Where does courage begin?
How to know when an endeavor is worthy.
The Fulcrum of Courage, Part 2
Gerbert of Aurillac lived during the 10th century, when hardly anyone could read. Monks copied books by hand. Every monastery had its own spellings, and some used different alphabets.
Western Europe was in turmoil. King Lothair of France had an ongoing power struggle with the kings of Germany. The Roman Empire was split in two, and there were numerous breakaway states in Southern Italy.
There were no democracies or republics. Bishops were usually installed by monarchs, emperors ruled over kings, and most of Spain was ruled by Arabs.
Europeans were still using Roman numerals. They regarded Arabs as dangerous mystics, even though Arabs were more scientifically advanced.
Then, as now, a wildflower grew in the Italian countryside. Its name, borage, means “tuft of wool.” The blossoms are small, fuzzy, and have five purple-blue petals.
Borage was a common ingredient in tonics and poultices. Knowledge of its properties had been handed down by herbalists and philosophers for over 1000 years. It was cultivated throughout Europe and the Middle East for its medicinal value.
The flowers taste like cucumber. They were eaten in salads, added to syrup, and infused into wine.
Borage symbolized courage because of its euphoric effects.
Borage tea was used to boost morale in battles and competitions, as an anti-depressant, and to prepare men for marriage proposals.
Gerbert was born during the summer of 946 in the French Alps.
At the age of 17, he entered the monastery of St. Gerald of Aurillac near the town of Bellac in France. He studied mathematics and learned to copy books by hand. He also cultivated borage, tried wine, and played games of chance with his friends.
As a young monk, Gerbert was eager to learn from Bishops and Judges whose manner and attire resembled Arabs. Their knowledge of mathematics and astronomy enthralled him, and he often spoke of it.
In 967, the Count of Barcelona visited the monastery in Aurillac and noticed Gerbert’s fascination with Arab science.
Barcelona was under Arab rule. It was less than a day’s journey by horseback from a monastery in Catalonia.
This was a rare educational opportunity for Gerbert. With the Abbot’s permission, the Count took him there to study Arab knowledge.
At age 23, on the northern edge of Arab civilization, Gerbert learned their numerals.
The numbers 1 through 9 (rather than I through IX) can be organized into columns, making them easier to use for multiplying and dividing than Roman numerals.
Europeans mostly believed the Arab world was filled with dark spirits and evil wizards.
Gerbert revered Arab mathematicians for the practicality of their numerals.
He realized that Arab numerals would benefit Europeans, too. He decided to become a tutor. Teaching them would be a worthy endeavor.
Yet his reverence for Arabs led many to believe he was a sorcerer.
Next: How do people distort courage? When narratives mislead the masses.
Subscribe for free!