Courage

This may be the first book I’ve read that was written by a so-called mystic. I’m not even sure what a mystic is. I checked out some wiki thoughts on mysticism and without twisting things too much, I think we can assume that a mystic is some sort of spiritual leader who is usually not validated by any of the mainstream religions.

Not that it really matters, I guess. If a mystic or whomever has some good things to say and they resonate with you, well then, they have some good things to say that resonate with you. Does it matter who it’s coming from? Every so often I’ll be sitting in mass and notice a passage in the readings and I’ll think to myself, “It doesn’t matter whether you’re religious or not, or whether you’re Catholic, Hindu, Muslim, Jewish, or other, or how angry you are with the Catholic sex abuses; that passage is so true and accurate that it would (should) resonate with anyone.”

Am I making sense?

I mention this because we have a situation here where the author, Osho (deceased, 1990), has been under fire occasionally. He had legal issues that, for some readers, may call into question his ability to be an authority on how to live your life. But I’m not going to judge this book based on the author’s private background and motivations. I have a close friend who stands by the words in the book, so I pushed any character issues out of my mind as I read the words.

Osho kicks things off with a simple tenet:

Courage means going into the unknown in spite of all the fears. (pg 1)

These ideas of embracing the unknown and embracing fear run throughout the book. There are offshoots, digressions, and supporting points, but I think these two are the most fundamental to his message. Embrace the unknown. Fear is normal.

To do so, to be a fear embracer, you need to be comfortable that your heart and your head line up. Osho has a term for this synergy of head and heart: intelligence. You need intelligence to deal with the uncertainty and the fear. He dwells on the word:

Intelligence is aliveness, it is spontaneity. It is openness, it is vulnerability. It is impartiality, it is the courage to function without conclusions. (pg 15)

Intelligence is intellect in tune with your heart. The heart knows how to trust. The intellect knows how to seek and search. (pg 28)

Armed with this intelligence, you should be comfortable venturing into anything new. Why wouldn’t you, your head and heart line up, what else would you need to tackle any difficulties with new stuff? According to Osho, even God wills you towards the new (I can’t tell where he stands on God and religion, but as I said, I don’t think it matters):

Remember, anything new coming in your life is a message from God. If you accept it you are religious. If you reject it you are irreligious. … Give way to God entering you. (pg. 55)

The new will bring difficulties. That’s why you chose the old – it does not bring any difficulties. It is a consolation, it is a shelter. (pg 55)

The difficulty in dealing with newness is that you remember how comfortable you were in the past:

Memory creates the knot, the complex called “I,” the ego. And naturally this false entity called “I” is continuously afraid of death. That’s why you are afraid of the new. (pg 57)

Your memory is not you. (pg 59)

His point, I think, is that you have to let go of stuff. Don’t get comfortable. Don’t strive for inner peace, it won’t happen. Comfort and peace are associated with the known, the past; things that pad your ego and hinder growth. Put more forcefully by Osho:

Always choose the unknown and go headlong. Even if you suffer, it is worth it – it always pays. You always come out of it more grown up, more mature, more intelligent. (151)

I happened upon an article in Golf Magazine by David Feherty where he entertains the evils of Comfortsville. In the end, he’s staying somewhat in Comfortsville (renewing his CBS contract), but he makes some points common with Osho. He’s certainly cognizant of the fact that he should be uncomfortable with his comfort. Check it out, it’s also funny.

I bring up golf because Osho talks about sports when he brings up how important it is to “live dangerously.” He recognizes that many engage in sports to get that rush of doing something dangerous or competitive. But he questions this, once you get so good at something, is it really that dangerous or exciting? Maybe not.

Laird Hamilton, from The Wave, certainly lives dangerously. But is he really living dangerously if he has achieved such proficiency in his sport that it is no longer that dangerous for him? Should he push beyond big waves into something completely different to foster personal growth. He actually has, it appears. But it makes me think about my sporting pursuits and how maybe I do need to diversify out of golf. Maybe I need to pick up a brand spanking new sport or physical outlet. Or maybe I need to become a jump rope expert. Yeah, that would be challenging. I just saw a Nike commercial with some good jump rope ideas.

But danger, in a broader sense, does not necessarily mean a high potential for physical harm or death. It could also mean a high potential for intellectual and emotional harm. From Osho’s perspective, I think, it’s all dangerous, it’s all important for personal growth.

I’ll expand. This may seem like a digression, but bear with me. In Newsweek recently, they discussed the science around growing your cognitive ability:

That might explain why skills we’re already good at don’t make us much smarter: we don’t pay much attention to them. In contrast, taking up a new, cognitively demanding activity—ballroom dancing, a foreign language—is more likely to boost processing speed, strengthen synapses, and expand or create functional networks.

This seems to say the same thing Osho is saying, if you don’t embrace the unknown, the uncomfortable, the unfamiliar, you will wither. You need to be engaged, not comfortable, if you want to expand. It works for your emotions, your intellect, and your physical ability. It is backed by science and intuition. It seems to be bordering on a universal truth. I was in mass a few Sundays ago and there was a reading about the moment that Jesus passed two potential disciples fishing with their father. Jesus shouted, I’m paraphrasing, “Come with me, I’ll make you fishers of men.” So here were two men, doing something they had done all of their life, in the comfort of their own family, and now they were venturing into the unknown by following this man viewed as a heretic by many. You see what I mean?

That’s growth. Catholics agree. Mystics agree. Science agrees. Sports announcers agree. Their can’t be that much more corroboration needed to validate a point made not only by Osho in this book, but by many others – that venturing into the unknown, despite the fear, is the bedrock of achieving personal growth. Can there be? That’s courage.