More than One Kind of Courage

Everyone admires courage. Everyone wants to be courageous. Usually the courage we talk about, the courage we think about and yearn for, is movie courage. Courage in the face of extreme danger. It is an important type of courage, but there’s more than one kind of courage.

What is Courage? 

Fear and courage are brothers.”

A Proverb

We can all agree that courage is about bravery and a certain amount of risk taking. But how do we define courage? According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, courage is mental or moral strength to venture, persevere, and withstand danger, fear, or difficulty. 

By that definition, there can be many types of courage. Here we will discuss ten types of courage: physical, every day, moral, spiritual, social, emotional, empathetic, disciplined, intellectual, and creative. 

Physical Courage 

Physical courage is bravery at the risk of bodily harm or death. We romanticize this type of courage in superheroes like Superman and Wonder Woman. It’s also the courage soldiers have at war. There have been many, many people in our world who have shown extraordinary physical courage. I’ll name Witold Pilecki and Malala Yousafzai as two with physical courage. It’s likely you know some who have never made the history books or news.

photo of Malala Yousafzai one example of a person with physical courage, in fact she stands for more than one kind of courage

Everyday Courage 

Everyday courage is about the grit and determination necessary to make tough calls about one’s self, life, and loved ones.

tepsa.org

Examples include Stormé DeLaverie who dared to be herself no matter what. It also is a farmer working his field through rain and drought, the person who decides every day to get up and go through their day no matter what, and the child who, despite their fears, walks into a new classroom or situation. It also includes the tougher choices like end-of-life choices, or to walk away from a toxic relationship. 

Moral Courage 

Moral courage means acting on one’s values in the face of potential or actual opposition and negative consequences.”

psychologytoday.com

We are fortunate to live in a world of people with moral courage like Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Mahatma Gandhi, Mother Teresa, Aung San Suu Kyi and many others.

Spiritual Courage

This is the type of courage that allows us “to grapple with questions about faith, purpose, and meaning in a religious or nonreligious framework.” We have spiritual courage when we share our spirituality publicly, or when we answer a child’s question about life after death, or when we seek to understand an unfamiliar belief system. 

Social Courage

This expression of courage involves the risk of social embarrassment or exclusion, unpopularity or rejection. It also involves leadership.

Ruby Bridges and Rosa Parks had the social and physical courage to challenge segregation. The Native Americans (and others) protesting at Standing Rock expressed social courage. Every person who comes out as LGBQT has social courage. Often introverts flex their social courage muscles in order to appear in public.

Emotional Courage 

It takes a special courage, emotional courage, to be open to feeling the full spectrum of emotional experience, both positive and negative.

lionswhiskers.com

We could classify this as an everyday courage. All of us should be emotionally courageous. But some of us hide behind one emotion and don’t have the courage to face more difficult emotions. It is also an extraordinary courage for people who struggle with or overcome mental health issues.

Empathetic Courage

Acknowledging personal bias and intentionally moving away from them in order to vicariously experience the trials and triumphs of others is empathetic courage.

In my humble opinion, this should be an everyday courage, but it clearly isn’t a courage everyone shares. Facing one’s flawed way of thinking about another person isn’t for the faint of heart.

Disciplined Courage

Remaining steadfast, strategic and deliberate in the face of inevitable setbacks and failures is disciplined courage.

This is an everyday courage. Every. Single. Day. So many people choose to use this type of courage. I do. You do. Every. Single. Person.

I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work”

Thomas Edison

Intellectual Courage

According to tepsa.org, intellectual courage is challenging old assumptions and acting to make changes based on new learnings, understandings, and insights gleaned from experience and/or educational research.

This is often the pursuit of truth. One of the most famous types of intellectual courage was Edward R. Murrow’s report exposing Joseph McCarthy as a racist.

Creative Courage

You have creative courage when you are doing creative work despite your doubts and fears. It’s opening your mind to fresh approaches, new ideas, and acting on them. Anyone who is a creative who has grown in their talent or skills has used creative courage to get there. Creatives use creative courage every time you face a new project, every time you show someone your work. 

