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The Desert

Driving through the California desert made me reflect on the
impermanence and insignificance of our accomplishments. Even at eighty
miles per hour the old historic Route 66 is decrepit, lined by
crumbling buildings rusting in the sun. The isolated pockets of
humanity fighting a losing battle against the desert swallowing them
up.


I enjoyed floating on the artificial lakes surrounded by picturesque
planned communities, soaking up the life giving solar energy and
loving the dry reptilian heat. Yet the feeling of impermanence hung
heavily in the air. It feels like the American dream is disintegrating
around us. Our artificial communities, our cities built in defiance of
nature, our little oases are being reclaimed by the desert of time and
memory.


Desert communities have always fascinated me. There’s something
arcane, something occult, and liminal, about abandoned gas stations
dying on the side of forgotten highways. Waystations in a dead land.
The desert feels like a wrong turn on the way west. A critical time in
the heroic journey.


These past couple of years I’ve grown to like the desert.


The desert has powerful magic. The Jews spent forty years wandering
the desert. Jesus spent forty days and forty nights then met Satan.
The Desert Fathers were early Christian monastic hermits who practiced
inner and outer spiritual stillness through isolation in the deserts
of Egypt.


A strange place, hostile to life yet also teeming with it.

1 comment

  1. The poem Ozymandias by Percy Bysshe Shelley comes to mind. I remember first reading this in college, and the image of a once-great civilization reduced to dust stuck with me:

    I met a traveller from an antique land,
    Who said—“Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
    Stand in the desert. . . . Near them, on the sand,
    Half sunk a shattered visage lies, whose frown,
    And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command,
    Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
    Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,
    The hand that mocked them, and the heart that fed;
    And on the pedestal, these words appear:
    My name is Ozymandias, King of Kings;
    Look on my Works, ye Mighty, and despair!
    Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
    Of that colossal Wreck, boundless and bare
    The lone and level sands stretch far away.”

    Like

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