This power in the soul, then, this unfailing conservation of right and lawful belief about things to be and not to be feared is what I call and would assume to be courage... – Plato, Republic, 429e-430a-c
There was a young boy whose father
thought he was stupid and dull.
His brother was smart and made
straight As in school, but the boy cared
for none of these. He did not cry,
and neither rod nor laugh
could stir him, since he knew no fear.
His body never shook, his teeth did not
chatter. They called him a sociopath,
whatever that means.
This lack of fear ate at his heart
for he knew enough to know
that people who shuddered
lived lives that made them happy,
and their love brought them joy
after sorrow, laughter after years of tears.
So the boy who did not know fear
set out on the road one fine day, with
nothing in his pockets and a smirk
on his face. He lived in the movie house
and watched months of guts, blood,
and gore splattering the screen.
He slept for years in haunted homes,
where ghosts and goblins sucked
his bones. But he simply yawned
and fell asleep, there to dream
of a land where people quake
and tremble and bend on knees
to find solace from terror.
He marched to war where he saw
grown men become children and piss
their pants, then turn to monsters eating brains.
His soul did not scar, his eyes did not blind
from nights of shake and bake bombs
and bodies burning to bone for hours
on end from the phosphorous.
They gave him medals for courage
because he could walk through fire,
but the boy who had no fear shook his head
and sought once more the road,
dumb and innocent in ignorance of fear.
Through jungle meetings with the jaguar,
down city streets filled with knives and bloody bottles,
he walked until one day he arrived at a kingdom
whose princess cried as spirits tread
heavily on her spine at night.
By that time, the boy who knew no fear
had become a man who felt none either,
sad and lonesome but dumb to sorrow.
The king of that realm gave him seven tests
of courage to see if he could quell the demons
at his daughter's soul. In the story, the boy
who'd become a man knowing no fear
threw out each evil wraith, seven times
facing horror after horror without shuddering.
The challenges met, the princess gained peace,
and they marry amid wide acclaim and festal lights.
But the man without fear is unhappy still,
his heart empty of love, laughter, or joy. His wife's
adoration only gnawed deeper still
at the hollow pit that was his soul.
Things would have stayed this way, the man
become a bored king reigning in a joyless house,
until a lowly maid replied to the princess' cries,
and said she'd cure the king of his ill heart.
That next morning, while he still slept,
they pulled the covers from his warm body
and spilled a kettle of flapping minnows
on him. His body shuddered at the chill
and he opened his eyes to their laughing howls,
and he laughed too once and forevermore,
awake to trembling and shivers and laughter.
And then the man who'd been a boy who knew
no fear became a spirit with awareness,
for he now knew what joy was and sorrow too,
and smile and tear, and shaking joy
filled his heart all his life, each in their time.
(c) Copyright Charles David Miller. All rights reserved.