Those who lived between two languages or moved between two cultures know well the difficulty of translating definitions. What you view as a duty may be surprising to others and what you think is a vice may be something normal to others or perhaps even desirable.
I remember Eugene’s cold weather and I can still recall its people’s kindness to this day. Eugene is a tranquil city northwest of the US. I remember its rains and the cold winter nights, and how its kind people were amazed to meet an Arab who had come from the faraway Najd and how they complained of rain and waited for the sun as if they are enjoying the news of the rise in stock prices so those who sold stocks make quick profit.
It was a casual chat on Sunday evening with a man in his 50s and whom features I remember well till now. He was surprised by the concept of off-roading at the time, i.e. when youths in the Gulf and specifically in Saudi Arabia ride their vehicles on high sand dunes. He thought this was reckless and crazy, and he was upset that this act was linked to bravery. I agreed with him and I tried to explain to him the idea of bravery in Arab culture. I was consciously – or perhaps unconsciously – trying to unblemish courage from the thoughtless act of heading towards absurd danger. I remember the conversation well because he’d stop me after each sentence and try to give an example so he understands better.
It’s as if he was using the example of the Arab poetry verse: “Opinion comes before the bravery of the braves”.
I was and I still do want to complete this conversation. It’s very painful to remember a conversation you haven’t finished, and what’s more painful is to miss dialogue with a stranger for almost two decades. He mixed up between the absence of fear and bravery, and all I wanted to tell my strange pal in the faraway land was that these are two very different things: the absence of fear is like constant fear, both are very dangerous. You see this absence of fear in mobs, madmen and extremely dangerous people, like those in prisons across the world serving sentences longer than it’s been since our conversation.
Running after bravery
The bravery that comes at 3:00 a.m., or a spontaneous bravery of the moment against the river and waves, or bravery of the free soul who does not think twice when he sees or hears an appeal for help is true bravery, my friend.Turki Aldakhil