One definition of fortitude is: ‘The quality of mind enabling one to face danger or hardship resolutely.’ As I read more about various people’s definitions and examples, I am becoming convinced that my initial separation of fortitude into ‘physical and mental’ aspects is incorrect and redundant.
A strong and fit body, while obviously a benefit, does not automatically guarantee ‘physical fortitude’, just as intelligence and knowledge does not necessarily confer ‘mental fortitude’. In high school I was a good long-distance runner, very fit, with the potential to be great. However, my lack of fortitude, mainly the inability to push through the pain that is the ‘wall’ that runners talk about, meant that I never posted more than average times.
Eighteen years later, I completed the Music City Half Marathon. 15 of those intervening years I smoked like a chimney and otherwise dragged my body down. There is little chance I will ever be as fit as I was when I was younger, and I’ll certainly never be as fast, but the me of 18 years ago could not (or would not) have jogged 13.1 miles. The difference between then and now? Fortitude. I made a choice, every day for the 5 months I trained, to not do the easy thing. Rain or shine, 1 mile became 2, and 2 become 4. And somewhere, unbelievably, 11 became 13. I told myself over and over I would not quit. Even to this day I smile when I realize I didn’t.
Sure, my story isn’t anything when compared to examples of fortitude above and beyond my comprehension, but at least it helps me to understand. For example, consider Aron Ralston, a mountaineer who amputated one of his arms below the elbow in order to survive, and then proceeded to rappel down the side of a mountain and hike 7 miles until he found help. However, when you look at his resume, such as having climbed 49 of Colorado’s 14,000-foot-plus mountains, as well as being an avid outdoorsman, it leads me to understand that fortitude can be developed by the life we lead.
Most of America works so they can lead the easiest life possible, filled with whatever luxuries they can afford. Where we can, we rely on others to provide us with every want and need. Many expect the government, or our parents, or our spouse, to take care of us, to provide us food, or health care, or housing. I believe that attitude is killing us as individuals, as communities, and as a society.
However, just by being here and taking the first baby steps of preparing, we are taking back that responsibility for our own survival. Self-sufficiency is the medicine to cure us from the toxins of our fast-food convenience store society. I’ve made a choice, and I hope you will too. Every day, let us choose to do something hard, something challenging, something that will work our muscles or our minds. Let us choose to be a different.