We are not good at doing nothing. We have difficulty being still for more than a few breaths. The desert landscape is at one and the same time inviting and terrifying. To enter into the desert is to leave behind comforts to embrace uncertainty. Yet the journey into and through the desert is not just a story repeated in scripture, but one repeated through the ages by those who have sought a pilgrimage to find meaning, and to make sense of the chaos and insanity of the city! The romance and mystery of the desert might have something to do with the total and inescapable otherness of such a place. Jean Baudrillard describes the American desert of the Southwest as being necessary religious reminders to a society whose cities have become urban wastelands. Desert pilgrims walked toward the center , desert absolu, yet it was at the same time a more important walk to the very center of themselves. Jesus’ time in the desert/wilderness was a journey into silence in which he found The Word, a journey into the center to find his own new center from which he moved onward with purpose and passion. Where is the desert for you? Where can you find a silence from which The Word speaks? Ponder the words of the Chicago poet, Eunice Tietjens (1884-1944).
There is a beauty in aridity
More primal than the beauty of the lush.
A thought too easy is fertility;
Too soft the valleys, like a maiden’s blush.
Give me the rock-bound desert – scrub and sage
Tawny and bleak and wildly beautiful,
Sharp hills pared to the granite bone by age,
And blue cloud-shadows drifting slow and cool.
For this way surely looked the ancient earth,
Lashed by such storms and bitten by such winds,
Before life clambered upward birth by birth
To breathe the thin crisp air this upland finds.
And something rises in me, old and free,
To meet the freedom of this dusty sea.
You walked, O Lord
from noise to silence,
from plenty to scarcity,
from comfort to uncertainty.
Walking, soon to be still,
and in the silence to hear anew.
Today help me to walk,
not outward to count steps,
but inward to encounter meaning.
Today help me to be silent,
and from the silence
speak the language
my soul understands.
With purpose and passion
enable me to walk on.