Being brave in the face of suffering
What do Scott Peck, Nelson Mandela and Harold Fry* have in common? A long and brave walk. Treading on brave ground, as it were. They are not alone. We all, between birth and death, step out in courage to face the unknown. We each need to find our own brave ground and traverse it.
Brave Ground is the theme for this edition of HouseFinder, a neutral colour picked by Dulux as their Colour of the Year. The name conjures images of courage, valour and solid foundations – the richness of the earth beneath our feet when we bravely (or is it naïvely?) strike out to walk the walk set out for us.
On June the eighth, Brain Tumour Day is commemorated worldwide in recognition of loved ones who have bravely stepped forth. This day also celebrates the advances of neuroscience and the increasing number of successful craniotomies. Craniotomy - a huge word for an intricate, long operation to remove tumours from the brain.
Having a craniotomy is not always possible, but for Christoph Knye, a young farmer from Summerdown (Omaheke region, Namibia), it changed his future from grim to hopeful. “What carried me through this experience, is my steadfast faith and my loving wife and family. Anchored in my faith, I prayed Psalm 23 over and over as they wheeled me to the theatre. Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; for You are with me…” His courage in the face of a risky, major craniotomy was planted by his late mother years ago when she instilled the Word of God in her children. “She was the one who planted the seed of belief in my heart – and it is that anchor in my ‘brave ground’ that is seeing me through this process.”
Anna Berankova from Czechoslovakia, another brain tumour patient, grew up without the anchor of religion, yet found she could improve her mental health by letting go, meditating and mindful breathing. “Each one of them is complex and interconnected with the other. It wasn’t just me practising these exercises, but rather changing my attitude and state of mind.” In addition to medicine, she found additional paths to a state of mental equilibrium and good well-being. “What I can say confidently is that they worked for me and made me think in a completely different way about the depth of the human mind and our abilities to cope with any impediment.”
The last word goes to Nigerian poet Ben Okri: “The most authentic thing about us is our capacity to create, to overcome, to endure, to transform, to love and to be greater than our suffering.”*The Road Less Travelled, (M. Scott Peck), Long Walk to Freedom (Nelson Mandela) and The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry (Rachel Joyce)