David Amerland
Bravery and duty and how the two come together


There is a mission in the popular video game Call of Duty where the player, as a Russian conscript, must help capture and defend an apartment building from waves of German attackers until reinforcements arrive. The squad leader in this mission is named Sergeant Pavlov. Also, the multiplayer version contains a map of Pavlov's House.

Pavlov, his house and the tale of four defenders (initially) holding an apartment building against all-out assaults by the German army is something that’s been poured over again and again as army psychologists, war aficionados and army military planners try to understand the most ineffable of things: the motivation of men who have to take action in the face of certain death.

Overcoming fear is always part of a structured process but what happens inside us when things happen suddenly? Why do some of us “freeze up” and “chicken out” and others seize the moment and lunge forward delivering performances to match Pavlov’s and his tiny group of men?

Real-time studies of moments that demand courage show that there are two components to fear: one is cognitive and the other visceral and psychosomatic. And until they are in alignment our behavior is not easily predicted by the degree of fear we face no matter what we say ourselves.

Bravery, of course, takes many forms and it has to start with belief in the first place. The elements that emerge that make it possible however are counterintuitive: Kindness, empathy, self-care. We are learning that culturally we can instill more bravery by being open and inclusive.

In “The Sniper Mind” as I looked at the amazing physical and mental performances of lone individuals against incredible odds there was no shortage of tales of bravery and snipers, of course, train themselves to be caring and empathetic, thoughtful and analytic. They push against the boundaries of their physical, mental and emotional restrictions and try to evolve in the best possible form of themselves.

Bravery, of course, takes many different shapes. Fortitude in the face of overwhelming personal difficulties is just another form of bravery and courage has specific attributes.

People exhibit bravery in the most horrific of circumstances. And there are brave people in the world always.

What makes this world so amazing is not its science or nature or the things we discover about it all the time that only show us just how little we know. What makes it amazing and what makes life worth living is the fact that, in each other, we discover the capacity to rise to such extraordinarily high levels of performance that life itself becomes incredibly valuable; an adventure that has to be lived in order to be experienced.

I trust, today, you did what was required of you. The coffee pot is full of freshly brewed coffee and the stack of donuts, croissants, cookies and chocolate cake is making this day feel special. Have an awesome Sunday wherever you are.

© 2019 David Amerland. All rights reserved