Tuesday, November 22, 2011

You Can't Test Courage Cautiously - PTL Diaries Pt 4

Annie Dillard is one of my favorite writers. In fact, her memoir An American Childhood is my desert island book, after the scriptures. I read it over and over again and sometimes just pick it up at any page and start reading. The other night after dinner and Halloween shopping, one of my PTL dates and I ended up back in my living room reading aloud some of my favorite passages from Steve Martin and the aforementioned Annie Dillard masterpiece. I love it when spontaneous readings like this take place, especially on a date.

When I opened An American Childhood that night it fell open to one of my favorite chapters. As I read, I realized I was reading my mission statement, if not for Project True Love, then for life. I could try to paraphrase, but why do that? Here are the excerpts that winged off the page for me.

"I was running down the Penn Avenue sidewalk, revving up for an act of faith. I was conscious and self-conscious. I knew well that people could not fly--as well as anyone knows it--but I also knew the kicker: that, as the books put it, with faith all things are possible...."

"I ran the sidewalk full tilt. I waved my arms ever higher and faster; blood balled in my fingertips. I knew I was foolish. I knew I was too old really to believe in this as a child would, out of ignorance; instead I was experimenting as a scientist would, testing both the thing itself and the limits of my own courage in trying it miserably self-conscious in full view of the whole world. You can't test courage cautiously, so I ran hard and waved my arms hard, happy."
I love this. Anne and I are both scientists. When I first started Project True Love I got a few miffed comments from men who basically said, "Any man who would agree to be part of your science experiment has no self respect." To them, I have to say, that if anyone is being expirmented on, it is me. I am the scientist and the experiment, the observed and the observer. Of course I can't help observing them, too. And my observation is that the idea of me openly calling for many first dates or even calling it "Project True Love" triggers things in some men. Even one man who took me out last week called PTL "silly." I thought about that word for a while. Perhaps it is silly. But here is what Annie and I think about silliness:  

"Up ahead I saw a business suited pedestrian. He was coming stiffly toward me down the walk. Who could ever forget this first test, this stranger, this thin young man appalled? I banished the temptation to straighten up and walk right. He flattened himself against a brick wall as I passed flailing--although I had left him plenty of room. He had refused to meet my exultant eye. He looked away evidently embarrassed. How surprisingly easy it was to ignore him! What I was letting rip, in fact, was my willingness to look foolish, in his eyes and in my own. Having chosen this foolishness, I was a free being. How could the world ever stop me, how could I ever betray myself, if I was not afraid." 

I find it true that acts of faith often appear silly in the eyes of others and ourselves. Relationships and family are a faith-based work. It is not courage but faith that is the opposite of fear. So if a person is to take a "leap of faith" as the cliche goes, then why not leap with all the joy one has. After all, "What's a heart for?"
I always love the outtakes best.

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