The Definition of Courage

Courage is almost a contradiction in terms. It means a strong desire to live taking the form of a readiness to die. “He that will lose his life, the same shall save it” is not a piece of mysticism for saints and heroes. It is a piece of everyday advice for sailors or mountaineers. It might be printed in an Alpine guide or a drill book. The paradox is the whole principle of courage; even of quite earthly or quite 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 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.

–G. K. Chesterton

The Literary 10 – Number 4

4. Waking the Dead

And now we come to the first of the books by John Eldredge. I think the best way to open, then, is to tell you how I discovered Mr. Eldredge and Ransomed Heart Ministries.

In 2010, I was at the midnight launch for Halo Reach with my brother and a mutual friend. This mutual friend at the time was delivering pizzas to make some extra cash to pay down his debts and he brought a couple of pies for us to enjoy while we waited for midnight.

After we were done eating, we headed for Wal-Mart to quench our thirst. As we crossed the parking lot we started talking about paying off credit cards and reducing debt. My friend is a fan of Dave Ramsey and as he talked about his own journey to be free from debt, I was inspired. I made plans to attend Dave’s live event coming to town and I started listening to his radio show.

While listening that week, Dave had on two different callers. Both were men and while both were having money troubles, their problems ended up being more about their relationships with their wives. Dave is not one to suffer fools gladly as any listener will tell you, and he told these men to get a book by John Eldredge.

That’s not this book. Stay tuned for that.

Waking the Dead is the third book I’ve read by Mr. Eldredge. It’s a call for Christians to recover their hearts and to truly embrace life.

This book outlines four steps that Mr. Eldredge calls the Four Streams. These are counseling, discipleship, healing, and warfare. Though they are presented separately, they are meant to flow together for the benefit of God’s children.

Beyond that, the book features the debut of the Daily Prayer. I pray this most mornings and depending how I feel, it takes 15-20 minutes. It’s a powerful tool for asserting spiritual authority, banishing those things coming against you and just getting your day off on the right foot.

If I were running a church’s discipleship program, this is the first book I’d have congregants read. It’s just a solid foundation for the Christian life.

The Literary 10 – Number 5

5. The Writer’s Guide

Many ages ago, I was in elementary school. And in elementary school, we had every so often a catalog we could order books from. Well, one year, and with an eye towards a career of writing, I ordered Sue Bennett’s The Writer’s Guide.

It’s a short book, but it covered every. Thing. News writing. Fiction writing. How to create characters, including how to create the best villains. It’s where I first heard about K.I.S.S. and where I had my first taste of how to go about doing a screenplay.

I think it’s still in a box somewhere in my parents’ garage. I’ll have to see if I can dig it up.

The Literary 10 – Number 6

6. Writing on Both Sides of the Brain

In Shakespeare’s The Tempest, there are two characters named Caliban and Ariel. Ariel represents unfettered freedom, whimsy, and flight, while Caliban symbolizes control and rigidity.

It’s these two characters that Henriettte Anne Klauser invokes in this book to represent the right and left brains. Writing on Both Sides of the Brain helped me understand that there’s a time for inspiration to flow and a time to let the inner critic take over.

There’s also a number of techniques introduced here, such as rapid or free writing (where you just cut loose for 10 minutes), separate chairs for ruminating and writing, and branching (think mind mapping).

Overall, just a lot of good things for writers of any stripe. I heartily recommend it.

The Literary 10 – Number 7

CIW Site Designer

7. CIW Site Designer Bible

Ok, so it’s not literary by any means. But this book has been influential on me, seeing as how it launched my career as a web developer.

This book has it all for the aspiring web guru. There’s HTML, CSS, basic page layout concepts and design. You’ll learn how to harness the power of advanced technologies such as Microsoft FrontPage 2000, HomeSite 4.5, and Macromedia Flash 5.0.

All right, so this book is a little old…13 years old. But it provided a solid foundation on which I’ve launched my career.

Just wish it had PHP in it…

The Literary 10 – Number 8

The Gay Science

8. The Gay Science

There was a time when I thought Friedrich Nietzsche was the bee’s knees. I was young and in college, a time when every young man stretches the limits of his imagination and explores vast new horizons.

That was a long time ago.

Yes, this is the tome where Nietzsche wrote the infamous line, “God is dead.” But that’s not the reason I remember this book.

Towards the end of the book (aphorism 341, to be exact), he devises a thought experiment. Suppose a demon crawled into your bedroom one night and told you that you would have to relive your life all over again. Every moment of anguish, every moment of joy. Would you tell that demon to bring it on? Could you? If so, Nietzsche argued that you lived a life worth living.

I know I couldn’t say that to the demon. How about you?

Grace. Wisdom.