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.
“When I hear Christians say that watching sex scenes in movies does not affect them, I sometimes wonder if the shoe isn’t actually on the other foot. If someone can honestly claim that viewing erotic nudity does not affect him, then this seems the clearest evidence that such content has already had a marked effect. This is because such a person is admitting to having become so desensitized that viewing a body that is bare, or partially bare, has become merely commonplace like looking at someone’s elbow. It is not a sign of maturity to be unaffected by cinematic sex, or even plain nudity, since there is a hardening up process that must occur before a person can view such scenes detached and non-sexually. The same applies, of course, to scenes containing graphic violence.”
“The implicit epistemology of the heroic world is a thoroughgoing realism.” Alasdair MacIntyre, After Virtue (p. 129).
“Suppose we were wanderers who could not live in blessedness except at home, miserable in our wandering and desiring to end it and to return to our nativecountry. We would need vehicles for land and sea which could be used to help us to reach our homeland, which is to be enjoyed But if the amenities of the journey and the motion of the vehicles itself delighted us, and we were led to enjoy those things which we should use, we should not wish to end our journey quickly, and, entangled in a perverse sweetness, we should be alienated from our country, whose sweetness would make us blessed.” Saint Augustine, On Christian Doctrine
Joseph Cooper, acted by Matthew McConaughey, in the movie Intersteller
In Christopher Nolan’s recent science fiction epic, Interstellar, the character Joseph Cooper is confronted with two tasks that seem, at times, to be in conflict. On the one hand, he must remain true in his role as a father to his motherless daughter Murph. On the other hand, he must also fulfil his role as a human being tasked with the job of saving the human race.
The drama of the film occurs within the space where these two roles (and the goals attached to them) seem to be in tension with one another. Not only does Cooper’s mission involve taking a journey away from earth (and therefore away from his daughter), but he reaches a point of having to weigh the odds between saving only his daughter’s generation vs. saving future generations of humans who do not yet exist.
My teenage son and I sometimes get together with friends to watch movies and then analyze the worldview behind it. The last time we did this we watched Life of Pi, a movie based on Yann Martel’s book by the same title. The award-winning 2012 production is a beautiful drama full of stunning visual sequences which takes the viewer to the edge of fantasy while exploring important spiritual themes.
Directed by Ang Lee, the movie opens with a man named Pi telling a writer of his perilous journey from India to the coast of Mexico following a disaster at sea. As Pi narrates his epic adventure, we watch his survival with an unlikely travel companion: a fearsome Bengal tiger named Richard Parker.