Category: Heroes

Building Courage

We talk a lot about building courage at Camp Weequahic. Why? Because we agree with Maya Angelou:

“Courage is the most important of all the virtues, because without courage you can’t practice any other virtue consistently. You can practice any virtue erratically, but nothing consistently without courage.”

Courage is the handle onto which every other value is fashioned and used. It takes courage to be kind in every situation, to practice gratitude when all seems dark, to be generous when you are so concerned about your own day to day needs.  

So, it’s really important! But how do you build courage?

Building Courage

Courage is a perfect example of the ‘binary opposition’ idea I talked about last week. A scene from a recent pretty popular stories explains it perfectly.

Young Bran Stark is speaking with his father who is ‘King of the North’, a fierce warrior, and loving father. They were having a conversation about being brave.

“Bran thought about it. ‘Can a man still be brave if he’s afraid?’

‘That is the only time a man can be brave,’ his father told him.”

A Game of Thrones

Every act of courage has at least a kernel of fear in it. In fact, without fear, you can’t have courage.

Think about getting to camp and making some new friends. That takes courage for most of our campers. Why? Because they are afraid they won’t be accepted. (Thankfully, the campers and staff of Camp Weequahic are courageous enough to open themselves up to welcome all in!)

The neat thing about fear and courage is that they don’t affect each person the same way. We’ve seen kids who scale the 50’ climbing tower with ease have a very hard time overcoming their fear of performing on stage in front of others. We’ve had others who jump up on stage without a care who were petrified of trying to make a new friend.

In each of these cases (and all others), the larger the courage grows, the smaller fear becomes. Like missing home or my desire for Chef’s chocolate chip cookies, fear never really goes away. But, with practice, perseverance and support from those who care about you, courage will begin to swamp those fearful feelings and get you moving in a new direction.

Overcoming Fear

We let it. Two great philosophers had something to say about fear. Lao Tzu wrote the Tao Te Ching in China about 2500 years ago. He thought:

“There is no illusion greater than fear.”

Marcus Aurelius, a Roman emperor and author of the widely read ‘Meditations’ said something similar at about the same time:

“If you are pained by external things, it is not they that disturb you, but your own judgement of them. And it is in your power to wipe out that judgement now.”

Look, sometimes fear is going to win, no matter how hard you try to overcome it. However, rather than thinking that ‘you lost’, think of it as ‘you’ve learned.’

As a parent, I’ve let my fear of failing my boys ‘win’ from time to time. Thankfully, my bride has been there to help me see the experience as a learning opportunity and determine how I’ll handle the same or similar situation next time.

That’s a great way to keep fear from winning: including those who love and support you. In fact, knowing that you are loved will make you courageous better than anything else. That’s why it’s so great to be at camp, surrounded by people who will love and support you through it all.

The Courage/Fear Connection

When building courage, your fears will get smaller. If your fear is bigger than you want it, start practicing your courage.

First, you’ll need to reach out to a loved to help you understand your fear. Then, come up with strategies to work through the fear. Lastly, review how you did and keep the cycle going. Your fear won’t go away but perhaps you can turn it into a friend, something inside that is simply alerting you to an opportunity to do something courageous.

Get out there, Weequahic Hero. Practice your courage in big and little things. It’ll open up whole new vistas you never even knew were there!

Binary Opposition

The body is an amazing thing. To curl your arm from an extended position requires the contraction of one set of muscles and the lengthening of another. A push-pull, if you will.

It’s the same with any movement: throwing a ball, playing a piano, blazing and building in Fortnite or peeling off a sticker. Each movement requires a series of ‘push-pull’ systems in your body. When you sleep, you let these systems rest and find balance.

I raise this idea this to set you up for something bigger, something called ‘binary opposition.’ Simply put, two things exist are linked together but are at odds with one other. When one gets bigger, the other gets smaller. When the two are balanced, things are calm. When they are not, there is stress.

Yin and Yang

The classic visual symbol of ‘binary opposition’ is the yin-yang symbol. The idea is that two things are not only connected but also hold something of the other inside it. The koi pond in Avatar is a nice example of this. Here’s another:

In ‘The Dark Crystal’ there are two opposing groups: one that is thoughtful, wise, and gentle, while the other is angry, greedy, and violent. Between the two are the inhabitants of the land who suffer due to standoff between the two major groups.

(Spoiler alert!)

