08 July 2011

To Kill A Mockingbird

Earlier this week, on Facebook, my sister posted a quotation from the long-running Brit sci-fi television series "Doctor Who."

The quote, specifically from the Third Doctor, was, "Courage isn't just a matter of not being frightened, you know.  It's being afraid and doing what you have to do anyway."

Beth called these "wise words."  They are indeed, but the observation is hardly original to The Doctor.  They reminded me immediately of something Atticus Finch said in Harper Lee's novel, To Kill A Mockingbird, though it took me awhile to find the precise quote.

Of course, Atticus, being a model of humility along with the other virtues, wouldn't define his own behavior as "courageous" or use that as the ground for defining such a word, so our author had to find another context in which he could say something like that.  This arises in Mrs Dubose's fight against her morphine addiction, which explains why she was so cantankerous an old lady.   She was mortally sick, yet offended at her own addiction, and determined to face both the pains of her illness and the pangs of withdrawal in one grand final struggle -- a struggle, that, of course, could only have one ending.

After her death, Atticus says that he had insisted that Jem read to Mrs Dubose because "I wanted you to see what real courage is, instead of getting the idea that courage is a man with a gun in his hand. It's when you know you're licked before you begin but you begin anyway and you see it through no matter what."

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Knowledge is warranted belief -- it is the body of belief that we build up because, while living in this world, we've developed good reasons for believing it. What we know, then, is what works -- and it is, necessarily, what has worked for us, each of us individually, as a first approximation. For my other blog, on the struggles for control in the corporate suites, see www.proxypartisans.blogspot.com.