"Begin, be bold, and venture to be wise." ~Horace
I received this quote in an email from a friend today. She wanted to know what I thought it meant. I happen to prize my ability to analyze cryptic, antiquated phrases of wisdom, so I took a stab at it and sent it back to her.
By my interpretation, Horace, who served in the Roman army before becoming well known for his lyric poetry, probably uttered this phrase in reference to battle. One might reconsider the idea of running at another man, full throttle, spear in hand, shield at the ready, if one took a moment to mull it over first. But, without soldiers who are willing to act bravely without regard for the potential consequences, advances in military strategy would never be made, and larger, stronger armies would be guaranteed the win time after time. That is not to say that one should act with little or no consideration for consequences in every situation, and I am pretty sure that is not what Horace was saying. The idea is more or less that when one is unsure about taking an action, the better move is not to shy away, but to move forward boldly and reap the benefits of greater wisdom, for better or for worse, on the other side.
And by that token, I took a high definition video camera (which does not belong to me) up a ropes course.
On my television show, we like to feature the unusual and really get a kick out of putting ourselves in awkward and some times mildly dangerous situations. In the past, I have been a mermaid, gone swimming with manatees, helped to build a house out of a shipping crate and flown a tiny, single-engine airplane on a windy afternoon. (The wisdom I gleaned from that experience had more to do with Dramamine than anything else...) For this particular adventure, my co-host and I would be climbing a thirty-six foot ropes course recently erected at the Museum of Science and Industry in Tampa.
The course itself was only a little bit daunting. Plus, we were wearing harnesses, so should a rope give way, we need only hope the harness wouldn't do the same. We scaled the structure and proceeded to dangle high above the concrete slab below with considerable ease. Aside from the sweat dribbling down my forehead and into my eyes, the conditions were acceptable. Hot but dry. Jerome's only complaint was rope burns.
We descended and our producer presented me with a request - since I was already dressed for the occassion, wearing closed-toed shoes and perspiring profusely, would I mind being the one to take the camera back up for some close-ups?
Consideration might have stalled me. Boldness compelled me forward. The course attendant wound my harness through the camera strap, and I was back on my way up the structure, clutching my mechanical ward as if my life depended on it. And it did. Because if I dropped it, my life insurance policy would be required to cover the cost.
I followed Jerome through the maze of ropes and platforms like a running back en route to score. I dodged enthusiastic children, the camera tucked under my arm as securely as I could make it, sweating anew, not from heat but from fear. I directed him where to step and when...where to cross and how many times...when to climb and when to stand...all the while endeavoring to adjust my harness, control the camera and not fall 36 feet to my inevitable broken collarbone or worse, broken lens.
When my feet finally touched the ground again and I was able to relinquish my charge to Lisa, I had an epiphany. While I was suspended in the air with the camera, I could think of nothing but the task at hand. I was not considering what I would eat for dinner. I was not thinking about shoes or coffee or my latest personal dramas. I was thinking about shooting good video and not tumbling off a rope or riser. My focus was laser-sharp, and my mind was fully committed. I was as much a machine as the camera in my arms.
After some lengthy follow-up consideration, I have come to the conclusion that my experience exemplifies Horace's aforementioned principle. I acted out of duty, bold in the face of possible disaster, and what I took away was a greater understanding of my own capacity to succeed under pressure. Several past examples of this same conclusion have risen to memory since my time on the ropes concluded. My history contains many a super-hero moment in the face of intense stress, and I am thankful to find my impulsive response to fear is valor and unilateral commitment to a task. My greater wisdom is that of my character - and a better appreciation for what I'm made of.
Now, this conclusion is not compelling me to jump out of an airplane, swim with Great White Sharks or take off all my clothes in a public place, but it does make me feel much better about my chances against a burgular or a rabid raccoon.
And, if my interpretation of Horace's immortal words is off base and all of this analysis turns out to be a waste of valuable brain space and energy, by golley, at least I didn't drop that camera.