You can’t manufacture “moments of courage.” But […] you can practice courage so that, when the moment demands it, you’ll be ready.*
(Chip and Dan Heath)
The whole point of climbing is to avoid objective dangers as much as possible, and to eliminate subjective dangers entirely by rigorous discipline and sound preparation.**
Spelunking and kerplunking may sound quite similar but they are very different endeavours. Beware taking up an invitation to go spelunking if you imagine you’re going to play a table game, the object of which is to pull horizontal plastic straws out of a drum without letting any marbles fall through.
Spelunking, I discover, can be a derogatory term for stupid and unprepared caving. Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi introduces me to the term when he picks out the flow experience of mountaineers which involves eliminating risk rather than inviting it:
‘Rock climbers, for instance, recognise two sets of dangers: “objective” and “subjective” ones. The first kind are the unpredictable physical events that might confront a person on a mountain […]. Subjective dangers are those that arise from the climber’s lack of skill […].’**
Everyday courage is our ability to turn up as ourselves every day and make our contribution within the familiar and unfamiliar – the flow of our talents, our dreams and our values. If I want to extend the flow of my own talents, dreams and values, I will need to be more courageous.
Csikszentmihalyi’s point about eliminating subjective dangers by rigorous discipline and sound preparation connects with what Chip and Dan Heath point to: if we want to have more courageous moments in our lives that we can be proud of in the right way, then we need to practise our values, asking questions such as:
What are my values?
What will they mean for different people and how I treat them?
What will I say?
What will I give?
Maybe I will find that, instead of different people and things disrupting my flow, the flow extends to them.
Richard Rohr writes of flow:
‘You just have to walk and breathe and receive and give, and – voilà – you’re in the flow.’^
This might sound like careless or carefree spelunking, but Rohr has to write a whole book to explain how he believes we can live in this way.
I don’t want to play Kerplunk but I don’t want to go spelunking through life either.