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Chapter 5: In the Dark

Miqdadiyah to Jalawla, Iraq. April 8

...continuing from chapter 4...

If not before, this is the part of the story where I can hear many readers scream at me, particularly family and caring, worrying friends.

Don't go!

It is folly!

You have nothing to prove!

Or, perhaps the hardest one to object:

Don't do this to us!

The voices, real or imaginary that discouraged me from continuing on the bicycle were all full of fears, and they were voices of people I know and love. Weighing against them were a series of clues that carried no emotions: the checkpoints.

At every checkpoint passed during the day, I had stated my information and intention, and every time the biggest concerns shown to my safety regarded water, food and navigation. Both from my own experiences and those from other travelers, I have come to know the checkpoint security to be overly protective, sometimes preventing you to go to where there is no conceivable risk. There had been no known attack in the area in about two years time. It made no sense to me that they would let me pass without a word of caution if there was, in fact, risk of danger.

Alone on a bicycle, there is much time to think. When weighing the ifs and the buts, I thought of a scene from "Inception". Mal, the deceased wife of protagonist Cobb, begs her husband to stay with her. Of course, it is not her in the flesh, it is only Cobb's mental projection of her, his living memories of a dead partner. They are in a dream, and she tries to convince him to remain in the dream with her, rather than to face reality alone.

You keep telling yourself what you know. But what do you believe? What do you feel?

I am the first to admit that I was afraid. Fear is highly contagious and our desire to belong welcomes fear when it come from others, especially fear for the unknown. The sense of safety within a community becomes stronger when danger is perceived from without it. A part of me wanted to be afraid, urging that the sane, sympathetic and perhaps even ethical choice would be to give in to the collective fear, to not stand alone.

But a stronger voice still could not accept fear as a governing force. It was yet again my own voice, who had made a decision at a moment of stability.

Thank you, but no, thank you. Your offer is tempting, but my path has been chosen. Factfulnews over fearfulness. Forward in fear. That is my way.

My choices have many times been questioned and judged. Similarly have I insensitively disregarded the worries of others. I see it as my purpose, my strive, not to ignore the fears but to illuminate them, mine and others. To recognise the fears, to appreciate them for what they are and their owners for what they feel. It is only then we can face the fears, overcome them, and grow from them. It is a huge privilege to be able to do this, and it is my intention to honour that privilege.

And so, as darkness fell over a road with no streetlights and a land with no settlement in sight, I pressed on.


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