Chesterton on Courage

G. K. Chesterton, Orthodoxy (Colorado Springs: Waterbrook, 2001 [1908]), 136–37 (ch. 6):

“Courage is almost a contradiction in terms. It means a strong desire to live taking the form of a readiness to die. . . . The paradox is the whole principle of courage; even of quite earthly or brutal courage. A man cut off by the sea may save his life if he will risk it on the precipice. He can only get away from death by continually stepping within an inch of it. A soldier surrounded by enemies, if he is to cut his way out, needs to combine a strong desire for living with a strange carelessness about dying. He must not merely cling to life, for then he will be a coward, and he will not escape. He must not merely wait for death, for then he will be a suicide, and will not escape. He must seek his life in a spirit of furious indifference to it; he must desire life like water and yet drink death like wine.”

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