A Blessed Reminder

Among the things I love most about living in the American west is camping in the deserts. I can see why deserts have attracted mystics, saints and monks through the ages. They lead my mind to see past the clutter that hides the forms of things, to see the contours of the land beneath.

The austere and naked land reminds me, too, of my own impermanence and ultimate vulnerability. Abundance too often leads to confused priorities and muddles my perceptions of what my life is, and what my life means.

It is in the desert that I see most clearly that, truly, blessed are the poor.

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  • Mark Gordon

    This is so poignant, Matt. Thank you. About 25 years ago I spent a lot of time in the Mojave Desert in southern California. I can honestly say that I felt closer to God and myself in that barren place than I have in any other kind of terrain. So, why don’t I live there?

    • http://populisthope.blogspot.com Matt Talbot

      Thanks, Mark. I’ve spent some time in the lower deserts down around Palm Springs, but I usually head over the spine of the Sierras from the Bay Area and into the Owens valley. It’s higher desert (lots of snow in winter, but not the lethal, furnace heat in summer) and the scenery is just breathtaking.

    • elizabeth00

      “so why don’t I live there?”

      It seems to me that for people who can’t live in the desert, St Paul has the answer – “And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing.” Blind love trumps vision. No one can really be in the desert until they’ve given up all motives for self-gratification. I’m thinking now of St Philip Neri, who said Rome was a desert to him and also taught that knowing how to deny your soul what it most desires yields a good degree in perfection.

      It seems to me that we have to become the flat plain ourselves, not just look at it. What we are is part of this great landscape of human relationships, knotted and puckered by pride, which is laid flat, first by Christ and then by all of us, in imitation of his poverty, who loves to the point of giving up all the riches of his own identity.

      And this might well lead to staying in the city in order to be in the desert. The difficulty then becomes one of pushing knowledge through into love all the time and in everything. It’s got to be lived. I’m tempted to add that it shouldn’t be the subject of online pontificating either, but that’s a swipe at myself, not you!

  • Ronald King

    Here in eastern WA I love going out and trail running or hiking. We have a lot of sage brush here and the view can be spectacular with a gain of just a few hundred feet. Before I returned to our faith in ’05 while my wife and children would go to mass I would go for a Sunday morning run out in the hills and see coyotes and one morning a golden eagle cruised right above my head no more than 30 feet. It is during these times when alone that I am given thoughts that are not mine; prayers that I never would have prayed; gratitude that I never realized; connections that I had never experienced; love that had gone unnoticed; and the world’s pain that had been numbed and now awakened in me. These days it is now a walk, jog and prayer but always thankful no matter what surprise I am given on that particular day. Thanks Matt for helping me remember my appreciation for this.

  • http://ordinary-gentlemen.com/kylecupp/ Kyle R. Cupp

    Nicely said, Matt.

  • brkily

    Read this just today in an email from http://www.environmentcalifornia.org ,
    …”When you think of cyanide, you think of poison. You don’t think of Yosemite National Park, and neither should mining companies.

    But with the price of gold at over $1,700 an ounce, the pressure is on to open up mining claims around Yosemite.

    The home of Half Dome and El Capitan is, in my humble opinion, the most beautiful place in the whole world. It’s crazy to think there are 185 active mining claims within just 10 miles of the park, and with enough pressure from mining companies, they can be re-opened at anytime.”…