Turns out these warring factions were actually two parts of the same beings that had been magically splintered. When they are reunited by a selfless hero, the land returns its fruitful ways and peace reigns.

If you’ve been at camp long enough, you’ve heard story of the two wolves around the campfire. It’s a similar idea.  

Push & Pull for Heroes and Camp

Heroes are an interesting combination of binary oppositions: strength and gentleness, courage and fear, creativity and ‘the basics’, adventure and home, and many more. Yes – heroes experience fear all the time. Without it, they couldn’t develop their courage.

Life at camp has similar push-pull experiences. Take, for example, the combination of ‘community’ and ‘individual choice.’ The balance of the two is desperately important. In our opinion, too much structure and you wear each other out. Too much individual choice and you fail to develop connections. At Weequahic, we need to find the balance of this push-pull situation. Same with ‘fun / safety’, ‘new ideas / tradition’ or ‘fruit / chocolate chip cookies.’

There are several binary oppositions I’d like to explore with you over the coming weeks. Specifically, we’ll look at some of the big ones heroes wrestle with and apply them to our own lives. I hope you’ll come along for the ride. Don’t worry – there will be a lot of talk about camp, too!

Have a great week, Weequahic!

PS: I know I mentioned ‘stickers’ up above. If you are looking for a fun holiday gift, check out our favorite sticker maker​. They’ve been fantastic over the years. Their service is top notch and prices very reasonable. Enjoy!

Office and support staff at Camp Weequahic

When Is Fear Fun?

BOO! Did I scare you? No, probably not. Here how about this:

Camp is closed.

How about now? 😉

Halloween is upon us, the annual time for trick-or-treating, spooky decorations, abnormally large penguins (see the picture above) and horror movie revamps.

Here at the Winter Office, we’ve constructed a ‘candy shoot’ that will allow for physically-distanced candy delivery, all masked and gloved up. It’ll be different, sure, but hopefully still fun for the kids.

Enjoying Fear

Why do we ‘enjoy’ fear so much in some moments and not others? Dr. Arash Javanbakht and Dr. Linda Saab do a great job explaining the difference in their article, The Science of Fright.

Basically, it comes down to context. If you are going into a haunted house to get the rush of being scared while knowing it’s all just a game, you like the way your fear makes you feel after the fact. On the other hand, having a mountain lion closely track you because you got too close to its cub will produce fear that you won’t enjoy.

The context is very different between the two situations but so is something else. In the haunted house scenario, you’ve got a sense of control – you can always leave or call out ‘I’m done – let me out.’ The mountain lion won’t listen to you. It’s following its own programming and intent. In other words, you’ve very little control of the situation.

The first can be fun. The second? Not so much.

Real Life Fear

Campers, a lot of your friends and neighbors are feeling fear right now. (And, remember, in the grand scheme of things, we are all neighbors.) We’ve had a hard year, certainly. The uncertainty of the election and the blaring news inputs are overwhelming if you decide to give them your attention.

Just like your attitude, though, you can choose what you listen to, what you read. I cannot control the election. I cannot control COVID. I cannot control every aspect of camp. But…. I can influence things.

Sure, I’ve got more influence over camp than the election. I’ve got more influence how COVID may enter my home than my city. I’ve got more influence on my approach to today than on my boys’ and even less so on yours. So, I focus on what I can control and hope the ripple effect of my actions and attitude influence those around me.

There is one really great thing about fear: it focuses your senses. It demands you live only in the present. It strips everything else away and gets your body ready to see clearly and react quickly. Think about the last time you were really scared: you see more sharply, your breathing rate goes up, and you get a rush of energy.

Your body is ready. It’s the mind that has to be trained.

How Will You Respond?

So, how will you respond to a situation that brings fear into your equation? Will you run from the challenge or face it? Will you cheat on the test or stay honest no matter what? Will join your voice with those making things worse or join those patiently and intentionally being supportive?

We don’t get much of a choice on feeling fear. As the authors indicate, fear is as old as life on Earth. But, as humans, we do get a choice on how to respond. Just as important, as humans, we get to train ourselves by watching others. In fact, fear is contagious. (So is joy and most every other human emotion.)

That’s where courage comes in, in the choice. In feeling the fear and choosing to do what is right anyway.  When you’ve got good role models – like the counselors of Camp Weequahic – you are more likely to choose courage than not. Either way, it’s your choice.

Enjoy a safe, healthy and spooky Halloween, Weequahic!