The inspiring force
“I was carried beyond myself by the inspiring force of urgent necessity.”
— Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
If you’ve been through anything especially difficult, harrowing or protracted and exhausting, chances are you’ve heard well-meaning people say “I don’t know how you do it” or “I could never do what you are doing.” It’s natural for them to feel that way, but of course, those of us who are enduring great trials or facing seemingly impossible tasks usually do so because we feel we have no other choice.
Sometimes, great and monumental changes are started by people who have no idea where their acts of courage or resistance will lead. Martin Luther wasn’t planning to leave, let alone divide, the Roman Catholic Church when he penned his 95 Theses. Rosa Parks may have simply been too tired and fed up with unequal treatment to move to the back of the bus. I think it’s safe to say that neither of them imagined what would come of their defiance. Nevertheless, their individual actions sparked events that changed the course of human history.
Yet far more often– every day, in fact– people all over the world are similarly carried beyond themselves in ways that are largely unknown and unheeded. Millions of humans struggling with countless challenges somehow manage to keep going beyond what they might have believed they could endure. Some manage tasks that seem almost impossible under stress. Others quietly bear up under years of chronic pain, or take care of loved ones for years on end, or live with the limitations of physical or mental illness, or press on through repeated failures until success is achieved. A few of these stories make the news, and inspire us. But the vast majority of heroes will never be known to us.
What is it that gives us the strength to survive, or even prevail? Based on what I’ve seen, experienced and observed, I think usually it’s simply that we have no other choice. No matter how tired or inadequate we may feel, we carry within us the ability to rise above far more challenges than we dream ourselves capable of overcoming.