Desert Lessons

From the conclusion of Part 3 of Tracks: A Woman’s Solo Trek Across 1,700 Miles of Australian Outback by Robyn Davidson:

Those days were like a crystallization of all that had been good in the trip. It was as close to perfection as I could ever hope to come. I reviewed what I had learnt. … I had learnt what love was. That love wanted the best possible for those you cared for even if that excluded yourself. That before, I had wanted to possess people without loving them, and now I could love them and wish them the best without needing them. I had understood freedom and security. The need to rattle the foundations of habit. That to be free needs constant and unrelenting vigilance over one’s weaknesses. A vigilance which requires a moral energy most of us are incapable of manufacturing. We relax back into the moulds of habit. They are secure, they bind us and keep us contained at the expense of freedom. To break the moulds, to be heedless of the seductions of security is an impossible struggle, but one of the few that count. To be free is to learn, to test yourself constantly, to gamble. It is not safe.

And from the Postscript:

The question I’m most commonly asked is “Why?” A more pertinent question might be, why is it that more people don’t attempt to escape the limitations imposed upon them? If Tracks has a message at all, it is that one can be awake to the demand for obedience that seems natural simply because it is familiar. Wherever there is pressure to conform (one person’s conformity is often in the interests of another person’s power), there is a requirement to resist. Of course I did not mean that people should drop what they were doing and head for the wilder places, certainly not that they should copy what I did. I meant that one can choose adventure in the most ordinary of circumstances. Adventure of the mind, or to use an old-fashioned word, the spirit.

But perhaps most importantly, for someone like me, nothing was as important as freedom. The freedom to make up your own mind, to make yourself. And such aspirations inevitably involved risk, unleashing opportunities for learning, discovering and becoming.

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