Something I don’t particularly have.
I think there’s a number of different kinds of bravery, from the macho aggressive to the quiet and resolute. It’s something that you see in people, rather than feel in yourself. If you feel it, that’s probably bravado, which is something different. Maybe.
Bravery is just getting on with what needs to be done, even if you’re scared.
It’s quite simple, really, and in its simplest form, its something to write songs about. At its most complex, its a weird historical chimera. It’s a way of idealising certain kinds of struggle, turning them into something huge. In a very real way, its a way of deleting certain kinds of experience. Bravery is like the admirable side of suffering, which is a weird notion.
I feel like I’m walking on an eggshell tightrope. To laud bravery too much, I think I play into a kind of sentimentality that leads to jingoism and machismo. To attack it, I undermine the very real qualities of people who fight very real battles every day.
Perhaps I should make it clear that the bravery I admire most is those people who take the weight of the world’s problems on their shoulders and try to do something, knowing it will be a perpetual emotional strain, at best.
It’s not about stiff upper lips, or riding into battle. It’s about doing what you can, against things you can’t ever hope to beat. It’s not bravery that defeats an enemy, it’s bravery that makes you stand up as you lose. It gives you something with which to keep on working.
But like I say, this is all imaginary. I feel utterly lacking in bravery. I feel consistently like I don’t stand up for enough. I don’t go out there and fight the battles I believe in. I’ve given up, partly, and I am too scared of emotional weight to go out there and shoulder the burden that I should. I look after myself and those around me, but don’t reach far enough out into the unknown.
I wish I could stop talking in terms of battles. This war like speech doesn’t suit the bravery I’m thinking of. I’m thinking of someone who goes to work every day to help people. I’m thinking of the people who stand beside people who are suffering, hold a hand, and then step in front of them.
It’s not something macho or warlike. It’s just doing what’s right, even though it hurts.
It’s that thing I aspire to. But my fear is too great.
Bravery probably just amounts to not listening to that voice. It’s just doing things. Nothing complicated. Getting on with things that need to be done.
Whenever I’ve spoken to someone I think has done something brave, they either tell me they were terrified, or that they didn’t even notice. They just did what they needed to do.
Bravery is being terrified and still doing it. Or just doing it.
I wish I could.
Illustration by Emma