less naps.

3. I feel most courageous during the bright hours of the day when I'm actively doing something. Working. Walking. Singing along with Woody Guthrie or Aretha Franklin.

4. Maybe I should spend less time thinking and more time doing. And I DEFINITELY need more music in my life.

5. I am not called upon to save lives in my ordinary days. Courage for me is in little things: speaking up and saying what I really think, making the phone call I've been putting off, tackling an intimidating chore.

6. Courage sounds very lofty, but often it's a fool's virtue--not being afraid to be one, that is.

7. Most of our fears are based on a crazy misperception. We think we're immortal! If we were, every loss, every mistake WOULD be as monumental as we think it is.

8. A few times this week, I got a chance to share that good news with a frightened friend or family member: Whatever you're upset about, don't worry; it's temporary. YOU'RE temporary. I am too! Yippee!

9. Mostly, it helped; sometimes people just thought I was more crazy than they already believed. But because I was being foolishly courageous, I said it anyway.

10. Writing's temporary, too, though sometimes I start thinking that it's big and permanent and important; and then it saps my courage.

11. I refuse to be afraid of anything as small and antlike as words scuttling across a computer screen! I absolutely refuse.

12. Most days when I wake up, I lie in bed and think about things for a while. Sometimes I write a poem in my mind, but mostly, I just run a lot of petty things
and shadow thoughts through my head. It would be more courageous to jump up and face the day.

13. Tomorrow I will jump.

Next week: Equanimity


Anonymous said...

on point 5 - sometimes the little things can be more scary than the big ones.

Anonymous said...

These were so great! What a great list and a way to put down our wants and needs.
Thanks for sharing it!

Richard Lawrence Cohen said...

Nos. 5 & 6 were most meaningful to me. And 11 & 13 were funny. BTW, at the tai chi school where I practice, we say a motto containing five of your seven keys: faith, respect, perseverance, patience, humility. The other two are just as good.

Michael said...

In the very first comment to this post, C~ wrote:

"Writing is temporary, so does it REALLY matter if I write or not? Does it REALLY matter what I write or not?"

I wonder how the authors of the Declaration of Independence would've responded to this question. Or Anne Frank. Or the person to whom I sent a personalized birthday greeting, rather than depending upon Hallmark for a prefabricated one.
Yes, writing and life itself are temporary. I believe this makes it all the more urgent that we speak up and out.
As for courage, I think it is best expressed through living in the world, and not just on it.

Stephanie said...

I love this exploration, Patry. I keep meaning to say this, but sometimes blogger comments seem to act up on me. :)

MB said...

Agree with #1... I realized long ago that, while the middle of the night can be a fantastic time for poetry or song writing, it's highly dangerous for thoughts of any serious or worrisome kind.

And this is just delightful:
I refuse to be afraid of anything as small and antlike as words scuttling across a computer screen!

Patry Francis said...

c: You have to do what you think is right, but you're so talented; I hope to continue to read your work. By saying that writing's temporary, I didn't mean that it doesn't matter. I just meant that it should be used up and enjoyed, not worried or agonized over (as I sometimes do.)

debra: So true.

andrea: Glad you're enjoying my crazy lists! Always great to see you here.

richard: I say a few prayers that are meaningful to me nearly every day. One of them is the Aikido pledge, which I learned years ago. It also contains some of those virtues.

stephanie: Thanks for trying again. Blogger has been giving me trouble lately, too.

m.b.: Interesting. Maybe next time I wake up in the night full of angst, I'll write a poem!

Sky said...

I have enjoyed the invitation to consider these virtues and to think about the meaning of them in my own life. I appreciate your sharing your lessons learned about courage.

The lessons you will be learning about each virute will teach you so much about yourself and your world. Wonder which virtue will hold the most profound lessons for you...

Mary said...

Number 1, 5 and 11 speak particularly loudly at the moment, but they all have relevance to me. Thanks for sharing this, Patry.

P. A. Moed said...

Some days it takes all your courage to jump into the day...but every small courageous act feeds on the next until we're facing far more than we ever imagined we could.

Tom.... said...

someone said writers do think too much...however, I feel it is an "occupational hazard" so to speak.....
as to starting the day....jumping out of bed can be dangerous, but swinging the legs over and getting the thing started is really the best way...
good luck as you try it out...and bless you on this Good Friday......

Anonymous said...

I am loving this series.

Taradharma said...

how very interesting -- I love the visual as well. it DOES take courage to do many things, doesn't it?

I can't wait to see what equanimity brings....where do you suppose it comes from? Are we hard-wired to be that way or must be cultivate it?

here via the bums, btw.

Crockhead said...

I can sure identify with #1. Why is it that problems that keep you awake at 2 a.m. seem much more surmountable at 10 a.m.? Maybe it's that being able to see the world around you, functioning quite normally gives you a better perspective than when it's just you and the problem in the dark.

Anonymous said...

Patry, you have no idea just how much this resonates with me.

You have given me a new perspective; rather than fret about and analyse my 1001 anxieties I shall begin to focus on one simple word: COURAGE.

And on number 4: think less and DO MORE. I know for a fact that living in my head as much as I do is like filling up the birdfeeder, it makes sure my fears keep returning and picking away at me.

Thank you!

Anonymous said...

It was so interesting to read #1. Sleep is such an elusive thing for me (during the night), that when I wake from a nap, I feel positively on top of the world...always makes me wonder if that's how 'normal' people feel when they wake up in the morning. I suppose that might make those some of my MOST courageous moments.

Anonymous said...

7 and 12 for me..

"Most of our fears are based on a crazy misperception. We think we're immortal! If we were, every loss, every mistake WOULD be as monumental as we think it is."

Good reminder thanks..

"Most days when I wake up, I lie in bed and think about things for a while. Sometimes I write a poem in my mind, but mostly, I just run a lot of petty things and shadow thoughts through my head. It would be more courageous to jump up and face the day."

So true..but it's so hard to be detach from petty things...trying though..

Anonymous said...

Regarding #2 and #4: maybe you should take more naps, spend more time thinking and less time doing active things? After all, if you want to work on courage, why try to put yourself in situations where you minimise your fears?

Just something to think about. I admire your courage, Patry.

Anonymous said...

Enjoyable meditation. Looking forward to seeing your take on the other virtues

Zhoen said...

Real courage is being afraid, but doing what you need to do anyway.

My dear one says I have two in the morning courage, which I consider prfound praise.

Jordan E. Rosenfeld said...

I wish I could join the temple of Patry--your words always hit home on such a deep level that sometimes I feel as if I could have written them (though far less eloquently).

I have that same experience after naps to such a degree that I only take them when absolutely necessary, i,e. having to drive large machinery.

Thank you

Bev Jackson said...

Patry! This is so inspiring and such a wonderful list! It really gave me pause...I loved the points about writing and words on a screen. Excellent; I look forward to the rest of your posts on this!

Anonymous said...

I feel more courageous when I'm dancing.

I felt courageous when I was with my brother when he dying and I was doing whatever was called for...nothing else mattered and in an instant I felt I could have went with him. Really, I think he was courageous and some of it was rubbing off.

I'm trying to get that words are temporary too and I too have to muster courage to make those phone calls I put off.

Swirly said...

I think I am going to staple this to my forehead, and make wallpaper out of it for my studio. :)

Patry Francis said...

How wonderful it is to come home to all these great comments. Every one of them has been smiled at, contemplated, savored.

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