The Book of Vincent: Ch. 6, Verses 21-32
“I’ve been through the desert on a horse with no name,” but that horse died, and I was forced to walk.
… A seemingly endless expanse.
A land of blazing sun and frigid night.
Extremes at both ends of the spectrum.
Men have died upon it’s dunes. Laid to waste by it’s harsh ways.
A lifeless place.
A place of thirst and hunger.
A lonely place.
A desolate place.
It is in places such as this that men become lost.
Unable to find their way out again.
Forced to wander in solitude and despair…
Until, finally, they give up hope.
As I walked that barren landscape I lost my way, and I nearly gave up hope.
The sands began to swirl.
Before long I was unable to see the path before me. My eyes burned, my lungs filled up. I was choking. I was blinded.
I was caught in the storm.
I continued to walk, but without a sense of direction. No purpose but the simple act of moving. My only thought was my continued existence. One foot before the other.
In my blind wandering I began to fantasize, to distract my mind. Playing out fictitious plot lines in my head.
I imagined water, I imagined freedom, I imagined flying above this wasteland below.
I was lost not only in this desert but in my mind as well.
But in time I could no longer ignore my thirst and the stinging in my eyes, the sand in my mouth.
I pushed further into my dream world, but the further I pushed, the more my despair rose.
It wasn’t long before I could handle no more. I fell to my knees upon the sand. I was beaten.
I was giving up.
I looked forward into the nothingness, and wondered how far to go.
I looked backward into swirling sands, and wondered how far I had come.
I could see neither beginning nor end.
Was my goal further than my beginning?
Should I turn around, retrace my lost steps, back to the beginning, before I set out into this expanse?
I knelt there amidst the storm, thinking on my own existence.
Was there a purpose?
Was there a reason for my continued existence?
Was there a reason to persevere in the face of this adversity?
What was I struggling for?
What was my goal?
Was there a reason for ‘I’?
I sat there in my own circular feelings of defeat, anguish, guilt, shame, and loss.
It was time.
Time to give up.
I began to wonder what giving up would feel like.
The total abandonment of myself.
I remembered the times I felt this way before. I remembered what that edge felt like. That total loss of self-preservation and self-worth.
That place where once I resided, when life had no meaning, and had no purpose.
The sun began to set. Heralded only by a dimming of the faded and diffused light.
Night, day, it made no difference in this place. All was awash in perpetual nothingness.
I closed my eyes.
I best lay down, let the sands cover this corpse. This corpse that used to walk, that used to feel.
I feel nothing now.
It was washing away. Eroded by the sands and the wind.
Nothing would be left.
Even my bones would would wear away into dust. More sand to the endless desert.
All that would be left would be a memory for those I had left behind.
And even in time, that too would fade away.
Nothing would remain.
This would be the end…
and yet something was still clinging on.
I couldn’t quite put a name to it.
Couldn’t see the shape of it.
But it was something…
A feeling, at the edge of awareness.
“Don’t let go, this too shall pass.”
I began to playback the moments of my life.
The internal repository of memory and experience.
I remembered the times between.
The series of moments that lay between this moment of despair and the previous.
The points between integral anomalies.
I remember that there was joy there. There was light. There was love.
This darkness did not stretch on forever, it was the trough of a wave.
A low between highs.
A valley amidst mountains.
A desert between oceans.
A moment in time. A moment that passes into the next…
“This too shall pass.”
I remember the despair of the past, but I too remember all the joys, large and small, that lay between there and now.
I know that if I had given up then, I would never have experienced all that lay between.
I wouldn’t trade those moments and those memories for anything.
They have helped to construct ‘I’.
They are a history of connections.
A compendium of human interaction.
A series of moments, profound and profane, that form ripples in a sea;
ripples that flow outward and touch those around me.
They co-create and develop the being I call ‘me’ and the ones I call ‘you’.
They are the seeds that take root, in fertile ground and harsh desert.
They are the sapling that will one day be a resounding oak.
They are beautiful.
And they gave me purpose.
Yes, there was a purpose to ‘I’.
I had let go of everything I though I was.
This persona I believed myself to be.
A false sense of strength, a false idea of groundedness.
A false image of who ‘I’ was.
In that moment of complete and utter failure.
Of absolute vulnerability.
When all the images were stripped away,
I saw it.
I saw that there was worth in ‘I’
A cold wind began to blow.
It began to sap what little heat I had inside.
I may not lay down and die, but I would soon freeze to death under the weight of this icy breath.
I may not be giving up completely, but that doesn’t mean that this is not the end of ‘I’.
As I huddled against the frigid fingers reaching into my body, mind, and soul, I decided to open my eyes.
Best to take a last look at all I would leave behind. One look at the world in which I resided.
It was then, as my eyes opened, that I became aware of it.
This icy wind that I believed to be my undoing was actually my saving grace.
The air began to clear. The dust storms moving off to distant horizons.
I was still cold, but there was hope.
My lungs cleared, my eyes no longer burning with the bite of billowing sand.
I could see.
I could see something at the edge of the horizon.
Like light upon water.
Yes, that was it.
A beacon of hope ahead.
I was weak.
Yet I had not expired.
I reached into my depleted reserves and forced what little energy I had left into my legs.
I made my way to my feet;
and I placed one foot before the next.
And the oasis approached.
I knew even as I was nearing it that it was not the end of my journey.
Not the end of my hardships.
I could see beyond it’s small waters that the desert went on towards the still further horizon.
There was still a long journey ahead.
Struggles to overcome and challenges to rise to.
Yet here was something.
A candle in a great darkness.
A moment of reprieve.
A moment to recover and gain a measure of my own strength.
This is not the journey’s end.
And maybe that’s a good thing.
“It often occurs that pride and selfishness are muddled with strength and independence. They are neither equal nor similar; in fact, they are polar opposites. A coward may be so cowardly that he masks his weakness with some false personification of power. He is afraid to love and to be loved because love tends to strip bare all emotional barricades. Without love, strength and independence are prone to losing every bit of their worth; they become nothing more than a fearful, intimidated, empty tent lost somewhere in the desert of self.”
– Criss Jami
“Sunshine all the time makes a desert.”
– Arab Proverb