Whenever I worry that, for whatever reason, I might fall apart completely, or when I know someone who’s falling apart, I always think of these lines.
You never have real courage until you have lost courage. Lost it abjectly, completely... bolted, crawled. And there is no exhilaration equal to courage regained. That is why it is almost always fatal. How can you top it? And if you haven’t got anything left to top, what are you waiting around for?
Never fight fear head-on. That rot about pulling yourself together, and the harder you pull the worse it gets. Let it in and look at it. What shape is it? What color? Let it wash through you. Move back and hang on. Pretend it isn’t there. Get trivial. And what will they serve at this faculty party? Some lethal acidic punch no doubt, just the thing to bring on my hiatus hernia. A dreary parade of faculty parties and office parties to remind you that acute fear and boredom are incompatible.
There are many ways to distance yourself from fear. Keep silence and let fear talk. You will see it by what it does. Death doesn’t like to be seen that close. Death must always elicit surprised recognition: “You!”
The last person you expected to see, and at the same time, who else?
When De Gaulle, after an unsuccessful machine-gun attack on his car, brushed splintered glass off his shoulder and said, “Encore!,” Death couldn’t touch him. You don’t say, “Oh, You again!” to Death. Death can’t take that.
Francis Macomber and Lord Jim: courage lost. They both bolted. Courage regained: Death.