|(from Nancy LeTourneau - "2013 Most Memorable Moments")|
The above picture is of Antoinette Tuff who talked down a solo gunman with an AK-47 in a Georgia school this last August. I can't embed the video Nancy links to in her blog, so here's the link to the video. If you have the time, listen to it - an extraordinary profile in courage.
What do you hear? Here's what I hear:
- Antoinette tells us she was terrified, though you can't sense this in the calm, strong-voiced way she tells her story.
- She "anchors herself" in her sense of God, using the words of her preacher as guide. In other words, she directs her attention and energy to something strong and transcendent, leaving little room in her consciousness for fear or felt helplessness.
- She also grounds herself in Love - for the 800 "babies" in the school.
- The gunman is not the "enemy"; he is a sad and wounded soul. She shares her own story of despair and then recovery, telling him repeatedly that this same hope can be his too. Her words are not from some Emergency Procedures Manual. Nor are they a lecture. They come from her place of pain, felt very recently, so they ring true to the gunman. They are her words, but because they are "real", they are also his.
- In this connection, they recognize each other as brother and sister.
Are you capable of such courage? Yes, if you -
- are fully responsible for your emotions and where you choose to place your attention
- love others and honor yourself
- can embrace your own pain and also see it in others
- can stop thinking and be present
Another "self-test", this one in poetic form, is the call to authenticity embedded in the following poem:
It doesn’t interest me if there is one God
or many gods.
I want to know if you belong or feel
If you know despair or can see it in others.
I want to know
if you are prepared to live in the world
with is harsh need
to change you. If you can look back
with firm eyes
saying this is where I stand. I want to know
if you know
how to melt into that fierce heat of living
the center of your longing. I want to know
if you are willing
to live, day by day, with the consequence of love
and the bitter
unwanted passion of your sure defeat.
I have been told, in that fierce embrace, even
the gods speak of God.
By David Whyte
From Fire in the Earth
If you can live "in that fierce embrace", with true authenticity, you will always have the courage you need.