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Cowardice:You Only Get To Do It Once

by John Dillon


‘Over the top! Over the top, I say!

Stop quaking in yer boots in utter fear.’

‘But Sarge, I want to live another day.

I wasn’t born to spill my guts out here.’


‘Come on laddie, pull yerself together.

Up-and-at-’em! It cannot be a rout.

You know the charge for them as cringe and dither:

Against a wall for you, without a doubt!’


‘But Sarge, my wife and children are at home.

They’ll grieve when I am gone. This is insane!

How will they live when they are left alone?

If not for me, for them let me remain.


One life we have. That’s all I’ve got to give.

You know this is the end. Please let me live…’


Listen to the music. Look at the art, the sculpture, the plays and films. It is they that hold ‘the mirror up to nature’, not the crumbling god-ridden manuscripts of bygone ages. Artists throughout history, from cave painters to rock stars, say to us: ‘Look at the world around you. What do you see? What do you feel? Yes, everything that matters. Everything that you want to hold onto but you know you’ll have to relinquish all too soon.’ To kings and queens and paupers alike they say: ‘Here it is. Life. Don’t you see? Don’t you treasure it?’ You ask, why do I feel this so intensely? Because I’m alive. Now. I know there is no afterlife. No seat in heaven provided by a mythical god. There is only this life, and ‘You only get to do it once’:

[ED: On the other hand:

“A coward dies a thousand times before his death, but the valiant taste of death but once. It seems to me most strange that men should fear, seeing that death, a necessary end, will come when it will come.”

Oh, well, that is Shakespeare for you – said it all before.]

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