More than One Kind of Courage

I hope this brief review of these ten different kinds of courage has helped you see how you and everyone around you use courage. Some are grand, exciting, acts on the world stage. Most acts of courage are quiet. We often label them as “small” because they are quiet. Now that you know there’s more than one kind of courage, don’t compare acts of courage. Honor your courage and the courage of others. 

What type of courage have you used today?

Image Credits

Top image by erwin nowak from Pixabay 

Second photo by DFID – UK Department for International Development via Wikimedia Commons.

Third photo by slowking4 via Wikimedia Commons.

Reignite Your Creativity

Sometimes ideas seem to hit you like a tidal wave. They come so fast and so hard you can barely keep track of them all. Other times it’s as if you’ve awakened in the middle of of the 5.5 million square miles of the Antarctic desert. Cold. Dry. Miles from anything resembling a creative idea. What do you do? You start in the dark to reignite your creativity.

Image is of smoke rising from a match whose flame has been extinguished--don't worry you can reignite your creativity.

Start in the Dark

You’re looking at me like I’m crazy, right? Give me a minute. You’re already in the dark as far as your creative ideas go, so why not give it a little therapy? Step away from your creativity. 

Drink in other people’s creativity. What do I mean? If you’re a writer, read a really good book. Or a terrible one. If you’re a knitter or quilter or painter, visit a museum or art display of your favorite artist. Feed your muse with inspirational examples from others in your field. 

Good or bad, doesn’t matter. Immerse yourself in the sights and sounds and textures and world of your area of creativity. Two words of caution: no comparisons. You’re looking for different angles, not to judge how worthy or unworthy you feel. Give yourself permission to ask what if? What if I could do this? How would I do it differently? 

Play

Let it go. Er, let go of your inhibitions and play like a child. No, your play doesn’t have to be within your area of creativity. No rules. No limits. Just have fun. Splash in a puddle. Finger paint with your non-dominate hand. Sing nursery rhymes. Read poetry aloud in a Bugs Bunny or Betty Boop voice. Chose an activity you remember enjoying in your childhood and do that for an hour or two. Remind yourself of the imagination and energy you had when you were a child. It’s still there, just buried by the demands of society and responsibilities of adulthood. Let it out as often as you need it to reignite your creative sense of play.

I created the video below a few years back, but I think it speaks to why you should play.

Imagine

Your creative light can flicker or dim whether you’ve just started or have been at your creative craft for a very long time. When that happens, fear often floods us. We’re afraid we aren’t good enough, or that we’ve used up all our talent, or that we’ve lied to ourselves about our abilities. Remember, 

Fear is the mind-killer. Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration. I will face my fear. I will permit it to pass over me and through me. “

Dune by Frank Herbert

Use your mental imagery to see your goal. Make positive connections with your craft. See yourself being practicing your craft successfully. Where are you? Who is there with you? What are you wearing? Be specific. 

Some research has shown that mental practice is almost as effective as true practice. It’s not woo-woo, it’s training your brain. It may not make you successful, but it will give train your brain to feel and think about creativity in a positive rather than fearful way. 

Engage Your Five Senses

In another kind of play, play with your senses. All five of them. Take one at a time. Focus on just that one sense for as long as you can. You’ll be amazed how much more you discover when you’re focused on one at a time.

It doesn’t matter what type of creativity you’re involved in. Find something to look at that you can look at for a long time. What colors and shapes do you notice first? What do you notice when you’ve been looking for more than a few minutes?

Engage your hearing. Listen to music, poetry, nature, or even total silence. Take a deep breath and listen. What do you hear? What else can you hear? 

Focus on taste. Try something new or an old favorite, but really focus on what that tastes like and how that taste changes what you feel and think.

Take a sniff of a flower, a seasoning, or the air. Close your eyes and draw that aroma in. What memory or emotion does it stir? 

Touch. Let the world of textures and shapes talk to you through your fingers. Let your fingers take a stroll across new shapes and textures. Then try feeling some familiar shapes and textures. How does the new make you feel verse the familiar?  

