The Joshua Tree, A Desert Parable: Chpt. 1 of 5 :: By Jean-Louis Mondon

Near the Desert Gate

(To read the prologue, go to

“May you be blessed of the LORD, Maker of heaven and earth. The heavens are the heavens of the LORD, But the earth He has given to the sons of men.

Some years have gone by. Still wearing his self-imposed blindfold, our lonely pilgrim, in spite of his condition, has traveled quite a distance to a remote and desolate place where, with even with the best eyesight, experienced men have some difficulty finding their way. But now, he is not only blind and ignorant, but hungry, thirsty and exhausted. His only desire is to find a place of rest, an oasis that his weary soul has dreamed of and longed for ever since his journey began. However, he despairs of finding such a place because, as he looks at himself and his surroundings, that haven seems to recede further in the hopelessness of his situation.

Thinking that the end was near, he had just resigned himself to accept his fate. After all, what could he do? Years ago, during the turbulent years of his adolescence and his early manhood, enough vigor and idealism filled his heart to fight against real or perceived enemies. Little did he realize that the causes he so wholeheartedly embraced were only detours in his life. Neither did he know that the weapons he used in the battle, securing short-lived victories, would eventually be the very means of his defeat. Now, years later, all his resources spent, the overwhelming dread of an impending doom coursed through his weary body and soul.

He remembered the time when dreams and aspirations seemed so reachable. With concentrated effort, coupled with the unswerving tenacity that had been characteristic since his childhood, he had managed to accomplish a few challenging things in spite of disappointed scoffers, and other critical individuals that make it their business to see that nobody rises above the level of mediocrity that they have established as a standard for themselves. He didn’t quite yet understand the outworking of his life. Nevertheless, a sense of destiny kept him going in spite of past failures that slowed him down and had forced him to change course many times on his uncharted journey.

But this time, it was different. The surrounding landscape was so unfamiliar, and his weary mind could not draw enough inner strength from one of the reassuring pictures that his fertile imagination would produce in time of crisis. No enemy in sight to slash with a quick turn of his sharp tongue, one of his favorite weapons to cut down to size any who threatened to make him look smaller than he already felt. Nothing to grasp, no helping hand, no end in sight, no sight to see but a sea of sand, solid waves of shifting shadows blown by a merciless wind. Looking back, he discovered that his tracks had been erased. No chance of ever going back.

A hazy, grey cloud inside his head overwhelmed the pure azure sky overhead; and in spite of the strongest efforts of his will, he could not break through out of it. Until now, willpower had been his best ally, the means by which he accomplished almost anything, whether it was the most menial tasks or fulfilling the deep desires and dreams of his life.

Nevertheless, everything was now so totally new and different. The unexpected had taken on the form of the impossible. A slow giggle emerged from his cynic side as he remembered the old adage, “Where there is a will, there is a way.” In his present situation, the reverse would apply; “Where there is no way, there is no will.”

For a moment he mused with a bit of his personal philosophy: People should not throw empty words into the air or on pages of books where they are going to travel through the ages, carried by airwaves or copied endlessly by scrupulous scribes and maybe deceive countless generations raised on clichés and slogans spouted by unscrupulous demagogues. Even if one stumbles upon a truth worthy of being shared and embraced, it is too late to enlighten those who have gone before. There are also situations and attitudes that prevent the truth from being known and proclaimed on a large scale.

Such was his predicament. How silly of me, he thought. Here I am thinking of a way to warn and save others from the tyrannical oppression of the mind, and I can’t even save myself.

Going back to his anti-cliché, it dawned on him that perhaps it is true; where there is no way, there is no will, or at least no will that will provide a tiny hope for a way. Could it be that the conditions which lead to the deepest despair are designed to force us to abandon any hope that we might place in our human resources, whether individual or collective? It seems that is only when all the doors have been slammed shut in our face that we realize that the One who slammed them shut is the same One who can open the door specifically stamped with our name.

By this, I mean that man basically is a poor chooser. He imagines that out of all the tempting opportunities presented to him, he is capable of selecting by and for himself the ones most suitable to him. All the while, there is a door with his name on it, but he cannot find it, so focused that he is on the other doors. The question is and remains: How does a man abrogate his will?

Oddly enough, deciding to give up one’s own will is in itself an exercise of the will. Actually, it is more the recognizing of one’s proper place in the eternal scheme of things. I think there is a good reason why Adam and Eve were placed on Earth in the Garden of Eden and not on one of the stars. God is in His heaven, and Man on planet Earth which is his proper domain.

There is something to be said and certainly to be emulated about the humbleness of the old farmer or gardener bowing his tired frame down to the earth to plant the seed after preparing its womb to bring it to germinate into new life. His bowing down is the best expression of worship, of total dependence upon the One who provided the seed, the nutrients in the earth, the rain water and the sunshine to make the seed grow. The One who provided the intelligence to develop the skills to create the farming implements and the methods. The Creator of the spirits and hearts of all mankind created the first Man to be an earth dweller and a farmer, not an astronaut.

While pondering on his helplessness and the present failure of his predilection for escaping reality, a salient idea emerged from the forefront of his consciousness. He needed a point of focus to gather his ever-fleeting thoughts as a pinpointed laser ray to reach its target.

He picked up a handful of hot sand. Making a fist and placing it on top of his other hand, also formed as a fist, he slowly and deliberately let the sand pass through this improvised funnel in the shape of an hourglass and let the grains escape through the lower fist instead of gathering them as a real hourglass would. The sand cascaded in a continuous stream onto a growing mound on the desert floor.

Tempus fugit (time flies), he ironically thought to himself as he tirelessly placed one hand on top of the other in an endless circular motion. This simple concentration exercise turned into a Sisyphean task but provided a physical, reassuring point of contact against the vastness of the desert, the limitless amount of sand and the inevitability of the passing of time.

Well, thinking to himself, finding the courage to cling to this positive thought as a life buoy in the middle of this vast ocean of sand extending as far as the eye could see, everything begins with a zero, then comes one… from zero to one the distance is very short; and if I continue counting every time I take a step, at least I will be making progress.

Believe me, in the desert, things get reduced to the simplicity of zeros and ones equations out of sheer necessity. What lies between zero and one is a little like asking what came before God. Who wants to be number zero? Men usually want to be number One; women hope that men will tell them they are a 10. Even on a pain scale, I don’t think that there exists a zero. I have never seen anyone without pain, visible or hidden. The choice is clear. I said choice, not answer.

On this hopeful note, the story continues with a surprise new chapter.



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