The more I studied the more I knew. And the more I knew, the more I knew I didn't know (funny how life's ironies seem to accompany the thing we want most). But that didn't quell my determination; rather, it seemed to me that I would discover, through the experience of it all, how to find the best way to this Promised Land. What intrigued me the most was that the records all indicated the presence of a Desert Guide--a benevolent Wanderer sent by God to assist weary travellers in their journey. The prophecies were unfortunately vague and gave no indication at his name or figure--I was thus left only to hope for some Godsent boon if I were indeed to meet such a one as had been spoken.
After years of preparation--both physical, mental, and emotional--and countless hours of diligent study, the dawn of my venturing-forth came (as it is not my intent to focus on my home life, but rather tell the tale of my quest for the pearl, I will spare you the unimportant details). As I rose to the door of our ancestral yurt that morning, I breathed in the scents and emotions of my village life. I would certainly miss the regularity of my childhood, the certainty of shelter and food, and the familiarity and friendship of those whose faces had smiled on my youth. Indeed it would be a perilous journey, each day filled with hardships I could not then comprehend. I would face the unabated brutality of a barren waste, with no respite from wind, sun, and the dangerous creatures of the sands.
Notwithstanding, it was indeed time for me to embark on the journey I knew I was born to take. I gathered my sparse accoutrements (not much more than a traveller's tent, rations, copied portions of the records of the ancients, a knife that belonged to my grandfather's grandfather, and all the hope I could muster), bid my incredulous and reluctant friends and kinsfolk farewell, and set out in search of the treasure I knew with all my heart was waiting for me.
I was on my way.
I must say, the first several days out of the village were only made difficult by the disbelief that crept annoyingly into my mind every few hours. I often thought to myself those first few days, "You know, it isn't too late to turn back now. Remember the stories of the battered ones who returned and flatly denied the existence of this Promised Land? or need I remind you of the tales of the bandits who hide amongst the dunes? Bravery and foolishness are not the same thing, you know!" But every time I thought such things, the glimmer of that blessed pearl seemed to shine before my eyes, the sweet juice of the fruit seemed to run down my parched throat--even the thought of such exquisite treasures swept the doubt out of my mind and renewed my resolve to carry on in my quest.
On the evening of the fourth day, a terrible sandstorm arose. And I mean it was terrible--having lived in the desert for over 20 years, I've seen my share of storms--this one made all the rest seem like a gentle breeze! The dust kicked up so badly that I couldn't walk, let alone open my eyes! I was buffeted and slashed by the merciless sand until my legs and arms began to bleed. I hunkered down in an attempt to protect the little food and water I still had, but it didn't really help. Much to my chagrin, my tent ballooned open and the poles and stakes splintered as the winds whipped them up and over my head into the rocks and the dunes.
In the midst of all of this, I cried unto my Maker, pleading into the howling winds, "O God! Help me please! Hear my cry! I have set out on this perilous journey, in hope of finding the better life Thou hast promised! Please--Thou art a God of mercy. Show mercy on this foolish traveller!" The storm did not immediately abate. I resolved to move forward, keeping low to the ground, collecting my possessions close to my body and praying--pleading--for help. As I crested a larger dune, I spied a light, shining in the distance! It appeared to be a lantern, but its light was so piercing and white, I could hardly believe that that could be the source. As I called toward the light for help, crawling and groping for the way, I felt a surreal sense of peace, like I had never felt before. It seemed to fill my whole body like a wave of light, shielding my soul against the anguish my body was experiencing. I called again to the source of light (and peace); I was answered.
"Come! Follow me!" Was all I heard. The light moved on into the stormy night--I followed. I crawled for what seemed to be an eternity, when finally I reached a narrow canyon--not much more than a giant boulder that had been eroded by time, wind, and sand. Holding the light was a man dressed in white robes, face covered against the elements. As I stammered a broken "thank you", his gaze met mine. Although I could not see his face, his eyes smiled at me in the soft white glow of his lamp. I shall never forget that look--it pierced me, but not with fear. I sensed an incredible love in that look. With not a word, my silent benefactor stretched forth his lamp as if to give it to me. My bleeding and trembling fingers grasped the gift, my eyes fixed on the mystifyingly pure white light emanating from the lamp. His eyes smiled again at me as he produced a similar lamp from under his robes, and without a word at all, he turned about and slipped silently into a startlingly serene night. It was as if he himself had calmed the storm.
To Be Continued...
The Three Hermits – Leo Tolstoy (1886)
2 weeks ago