Remove the Negative

Sadly, sometimes the most negative people in our lives are family. Sometimes they are quite vocal in their negativity. Sometimes it’s their energy that is negative.

It can be difficult to keep your passion alive when those around you think your art or your talents are worthless. Focus on finding positive people who can help keep your energy and passion up. Online communities can help. Search your favorite social media site for like-minded individuals. Ask your librarians if they know of creatives like you. Find your people. Supportive people. Tune out as much of the negative energy as you can.

Give to Get

Give back to your creativity community. Share your passion. Share your knowledge. Volunteer to teach a youth group. Support others by going to their shows, their book releases, or whatever. The more you share, the more give, the more you keep your passion alive. 

Ask Yourself Questions

Ask yourself the right questions. Not can I do this, but if I knew I could not fail, what would I do? You can be or do anything. Put it in writing and place that writing where you will see it every day. 

Ask yourself how will today’s creative decision affect my life ten or twenty years from now? 

Finally ask yourself, does this bring me pleasure? If it’s not bringing you pleasure, why are you doing it? If it’s for delayed pleasure from your craft—say you’re learning a difficult skill—then remember the big picture. 

Reignite Your Creativity

Image is of a pair of hands cupped together, holding a candle. The candle's flame rises into a heart shape when you reignite your creativity.

You are not alone. Creative energy ebbs and flows for all of us. 

I’m here to help fan those creative flames. But you can’t rely on me or anyone else to keep you passionate about your projects. Only you can keep the flame that is your dream alive. 

Remember your passion. Re-ignite your creativity.

What do you do to reignite your creativity?

Image Credits

First photo by 2 Bro’s Media on Unsplash

First video by Lynette M. Burrows and Lumen5, originally posted as Energize Your Imagination July 10, 2018

Second Video by NatureRelaxation.com on Youtube

Final image by Vic_B from Pixabay 

Can Computers be Creative?

I use the word creativity a lot on these blog pages. I firmly believe that every living person is creative. The tragedy is that many people have their creative dreams crushed so hard they never recover. Ai-Da is an Artificial Intelligence machine that paints, writes, and gives presentations. Can a computer be creative? Will it further crush human creativity? Or will it expand human creativity?

Photograph of Ai-Da, a humanoid figure with a life-like head & face and robotic mechanical arms & hands standing next to one of her pieces of impressionistic art below which is a sign that reads Ai-Da Robot, the world's first ultra-realistic robot artist. But can a computer be creative?

What Is Creativity?

Before we can intelligently decide whether a machine can be creative, we need to define creativity. In “You Don’t Have to be an Artist” I use the Merriam-Webster definition of creativity. It’s imprecise and vague. Trying to define creativity is difficult. It’s one of those things we say, “I know it when I see it.” 

Margaret Boden OBE, ScD, FBA, a research professor of cognitive science, published The Creative Mind: Myths and Mechanisms in 1990. Within that book, she offers a philosophical definition of creativity. 

Creativity is the ability to come up with ideas or artefacts that are newsurprising, and valuable.”

Margaret Boden OBE, ScD, FBA

Instead of asking the yes or no question “is that idea creative,” Boden suggests we ask, “how creative is it, and in just which way?” She also defines what she means by new, by surprising, and by valuable. 

What New Means

To define new, she distinguishes between psychological creativity (P-creativity) and historical creativity (H-creativity).

P-creativity involves coming up with a surprising, valuable idea that’s new to the person who comes up with it. It doesn’t matter how many people have had that idea before. But if a new idea is H-creative, that means that (so far as we know) no-one else has had it before: it has arisen for the first time in human history.”

Interalia Mag quoting Boden

What Surprising Means

In her definition, surprising has three different meanings. First, a surprising idea is something that is unfamiliar, or even unlikely. An unexpected idea, something that is part of a familiar idea but in a way you haven’t thought of before, is the second type of surprising. The third type of surprising, is the astonished reaction you have an idea you would have thought impossible before you saw/heard it.

