Courage by Charles Wagner, 1894

In the face of great danger, you must find the courage to persevere. In this short piece by Charles Wagner, a man is trapped in an avalanche and has lost his life-saving rifle. With nothing else but his hands and eyes as weapons, he manages to struggle on for hours until help arrives.

Black & white photo of Ansel Adams mountains covered with snow.

1894, from Courage Charles Wagner’s contribution

Every guy who does not want to be forced to declare one day, “I have squandered my life,” must possess the attribute of steadfastness.

A man should not alter his mind with every passing thought, but rather stay steady once he has decided on what is right. What good are flowers if they don’t bear fruit, and what good thoughts are if they don’t become deeds? We must promote stability, train ourselves to be consistent, and prepare ourselves against invasion once we are certain that we are correct. Allow yourself to be unaffected by critiques or assaults.

Nothing is more difficult than being loyal. Outside factors are brought to bear on us at every step of the route to cause us to diverge or regress. And it wouldn’t matter as much if the obstacles came just from the outside; but, there are also those that come from inside. Our moods swing back and forth. We make a commitment with the best of intentions, but when it comes time to honor it, everything changes–circumstances, men, ourselves–and what responsibility requires of us seems to be so different from what we had anticipated that we hesitate. Those who will keep a commitment they made on a bright day on a rainy day are few and far between.

So we continue to fling our hearts to the four winds, giving and receiving them, breaking with our history and, in a sense, divorcing ourselves from ourselves. And we don’t recognize ourselves when we look back. We regard ourselves as a stranger, or rather multiple strangers, in the days gone by.

There’s nothing like a dependable guy, one who can be relied on, one who can be found at his station, comes on time, and can be trusted when you need him. He’s a diamond in the rough. You can get your bearings from him since he will always be exactly where he should be. On the other hand, the bulk of people are almost certain to be somewhere other than where they should be. To be fooled, all you have to do is include them in your calculations. Some of them are malleable due to character flaws; they can’t stand up to insults, insinuations, and, most importantly, they can’t stick to a lost cause. In their perspective, a loss proves that their opponent was correct and they were incorrect. Instead of closing ranks when they see their side fall, they defect to the enemy. These are the guys who are always on the winning side, and the bold device: Victrix causa diis placuit, sed victa Catoni, would not be found in their hearts.

The cancer that eats us is fundamental duplicity, a disparity between words and acts, between appearance and truth, a kind of moral dilettantism that makes us genuine or hypocritical, strong or frightened, honest or unscrupulous, depending on the hour. In these circumstances, what moral force may sprout and grow? We must revert to being men with just one principle, one word, one task, and one love; in other words, men with a feeling of responsibility. This is where the power comes from. And without it, all that remains is a phantasm of a man, unstable sand, and a hollow reed that bends with each breath. Be loyal; this is the constant northern star that will lead you through life’s vicissitudes, including doubts, discouragement, and even blunders.




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