In The Courage To Create, Rollo May helps all of us find those creative impulses that, once liberated, offer new possibilities for achievement.
What is courage?
This courage will not be the opposite of despair. We shall often be faced with despair, as indeed every sensitive person has been during the last several decades in this country. Hence Kierkegaard and Nietzsche and Camus and Sartre have proclaimed that courage is not the absence of despair; it is, rather, the capacity to move ahead in spite of despair.
Nor is the courage required mere stubborness–we shall surely have to create with others. But if you do not express your own original ideas, if you do not listen to your own being, you will have betrayed yourself.
A chief characteristic of this courage is that it requires a centeredness within our own being, without which we would feel ourselves to be a vacuum.
Courage is not a virtue or value among other personal values like love or fidelity. It is the foundation that underlies and gives reality to all other virtues and personal values. Without courage our love pales into mere dependency. Without courage our fidelity becomes conformism.
This is the simplest and most obvious kind of courage. In our culture, physical courage takes its form chiefly from the myths of the frontier. Our prototypes have been the pioneer heroes who took the law into their own hands, who survived because they could draw a gun faster than their opponent, who were, above all things, self-reliant and could endure the inevitable loneliness in homesteanding with the nearest neighbor twenty miles away.
But the contradictions in our heritage from this frontier are immediately clear to us. Regardless of the heroism it generated in our forebears, this kind of courage has now not only lost its usefulness, but has degenerated into brutality.
A second kind of courage is moral courage. The persons I have known, or have known of, who have great moral courage have generally abhorred violence.
Take, for example, Aleksander Solzhenitsyn, the Russian author who stood up alone against the might of the Soviet bureaucracy in protest against the inhuman and cruel treatment of men and women in Russian prison camps. His numerous books, written in the best prose of modern Russia, cry out against the crushing of any person, whether physically, psychologically, or spiritually.
His moral courage stands out the more clearly since he is not a liberal, but a Russian nationalist. He became the symbol of a value lost sight of in a confused world–that the innate worth of a human being must be revered solely because of his or her humanity and regardless of his or her politics. A Dostoevskian character out of old Russia (as Stanley Kunitz describes him), Solzenitsym proclaimed, ‘I would gladly give my life if it would advance the cause of truth.’