Paul Tillich (1886-1965) was a German American philosopher and one of the most influential theologians of the 20th century. He was a lecturer at a number of German universities but was dismissed in 1933 as he was against the Nazi Regime. In his book The Courage to Be Paul Tillich wrote about the courage we need to become more authentic. With the publication of this book in 1952 Tillich gave the readers an opportunity to engage with one of the big human dilemmas, the fear to simply be who we were created to be.
A rock climber needs to live and act in the moment, fully aware of his mental and physical capabilities to negotiate the mountain he desires to conquer. Every step is important as he uses his skills to move upwards. For all those who long to change and mature, it takes a lot of courage to go off the beaten track of our human existence and begin the climb upwards to a higher expression of life.
Tillich points out that suffering occurs in this world through the mental state of nonbeing, an apathy towards change and life itself. Nonbeing brings about feelings of meaninglessness, emptiness, thoughts of being trapped. To face emotions and situations connected to nonbeing, and to bring about change requires a lot of energy. Courage is the tool. It becomes the shovel, which removes the rubble around our souls on the divine journey to the light. To be different and to disobey the ideas of the masses, often caught in their own anxieties, requires vision and determination. To follow the crowd is often classed as good. That might be so. And yet, if being obedient to cultural demands moves us away from our authentic core values, it is not good at all. In contrast a person willing to expand his/her horizons over and over again for the common good of all will become a living example for others to follow.
Man is asked to make of himself what he is supposed to become to fulfill his destiny.
— Paul Tillich
The rock climber just like the person willing to explore life in ever increasing dimensions needs courage to climb without fear. The magnificent view from the top will be the reward. Courage is the means to overcome mental and physical blocks and to transform them into stepping-stones. Whether we are with the divine on a mountain top or in the streets anywhere in the world, the call to be all who we are meant to be is all around us at all times. Do we dare to listen to the messages courage whispers? Life is a gift and in return we bring ourselves courageously to be a gift to humanity.
Published in This Week, Mauritius 2.11.14