Letter 001: An Ordinary Courage
What strange times we find ourselves in! I’m writing to warn you of a great disease—a virus I haven’t seen in years, spreading faster than it ever has before. It’s moving person to person, interaction to interaction. And while it’s harmless to most, it can be quite fatal to some. I’m speaking, of course, of the age old evil: fear, uncertainty, and doubt.
That’s where it always starts: the stories of the dragon. A lizard the size of a bus with sharp teeth that can fly and breath fire, but with the agility and cunning of a fox… It’s enough to turn any hero’s insides to ash! I’m afraid too many heroes become infected and lose the fight before they think of drawing their sword, choosing to die a thousand deaths in their minds instead of facing the chance of one real one.
Yes, it’s been many years since I’ve seen an actual dragon—they’re getting harder and harder to find. Most of the dark lords I know have been overthrown. And the last time I checked, the Lady of the Lake was all out of swords to throw to random travelers. But make no mistake: this land is far from being free of evil—and magic is far from having run out.
G.K. Chesterton says “Fairy tales are important, not because they tell us that dragons are real, but because they teach us that dragons can be defeated.” While your dragon may not have spikes the size of lamp posts, the fear it makes you feel is quite real—and quite the same as the fear every great hero has faced. That’s the real secret of it: we all dream of the great battles, of facing down Saruman or Lord Voldemort, of great acts of courage and bravery. But the emotional reality of those great deeds is no different than that of the smallest act of courage.
There’s this phrase “ordinary courage” that is thrown about a little too haphazardly. I personally don’t buy into it—I don’t think there's any act of courage you would stoop to call ordinary. What else is a great story besides countless acts of ordinary courage leading to something we can all recognize as extraordinary? The story of a halfling who had enough courage to leave his comfortable hobbit hole, the story of a boy with a scar who had enough courage to set out to a new world, the age old story of them all: an ordinary person in an extraordinary world who was willing to make the stupendous, most extraordinary act of courage of them all: setting out.
Because acts of courage, by definition, imply a great deal of fear. They require facing something you would really rather not face, something you have the option to not face, but doing it anyway. And these are times of great fear. So let these words guide you over the coming weeks: there is no act of courage so small as to be ordinary. And the world is every bit—maybe more—in need of courage as it was in the days when spells and dragons haunted the lands.
May the road rise up to meet you!