Follow Your Heart (the Meaning of Courage).
"live to the point of tears."
I have been thinking about the word courage lately. I have been thinking about what it really means.
If we take a look at the literary root of this word, we will find it comes from the French word cœur, meaning heart.
Essentially, courage is our willingness to follow our hearts and the feelings that accompany them. It is our willingness to feel the things we already feel, or maybe the things we are afraid to feel, as deeply as we can.
The French philosopher Albert Camus used to say to himself “live to the point of tears.” What he meant by this is that to truly live we must make ourselves vulnerable, we must open our hearts even if this means they may get broken.
To experience all the wonders of life, we must accept that our hearts will break at some point along the way. Heartbreak simply means we cared about things we had no control over. The only way to avoid heartbreak is to avoid caring. Unfortunately, we sometimes take this less courageous path.
For example, it is not hard to imagine the inner artist who becomes a doctor or lawyer because they are scared of failing at their art. Or maybe the person who says no to the possibility of falling in love because they are scared of falling out of love. Or maybe the person who holds back on getting a dog because they are scared of saying goodbye one day.
If you are or have ever been an artist or in love with a person or pet, then you know these things are worth experiencing despite the vulnerabilities that accompany them. Because as the old sage Alfred Tennyson once said, “it’s better to have loved and lost than to have never loved at all.”
So, in light of all this, the word courage is simply the realization that we have no ‘real’ other choice but to follow our hearts. Because a life without love is no life at all. And, even though we are scared, we know this is the path we must follow. We know we must embrace our fears. We know we must “live to the point of tears.”
I recently read The Fault in Our Stars by John Green. This book had me crying at multiple points throughout it. It is a heartbreaking yet beautiful story about a young girl who falls in love, even though she knows she will have to give up that love one day.
The book is a testament to courage and following your heart despite the vulnerabilities that accompany it. Because, as one of the characters in the book eloquently says, “You don't get to choose if you get hurt in this world. . . but you do have some say in who hurts you.”
Disclaimer: this book may break your heart and it may also show you that the human heart is bigger than you ever knew.
I recently posted Episode 10 of the podcast (titled “Letting Go”). In the episode, I discuss my past experience of being a corporate finance lawyer in New York City and my process of quitting that job.
To listen to the podcast, click here.
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