Courage – a search for change, the shaping of a character trait or perhaps a virtue? This was the theme of this year’s student conference at the Goetheanum, where 650 students had the chance to engage with the topic in a variety of ways and thus take impulses with them in order to increasingly find this human quality within themselves and make it visible in the world. In the many encounters, but also in the attention of the participants during the contributions, an authentic search for it could be witnessed.
Often we associate courage with fear, anxiety or even the opposite, with overconfidence. Almost always, however, we talk about courage in the context of a certain situation, in connection with things that sometimes even “urge” us to deal with them. The world today needs change. We need “courage to…”, “courage about…”, “courage for…”. We can say that we awaken through the fact that we feel confronted with circumstances that we do not think are right. These situations become a gateway to the search for personal possibilities to transform them.
Of course, we can ask ourselves what is the source of courage. This question would give indications on how we can find this source and draw from it in situations where we need courage. As young people today, we certainly feel confronted every day with situations – in our personal environment but also on the social level – with which we cannot identify ourselves, which we cannot represent but also which we want to change.
Through the questions, statements and attitudes of the participants at the student conference it was possible to sense their vivid experience of this reality directly. Powerlessness or fear can thus be direct reactions, in the best case together with the intuition that a force is present in us which can bring about something in the direction of change. This leads directly to the question of courage. But what is it that tells us that the situation we are looking at is not right? That something should be fundamentally changed?
Perhaps this is a natural search for the good that lies within each of us. We want the world to be good, we want everything to take place in the sense of man and nature, to re-establish a harmonious state of it. We access something that is in our hearts – the human search for the good. Thus courage becomes a virtue, says Aristotle, “no more and no less than that”. We become courageous when we have the good in sight, when we want the good to be more and more present in the world. And then we act “courageously” because it is part of it, because awakening to the challenges requires us to act in the sense of the good.
In this sense, we can say that courage is a path, a path to the realisation of the good, and every challenge we are faced with is a possibility, a gate, to be able to walk this path, in the practice of courage. In order to be able to walk this path, we still need an important companion, a quality without which fear, recklessness or powerlessness can enter – that is hope. We need to hope that it will be good, that the courageous actions will be efficient everywhere in the world and contribute to the transformation. So in Schiller’s sense: “Who dares nothing, he must hope nothing”.