"Is it better to be a live coward or a dead hero?"
Is it better to live as a coward or have died as a hero?
Cowardice is easy. Just do nothing, or avoid issues, or run away from unpleasant things. Being heroic is demensional [I think]. Standing for some thing or some one, dealing with unpleasantness or uncomfortable issues, not avoiding.
I don't think a person is heroic intentionally. It has to do with ethical foundation, perhaps. How is a person predisposed [for lack of a better word] or conditioned [again, for lack of a better word] to act?
In any event the external perception of cowardice or heroism is far from the internal. I think it entirely probable a person can occasionally feel the coward in every day life but those observing would see an average person [I wonder what an 'average person' might be].
From a military view point I know the act of throwing one's body on a gernade to save others is not a considered act. It is a spontaneous act of selflessness. Is it heroic?
I have a motion picture that occasionally plays in my mind that is of Jews running to a pit to be shot by Nazi SS. I see people running to their deaths. I try to immagine what I would do. Would I simply run to the inevitable or would I strike out? I don't know.
Is running to the pit an act of cowardice or heroism, I mean, it takes incredible courage to face obvious and immediate death.
It is not always possible to stand and fight the apparently heroic fight.
In death there is no cowardice; there is but death. It is in the musings of the living, values are ascribed. In death there is no heroism, there is but the stuff of legend passed on by word of mouth, or scribed citation.
In my mind it is better to stand for some thing than to fall for nothing. I do not think cowardice can hide from the inevitable nor do I think heroism can, of itself, overcome all.
So I guess, for me, it is better to try to stand - and that is not to assert I am not a coward, for I do not know.
But between my ears, I question stuff and how I act or have acted, and wonder.
"Thus conscience does make cowards of us all..."
As in Hamlet: Act 3, Scene 1
Hamlet: To be, or not to be: that is the question:
Whether 'tis nobler in the mind to suffer
The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune,
Or to take arms against a sea of troubles,
And by opposing end them? To die: to sleep;
No more; and by a sleep to say we end
The heart-ache and the thousand natural shocks
That flesh is heir to, 'tis a consummation
Devoutly to be wish'd. To die, to sleep;
To sleep: perchance to dream: ay, there's the rub;
For in that sleep of death what dreams may come
When we have shuffled off this mortal coil,
Must give us pause: there's the respect
That makes calamity of so long life;
For who would bear the whips and scorns of time,
The oppressor's wrong, the proud man's contumely,
The pangs of despised love, the law's delay,
The insolence of office and the spurns
That patient merit of the unworthy takes,
When he himself might his quietus make
With a bare bodkin? who would fardels bear,
To grunt and sweat under a weary life,
But that the dread of something after death,
The undiscover'd country from whose bourn
No traveller returns, puzzles the will
And makes us rather bear those ills we have
Than fly to others that we know not of?
Thus conscience does make cowards of us all;
And thus the native hue of resolution
Is sicklied o'er with the pale cast of thought,
And enterprises of great pith and moment
With this regard their currents turn awry,
And lose the name of action.
Amazing bit of writing, and of some use in considering the pith of the original question, perhaps.
Too long... Sorry.