Her definition and exploration of creativity is more complex than this and deserves a more detailed examination, but this definition will help us examine whether Ai-Da, an AI, is a creative machine.

Creative Artificial Intelligence

My first reaction to the idea of a creative artificial intelligence was an enormous surge of skepticism. 

 As human in appearance as Ai-Da, her jerky and distracting actions and her clear but halting speech annoyed me. I looked at her, listened to her, and dismissed her. She isn’t the creative one, it’s her human programmers, right? 

Then I applied Boden’s definition. Is Ai-Da’s art new? The answer is yes to both P-creativity and H-creativity. Is it surprising? Again, I’d have to answer yes. Is it valuable? That’s what I found questionable. Some people would pay money for the novelty of owning art by an AI. But was it valuable in any larger way? I was skeptical. 

I continued my research and discovered a different way to look at Ai-Da and my question, “can a computer be creative?”

The Intersection of Science and Creativity

Benedikte Wallace hates math. When she was growing up she loved art and dance and creative life. She also loved science. She saw math as an insurmountable wall between her two loves. And she despaired that she’d ever be able to find work in the intersection of those two. 

She says she’s still terrible at math, but she found a way. Wallace is a Ph.D. researcher at the RITMO Centre for Interdisciplinary Studies of Rhythm, Time and Motion at the University of Oslo.

She suggests a different way to approach my question.

She sees the computer as a creative partner, a tool. 

I think of and use my computer daily as a creative tool. Could it be a creative partner? I reluctantly agree that it could be.

Can Computers Be Creative

image of a human hand reaching with index finger forward on one side toward a robotic hand reaching in the same way toward the human hand on a black background with blue lines in a repetitive pattern that represent computers but can computers be creative?

Reducing an artificial intelligence machine like Ai-Da to the term computer is to dismiss it as an independent entity. I am a science fiction reader and author. So why do I dismiss Ai-Da as an independent entity? Because the idea makes me uncomfortable. Wallace uses terms that make me more comfortable. I can see Ai-Da as a creative tool to use. Except she is more than that. Just as I am more than the sum of my parts, Ai-Da is more than the sum of her numbers… more than her programming, even if it’s only a tiny bit more. Can computers be creative? Ai-Da is creative, but is she only as creative as her programming? Maybe. Perhaps her descendants will be more creative… and more accepted.

Can you see yourself collaborating with a future Ai-Da?

Can you see a future Ai-Da producing creative works like yours?

Celebrate Women of History

I love to write about fictional characters whose story challenges them to figure out what they are and who they can be. They can be heroes or villains. But I find inspiration for fictional characters from real-life heroes. On this blog I feature brief histories of women whose accomplishments history ignored for many years. Women who were heroes, big (nationwide or worldwide) or small (in their own community). Today, we’re revisiting a few of those histories and celebrating women of history. 


Cover of Resistance, the story of Agnes Humbert, shows a bridge with WWII barbed wire fences in the foreground . We celebrate women of history to remember the strength of women like Agnes this month.

Agnes Humbert

Agnes was an art historian in Paris during WWII. The book about Agnes tells about her life in the days before the Germans occupied her city through her decision to resist, to being betrayed and arrested, and details her life in a concentration camp. 

Dorothy Cotton

Dorothy (January 5, 1930–June 10, 2018) was born at the beginning of the depression. No one could have predicted the woman she became. Nonviolent, she made a difference in the U.S. civil rights movement and in the world.

Celebrate Women of history means remembering women like Lydia Maria Child in this old black and white photo of her sitting on a porch, one elbow propped on the railing while she reads a book.

Lydia Maria Child

One of the most influential American women writers from the 1820s through the 1860s, she was a prolific author, a literary pioneer, and a tireless crusader and champion for America’s excluded groups. With words, she made a difference. 

Molly Brant

Brant (1736-1796) was an influential Mohawk woman in the American Revolution. A Loyalist, a spy, diplomat, and a clan matron, Brant straddled two worlds. But she kept her native heritage in her speech and dress throughout her entire life.

