Wednesday, December 11, 2019

Fear& Courage - Part of The Timeless Wisdom Series - True stories that reveal the depth of human experience

The Timeless Wisdom series published by Emotional Inheritance in the Australia is an inspiring collection of  "true stories that reveal the depth of human experience." One of the volumes in this series is "Fear & Courage." This book consists of two dozen pithy stories of real world experiences of individuals from a variety of backgrounds and circumstances overcoming fear to demonstrate courage. This compilation is edited by Renee Hollis.

Among the stories I found most interesting and inspiring are the following:

"A Promise Kept" tells the story of a trip to Antarctica and the author's struggle to overcome her hesitation to jump into a Zodiak boat amid choppy seas and a temperature of minus degrees 25 Celsius. I was impressed with the author's courage to try new and challenging adventures at the age of 65.

Outliving the Cat" tells the story of the author's father who seemed to have as many lives as a cat. He survived being hit by a driver who had fallen asleep at the wheel, being a passenger in a plane that was bombed on the tarmac, surviving angry Tamil mobs in Colombo, Sri Lanka, surviving polio, multiple heart operations and two strokes. Despite all of these myriad challenges, he managed to maintain the courage to keep going and to convey a positive attitude, even when his advanced age landed him an a nursing home.

A Day at the Beach" is a fascinating description of how a women overcome fear and shame to follow her husband's lead in joining a group of nudist friends for a day at the beach. Her journey from outright refusal to willingness to explore and finally to relax and enjoy the new experience is inspiring.

I look forward to reading the next book in this series:"Human Kindness."


"The Water Dancer" by Ta-Nehisi Coates - A Mystical Look at the Underground Railroad

Having already conquered the world of non-fiction, Ta-Nehisi Coates bodly steps into the realm of fiction in this powerful first novel. Young Hiram Walker - known as Hi to his friends - was born into slavery as the bastard son of the plantation owner and his mother, Rose, who was sold shortly after Hi was born. This extraordinary man gradually discovers that he has been blessed with a rare gift of being able to transport himself and those traveling with him. The mystical gift is labelled Conduction, and it makes him a perfect candidate to lead himself and others on journeys to the North as part of the Underground Railroad.

The author seldom uses the term "Slavery," opting instead for "Tasking," and calls those caught up in the nightmare of The Peculiar Institution "The Tasked," Through the eyes  and voice of Hi, the author gives the reader a gut wrenching feel for life on the Walker plantation - the field, the quarters of the Taskers, and the main house. He first becomes aware of his mystical superpower when he nearly drowns when the carriage carrying him and his half brother, Maynard, careens off of a bridge into the cold waters of the Goose River. Nearly drowned, he sees an eerie blue light and finds himself awash on the river bank, not knowing what just happened to him. Maynard's body is never found. Mr. Walker has lost the heir to his cotton plantation.

Hi and his friend, Sophia, attempt to flee the Walker plantation,  but are apprehended by slave catchers. They both endure dire punishments, but eventually Hi is surprised to find himself sent to live at the home of Maynard's former fiancee, Corrine Quinn. Masquerading as a typical Southern belle, Corrine is an important part of the Underground Railroad. She and her team train Hi to be a conductor, and he eventually makes his way to join the Underground station in Philadelphia. He experiences the dramatic contrast between life as the Tasked and life as a Freeman in the North. He longs to return south to Virginia to rescue Sophia and others for whom he has a special place in his heart. Harriet Tubman - Moses - is a strong guide and influence in Hi's development as a Conductor and as a man.

In addition to being a vivid and mystical examination of slavery, "The Water Dancer" is very much a coming of age journey - for Hi and for Sophia. They struggle mightily to find their place in several worlds, and to find their purpose. They refuse to be defined by their status as The Tasked, but long to establish their own identity as a free man and free woman. Coates' writing here has a cinematic quality that allows the reader to fully engage with the action and feelings of the characters,