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Interlude: The Stories that Matter

In the "about the writer" section, I wrote the following about my quest From Babylon by Bike:

Why go through all this trouble? ... The truth is, I don't know. ... I believe that, as the journey goes, meaning will find me, and I will find it.

Two weeks have past since the project start, and many insights have been gained about its nature and how it is developing and growing within and without. It is a passionate pursuit and one I am equally thrilled and frightened about. Thrilled for feeling directed and motivated, to be on the move toward something. Frightened about that something, as it is far away, requires hard work over a long time to reach.

To understand any pursuit, any strive, one needs to know the starting point, the end objective and the means to get there. Babylon, Iraq, Sweden and the bicycle are not the answers for my quest, they are merely symbols. Babylon is a symbol of ancient and of epic. Iraq is a symbol of distant, of different and of danger. Sweden is a symbol of home, of similar and of safety. The bicycle is a symbol of raw, dirty and honest work. Again, these are symbols, not truths. It is questionable whether the Hanging Gardens, for instance, were even in Babylon, and it was not there my cycling started anyhow. Iraq is in fact not dangerous at all, and Sweden by no means safer in some aspects. The more I go away, the more I feel like a stranger in my own country. Yet, for what they are, the symbols are useful in my cause.

My true quest is to live and to write stories. Tales that are not merely fleeting distractions in the everflowing, evergrowing ether stream, but stories that stick with you, that you remember and that stand the test of time. That is the vision, the end objective. To hear about the struggles and journeys of others and put them into writing with my words, that is the thrilling part. My starting point is not that of an accomplished author, it is that of a novice writer with big dreams. From Babylon by Bike will not be my Magnum Opus, my masterpiece, my Odyssey - it is merely a beginning of a writing portfolio. You as a reader are following not only my sweaty struggle to cycle from Iraq to Sweden, but also my messy process in my path to become an author. That is the frightening part.

Any story needs four key ingredients: character, conflict, theme and setting. By cycling a long way, slowly seeing the land and connecting with the people in it, I find and directly engage in all of them. Obviously, cycling from Iraq to Sweden helps me experience and thus tell the story that is From Babylon by Bike, but that is not all. It helps channeling my fears of commitment and continuity. I have to fight, day after day, or else I will never come home. Hopefully, throughout this quest I can prove to myself that I can hold on to something. The fantasy of becoming an author suddenly seems more real; just like I can get on the bike and cycle one more day's worth, I can write one more chapter. The long journey is my own metaphor, an outward quest that is an expression of an inner struggle.

In my privileged life, I have never had to fight for survival, for family or for safety. I cannot, and would not, give up my privileges. But I believe that I must move away from their protective bubbles in order to give my gifts to the world - to tell stories that mean something, that touch deeply, that inspire action and ignite hope. That is why I go through all the trouble.

Perhaps this is best put by Samwise Gamgee, who had to face seemingly insurmountable challenges, going into darkness.

By rights we shouldn't even be here. But we are. It's like in the great stories. The ones that really mattered. ... Folk in those stories had lots of chances of turning back only they didn't. They kept going, because they were holding on to something: that there's some good in this world. And it's worth fighting for.

It is worth fighting for.


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