Huda Shaarawi

She threw off her veil and changed the world. Huda Shaarawi (pronunciation) grew up in a harem and became Egypt’s leading women’s rights activist. Also, a philanthropist and founder of the first Egyptian feminist organization, Huda’s defiance still influences the world today.


Women hold up half the sky, yet women across the world still get little recognition for their accomplishments. Most especially those whose accomplishments are small. The housewife, the mother, the office cleaner all deserve recognition for their role in making this world a better place. 

I hope you’ve enjoyed and found inspiration in this glimpse of the strong women featured on this blog. Let’s celebrate women of history and women of today all year. 

Image Credits

First image is the paperback book cover of Résistance by Agnès Humbert available on Amazon.com

Second photo is a public domain via Wikimedia Commons.

Third photo is Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

What You Can Read in Troubling Times

No doubt about it, these are troubling times. Tired of the pandemic, tired of politics and hate and war? Even novels include troubles that can be painful to read when you feel like the plane of life is going down. Never fear, here are things you can read in troubling times. Things that will soothe your soul.

Poetry

Remember studying poetry in school? Unless you already loved words, you probably didn’t enjoy the poetry you had to analyze. That’s worse than unfortunate, because there is great beauty and peace and inspiration in some of those poems.


“If,” by Rudyard Kipling


“Phenomenal Woman” by Maya Angelou


“The Hill We Climb” by Amanda Gorman


Smart” by Shel Silverstein

What poetry do you find inspiring or uplifting?

Read Picture books

There are so many great picture books. If you have children, you probably have a favorite or two. If you don’t have children, don’t be ashamed. They can be meaningful reads. 

The cover of the worrysaurus shows a comical, worrying, dinosaur-like creature sitting on a rock, the perfect read for troubling times

On a hot and sunny morning under lovely clear blue skies, a little Worrysaurus was opening his eyes.

The Worrysaurus
written by Rachel Bright, illustrated by Chris Chatterton

The cover of the Day I swapped my dad for two goldfish shows an illustration of a young boy showing off his goldfish to a disapproving mother, a romp that you can read in troubling times.

One day my mom went out and left me at home with just my little sister and my dad.

The Day I Swapped My Dad for Two Goldfish
written by Neil Gaiman , illustrated by Dave McKean

The cover of Commander Toad in Space is an illustration of a green rocket with a one person bubble holding, who else, Commander Frog.

There is one ship, 

one mighty ship,

long and free,

that goes across the skies.

Commander Toad in Space written by Jane Yolen, illustrated by Bruce Degen

This is a delightful play on Star Wars. A little more advance than a regular picture book and a whole lot of fun for a Star Wars fan to read. 


Do you read picture books? Which one is your favorite?

Read Middle Grade Books

As with picture books there are so many great middle grade books, I couldn’t possibly list them all, but here are a couple to get you started.


Illustrated cover of Matilda is a colorful illustration of a young girl sitting on a crate reading and thinking about a book with lots of books on the floor around her.

Matilda’s brother Michael was a perfectly normal boy, but the sister, as I said, was something to make your eyes pop.

Matilda by Roald Dahl 

The cover of a wrinkle in time has the title and author name against a starry night sky with illustrations of the Mrs Ws along one side, children floating thru space above it, and the children approaching a tall building with a very large door.

It was a dark and stormy night.

In her attic bedroom Margaret Murry, wrapped in an old patchwork quit, sat on the foot of her bed and watched the trees tossing in the frenzied lashing of the wind.

A Wrinkle in Time by Madeline L’Engle

Meg and her brother travel through time and space to save their father but Meg can save him only if she digs deep enough inside. I’ve written about this book before as the movie that wasn’t. Except now it has been a movie.


Ease Your Worry Lines

Find the type of reading that helps you, calms you, makes you smile. It’s what you can read in troubling times. Reading those books won’t take away your worries, won’t ease other people’s suffering, but it will put your head in a better place. And when your head is in a better place, you’ll be think more clearly, be the calm sea for someone else.

 What are your go-to reads for the days when the world is too heavy?