How Jordan Peterson and Kevin Costner Taught me the Meaning of Courage

Few virtues are as misunderstood today as the virtue of courage.

Courage is the act of choosing to press ahead in full knowledge that there may be danger ahead. It is this awareness of danger that differentiates genuine courage from mere naivete. A naive person may appear courageous simply because he underestimates the threat he is facing, like the fool in Proverbs 14:16 who “rages and is self-confident.”

But just as courage should not be confused with naivete, it should also not be confused with mere bravado. A person who overestimates his natural strength may appear brave in the face of threats, like the fool in Proverbs 27:12 who refuses to take refuge in the face of danger. Having an unrealistic perception of one’s own natural strength absolves one from needing to practice courage since it minimizes the reality of the danger one is actually facing. Only a weak person can have courage in the face of danger, for courage can only exist when there is the possibility of harm, hurt or failure.

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A Day in the Life of a Janitor

Last week I decided to apply for a cleaning job someone told me about. Given that my work as a writer has recently slowed down, I was eager at the prospect of some extra income.

Cleaning might be just the right sort of part-time job for me, I thought, since I could listen to audio books and courses while I worked. It would essentially mean that I could be paid to do the thing I loved most of all: listen to courses and audio books!

Thus it was that last Saturday I excitedly made my way to a spot in downtown Coeur d’Alene where I had arranged to be interviewed for a cleaning job. All I had been told is that I should meet a man named Igor, who organized janitorial crews for companies and had been having difficulty finding workers for one of his corporate clients.

As I approached the place I was supposed to rendezvous with Igor, my heart sank: it was in the worst part of town—the part of Coeur d’Alene where respectable people never venture. Coeur d’Alene has a law against loitering, but in this area the law was apparently not being enforced. A crowd of desolates and drunks eyed me suspiciously as I approach Igor’s office.

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Virtue and Classical Education: A Commencement Address to a Graduating Class

When Odysseus turns from Calypso and her promise of immortality, he chooses to embrace the distinctively human virtues that make him vulnerable to weakness and pain.

Once Albert Einstein was traveling on a train from Princeton when the conductor came down the aisle punching tickets. When the conductor reached Einstein, the great physicist reached into his vest pocket, but couldn’t find his ticket. So he reached into the pockets of his pants, but still he couldn’t find the ticket.

The conductor said, “Dr. Einstein, it’s ok. I know who you are.”

As if not hearing these words, Einstein continued searching for the missing ticket. As he opened his briefcase to look inside, the conductor said again, “Dr. Einstein, we all know who you are. I’m sure you bought a ticket. Please don’t worry about it.”

Einstein nodded appreciatively. The conductor continued down the aisle punching tickets, but behind him he could see the scientist down on his hands and knees looking under his seat for the missing ticket.

Rushing back to him, the conductor said, “Please, please Dr. Einstein, do not worry. I’m sure you bought a ticket. We know who you are and really, it’s no problem.”

Einstein stood up, looked the conductor in the eye and replied, “Young man, I too, know who I am. What I do not know is where I am going.”

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How to Practice Gratitude Behind Bars

It had been a particularly unpleasant day at the office for Ranald.

It was only after being promoted to management six months earlier that Ranald realized how stressful his dream job actually was. Sure, it was nice to be getting a larger pay check and finally to pay off some debts. However, managing a team of people who insisted on being disorganized was taking its toll. Sometimes Ranald looked back wistfully on the days before he was put in charge of the entire department.

These were some of the thoughts going through Ranald’s mind as he drove home one Friday evening. He wanted nothing more than to just go home, switch on the TV and tune out. He knew that wouldn’t be possible. His wife and kids would have demands. They always did. The children would need help with homework, his teenage daughter would need to talk about her day, and his wife would expect his undivided attention as she shared about her own struggles.

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The Virtue of Vulnerability in an Age of Sentimentalism, Stoicism and Cynicism

To Love is to be Vulnerable

Ryan and Claire came from very different backgrounds. When Claire was growing up, she lived in constant fear of making her father angry. To the outside world, Claire and her six siblings appeared the very model of well-behaved children. However, few people knew what life was really like for them—how their parents would fly off the handle at the slightest provocation and how all the children lived in fear of making them upset. Claire developed a habit of keeping her deepest thoughts and feelings bottled up inside, sometimes even hidden from herself. As an adult, Claire was terrified of conflict and tended always to say what she thought the other person wanted to hear instead of what she really felt. She found it hard to be transparent and vulnerable.

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Perlman Plays Brahms Violin Concerto

I recently discovered the recording of Itzhak Perlman playing Brahms Violin Concerto in D major. I was even more delighted to discover a video of this amazing performance. Perlman brings a sensitivity and passion appropriate for one of the most beautiful musical works ever composed.

Worldview Education, Technology and the Value of Boredom

This morning while doing some research for a couple clients, I came across two interesting articles that seemed to connect.

One article was a piece by Rod Dreher talking about his time at the recent Society of Classical Learning (SCL) conference. Titled ‘The Problem with ‘Worldview’ Education‘, Dreher shared Joshua Gibbs’ insight that “real art is not something that calls forth an immediate response. You have to contemplate it, turn it over in your mind for a while.” Gibbs went on to suggest that one of the casualties of the worldview-based approach to education is that the rush to analyze texts through a worldview grid can prematurely foreclose–or even completely short-circuit–this necessary process of wondering about and contemplating texts.

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