A Scene from My Mind: Strength

Sometimes to amuse myself I develop stories in my mind. Many times they consist of a single scene, short conversation, or simple event. They are influenced strongly by whatever I happen to be reading at the time. I rarely type them out. On most occasions they come and go quickly, but every once in a while a story or set of characters will stick with me.

Setting: A mid-summer evening in a garden. Four persons, two young and two old, sit around a small table on a patio. We join the conversation in progress.

Darby: I fail to see how strength can be measured.
Adelaide: Certainly it must involve fortitude.
Mr Smythe: Fortitude? I’d prefer to think of control. The ability to control and be in control is the essence of strength.
Darby: Do you imply that it is impossible to be strong in a situation where one lacks control?
Mr Smythe: Naturally. Without control one is weak, simply a pawn to be moved by one who is stronger.
Adelaide: But what of things no person can control? Is it not more reasonable to view strength as a response to adversity—say fortitude—than the ability to control a situation?
Mrs. Smythe: Strength is exaggerated.
Darby: Why do you say that?
Mrs Smythe: No one is truly strong. At times we are all capable of appearing strong, but it is a temporary illusion. At some point we realize how weak we are.
Mr Smythe: Only someone inclined to be weak would say such a thing!
Adelaide: It is fitting to remember that forces stronger than all of us abound. Consider a person being devastated by illness. While the body weakens the spirit remains steadfast. Is this person then weak or strong?
Mr Smythe: Weak. Most definitely weak.
Darby: I disagree.
Adelaide: As do I.
Mr Smythe: How can a physically weak person be strong?
Mrs Smythe: Only a person inclined to be weak would say such a thing.
Darby: What of the importance of appearance? If I publicly face adversity with fearlessness and grace, yet retreat to solitude to tremble and agonize in uncertainty, am I then strong?
Mr Smythe: The strong do not tremble.
Mrs Smythe: If you were attempting humor, you have succeeded.
Mr Smythe: Humor? I speak in earnest.
Mrs Smythe: Pity, I feared as much. Only dead men fail to tremble.
Adelaide: It would seem the critical question is then, is strength as much appearance as action?
Darby: Exactly. That is why I first stated strength cannot be measured. Strength contains so many aspects, so many subtleties, that we cannot begin to quantify it. Appearance and action are both part of the whole.
Mrs Smythe: Many who assume themselves to be strong are far from it. It takes more than a loud voice, stubbornness, and a misguided sense of control.
Mr Smythe: Are you mocking me?
Mrs Smythe: Only because I believe you are strong enough to handle it, dear.


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