Almost every epic story or legend has its characters spend some time out in the wilderness. We are stirred by the adventurers’ grit, their torments and feel every tortured step as they make their way across the barren wastes. We feel their hope when the first signs of green land begin to appear, and feel their happiness when we know that they’ve conquered the wastes and come out the other end alive. They are no longer the people who started the journey at the far reach of the desert. They emerge older, wiser and better for it.
There are some things only being in the desert can do.
I believe that one of the reasons the charming tale of Antoine de Saint-Exupéry immortal character, the Little Prince works so well is that the encounter with the pilot, with all those charming conversations, took place when both were in the desert. Insights and observations came from memories rather than what was dead in front of them. They were able to mull over stuff that had been in the brain awhile.
We are richer for having seemingly barren wastes in our lives.
At the risk of straining a metaphor, let me take you to the world’s most famous, the Sahara. The imagery that is evoked is that of endless sandy wastes where nothing thrives. Barren, is the word that comes to mind. Yet, without the Sahara, the Amazon, with its deeps forests teeming with rich and varied life forms, would not exist. The Sahara feeds the Amazon. Every year, massive dustbowls over the Sahara whip up ginormous dusts that are carried over the Atlantic and dropped onto the Amazon basin. These dusts, predictably named mineral dusts, are rich in nutrients, and are the primary reason the Amazon thrives.
Are you in the desert of your life? Are you stuck out there in the wilderness, with no sign of life, or hope that you will ever find your way out? Do things look a little bleak? Are you exposed to the elements, your desires whittled down to only the essentials, to stay alive? If so, count your blessings. Because sometimes, there’s no better place to be. There is a certain kind of deep, introspective thinking that can only happen in the desert. Far from the madding crowd, the mind can look inwards and find insights and treasures invisible in the glare of ordinary day to day living. And the mind, forced to let go of distractions and petty desires, begins to think in a different way. It begins to soar.
And from the barren wastes, riches beyond imagining come to be.