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Amber Paulen

The Desert Nomad

Another excerpt from the current draft of the current part and current chapter of The Body’s Long Madness:

Six knees drop into the sand led by the eldest and most weather worn. He takes his hand and brushes slowly and most expertly the sand off of a defined greyish mound. He tunnels his hands, one to each side, bringing up a lumpy grey loaf of bread.

“This is how the man eats,” Malik interprets. “In the morning he buries the dough with coals and by noon or when he is hungry, the bread is ready. It is very good bread.”

The man passes the hot loaf to Malik who rips off a piece for himself and Valerie. Malik does not take too much knowing the man does not have much. Valerie offers up a gesture of thanks and a gesture of tastiness after having taken the first bite.

As the three slowly chew their lunch the two men break off in a low toned conversation allowing Valerie to drift above the guttural sounds of their language and to linger around the sheer pleasantries of this situation. That the old man lived long in the desert, lived and lives and refuses to go away and to give up the one life that is the dearest to him, a life that has made him and is all he knows, is a stubborn simplicity.

Valerie would be very bitter at a world without desert nomads and unseen jungle tribes. These hidden quiet ones are the ones that balance the fast-paced gluttony of our missed virtues. This man has never, will never, desire that which he does not have and that my friends, is the great key to contemporary survival. It may be that this is only because the desert nomad inextricably escapes the bombardment of have-nots that make up each contemporary person’s platform for comparison and that once he gives in and submits to the greater societal life he may be first in line for the brand new Ikea kitchen… but yet, I don’t think so and either does Valerie. It is no magic spell, no instantaneous flash from above that makes one immune to the false base our world has become and others as susceptible as rats are to a flute. It is a procured way of life, a trimmed-down way of looking at things, discipline and a connection with something greater, more powerful and omnipresent than our short human lives. Without these things we are always only what we want and never in fact what we actually are.

What are we? As Valerie sees it, sitting as a point in a small triangle before a patch of grey smoking sand, we are constantly between being lifted up to the sky and lowered down to the bowels of the earth, between some divine presence and base animal behavior, we are an experiment in the chaotic laboratory of Nature and we certainly should not be taking ourselves so seriously.

To ‘enjoy or endure’ as John Cowper Powys puts it, is more than the simple words can convey, for to come face to face with our worst situation is to come face to face with the horror of ourselves and the truth of our being. There is the tendency to cover the ugliness up with want, pouring an identity into stuff owned and labels acquired; but that is only a perpetuation. We can only truly become more when we set down ourselves and walk away from the mirror.

This is all cause for the desert nomad wrenching a place in Valerie’s being; he leaves so much to be desired, for this man’s mind must work like the smooth cog of older, more simpler machines, simply. Hunger: eat; sky: blue, grey-cloudy, beautiful; sand: home. There is still the tendency to call simple stupid even though that was one of the main principles that should have gone out with colonization; simple thoughts are lush with the complexity that is akin to the great flux of nature. The mind of the man who has lived in the desert his whole life is invariably more rich than the mind of any ‘cultured’ genius, anyone trained in universities with degrees, anyone who adds a title to their name. If we really want to learn something we have to go back; back down to life’s original and very simple scale.

When Valerie walks through the primeval forests, which is any forest, she meets up with primeval men and women, soul-people, that reside there. Through these probable personas she is soothed and lulled into an understanding that reality begins only when one dares enough to look deeper; and the deeper one gets the more diffused one becomes, so that the ego becomes a shell waving from up on the surface. To identify with more than just the confined Space of our physical body one jettisons the tangible features of our world back into their true liquid properties. When in the primeval forest of liquescence there is only an unthinking awareness, simpler than simplicity for within it there are not even words.

Valerie goes to the forest. Malik and the desert nomad go to the sand. Where they meet is the same.

Bracciano Italy
July 2008


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