Posted by: Dan | January 10, 2006

The Folly of Lovers and the Wisdom of Cowards

Can you call yourself a coward simply because the courage of others seems to you out of proportion to the triviality of the occasion? Thus wisdom creates cowards. And thus you miss the Opportunity while spending your life on the lookout for it.
~ Umberto Eco, Foucault’s Pendulum

[B]ut God has chosen the foolish things of the world to shame the wise.
~ Paul, 1 Cor 1.27a

Eco is correct it is passion that gives us the courage to conquer our fears. More exactly, it is the passion of love that enables us to move and walk where others are afraid to go. We end up loving so deeply that we forget to be afraid and we become fools in the eyes of the wise.

For wisdom is always the excuse of the fear-full. Wisdom that lives cautiously, that exercises “common sense” instead of surrendering and taking the plunge.

I have found all this to be true in my journey with those who live on the margins of society. It is love that has drawn my into their company, it is love the keeps me there and draws me ever deeper. For I was once very afraid — probably more than most. I used to be afraid of everything — strangers, dark places, street people, gang bangers, they all used to terrify me (hell, I used to cry when my parents left me alone in Sunday School!). But somehow, along the way, I fell in love with all these bad-asses, rejects, and misfits. I discovered that I was beloved, and, therefore, all of us are beloved. And so I throw my wisdom aside and I walk the alleyways at night.

Of course, when some people hear about what I do they often say, “Well, it takes a special person to do that kind of work”, and “I suppose that’s an important piece of the puzzle, but there are other key ways to help”. I listen to intelligent, well-reasoned explanations why the true solution to homelessness, abuse, suffering, etc., is not found in journeying intimately with others, but, rather, found in political programs, financial schemes, and the increased donation of funds. And all of this reveals how so many people consider the sufferings of others to be trivial. The homeless are trivialised when we offer them programs and money instead of companionship.

I listen to a thousand and one ways in which people rationalise a life devoid of intimacy with those who deserve it the most and I think, “Why are you so afraid?”

There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear.
~ John(?), 1 John 4.18.

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