Published in its first English edition in 1952 and translated into our language in 1968, more or less when I read it for the first time, it has just been republished, with a prologue by Diego Sánchez Meca, The courage to be (Avarigani), by the German Protestant theologian Paul Tillich (Starzeddel, 1886-Chicago, 1965). It is rare, and more so today, that a philosophy book survives more than half a century and, above all, as it is the case, if it is written clearly, but at the antipode of this kind of needy self-help, which banalizes everything. Written shortly after the end of World War II, whose horrors depressed any glimmer of hope, the core of Tillich's reflection is an ethical and ontological commitment to the value of the human being as such, or if you will, about its validity.
The Castilian term "courage" etymologically derived, apparently, from French, but both from Latin cos-cordis, which means "heart". Courage, however, has a particular nuance that, according to and how, in our language can also mean "brute physical strength" or a "bellicose character", but also, giving a return to the grammar, as Tillich does, to translate freely as "encouragement", in which case the "courage to be" would be how to keep the spirit alive before being, living and responding ethically to what is presented to us in these avatars, marked by the contingencies of our mortal nature.
From the ancient Greeks to the twentieth century, Tillich's formidable synthesis is the tight synthesis he makes of the subject, not only from the philosophical and theological point of view, but through the sciences that stand out in our time, such as psychology, sociology and anthropology. The truth is that in that synoptic picture of Tillich seems to fit everything, regardless of the very varied beliefs and ideologies that have professed about it historically.
There is a distinction that perhaps concerns us more: that of placing that responsible courage in being "part" of the community or being "individual", with the corresponding threats of the "gregarious" or the "reified". In this sense of the virtual alienation that can flourish in any ideal project, I remember the impact that has already produced, in my first reading of his work, the definition of "neurosis", as one who "tries to avoid non-being, nothing, avoiding being. "
Then and now I am impressed by this interpretation of Paul Tillich, not only because of its clinical precision, but because surreptitiously that irresponsible behavior concerns – and in what way! – the current individual and society. We have too many examples nearby to confront here its tedious symptomatology, but the progressive transfer of our faculties to the machines, or the irresponsible evasion about the reversible nature of life, not only can make us lose sight of the fact that this is a gift, but of the role that each one of us must play in his brief course, no matter what happens. Because it always happens, basically, the same, but never in the same way.
Although I do not share religious faith with Paul Tillich, there is something exciting for me in one of the final epigraphs of his essay, entitled The fate and courage to accept acceptance. It is, as I see it, the best definition of the virtue of humility (a term that comes from the Latin humus, which means land, that is, that the humble one is the one who accepts returning to the earth), because without this final dispossession of the human being, there would be no courage worthy.