Saturday, December 03, 2005


I know ancient mountains and beaches first hand. I am familiar enough with rolling hills and the rich flat land of alluvial river deltas to take them for granted. I even get bored with the lush and fertile landscape in which I've been planted The desert I don't know, except that it's someplace I need to go. I have images of deserts from movies and books, photographs of rippled sand, cactus, rock structures that confirm my belief in a great, divine Creator. Buried somewhere I have facts about rainfall and temperatures.

All of this is overshadowed by the experience of a friend. My friend was raised a Southern Baptist in a small southern town. He grew up to be an engineer, grounded in the technicalities and realities of his field. His spiritual life existed in some small, neglected area of self but he maintained the nominal categorization of Christian. A job took him to Israel, and he lived in the Gaza Strip. He became used to wearing a Uzi at the same time he wore a baby sling and pushed a stroller while walking with his family. One of his pleasures was his solo exploration of the desert. It was there that he rediscovered the spark of the Divine that lives within us all, and how he found it was by discovering the barrenness and austerity of the world. In the desert, he found no outer nourishment for either body or spirit. He knew he was alone in this world, he respected his smallness and vulnerability, and in the severity of that landscape, he found the numinous. In one of the most interesting spiritual quests I've ever seen, my friend became a devout Orthodox Jew.

His journey and mine couldn't be more different, except our paths revealed themselves in the midst of a stark, arid clime. His was tangible, and mine was not, but it was in lack that the plenitude of our lives came to be known.

The topic of desert was suggested by Jodi.


Blogger Tina said...

This is an interesting entry. I can understand your friend's feelings about the desert. In that stark, barren place, there are no natural distractions between you and God. It is just the two of you ... and quiet enough to have a conversation. Tina

December 04, 2005 2:47 AM  
Blogger Gannet Girl said...

This is an incredible set of pieces. I've skimmed over them and now I'm going to read backwards very slowly, savoring every phrase.

I've visited the American southwest a couple of times, and could never reconcile the lushnesss of the Sonoran desert with the descriptions in the Bible. But as I've come to know my Orthdocox students and their passion for Israel, I have learned that the desert there is a completely different animal than what we call desert here. Your friend's path is quite understandable, as is much of Jewish scripture, in that light.

December 04, 2005 11:03 AM  
Blogger Gabreael said...

I wanted to let you know the 1st Edition of the Moved J-Landers are out. I have posted them in my sidebar along with directions on how to download them if you desire to add them to your links.


December 04, 2005 12:49 PM  

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