The thirty-second day of the crossing – the wisdom of the desert

I woke up with the early rays of the sun caressing my face. I smiled at that sign of affection. I had slept little on the previous nights; the days had been intense. I was in a good mood. My soul was happy, in the cauldron of transformations that were boiling inside me. I could sense the changes approaching but wasn’t still able to perceive how they would change my behaviour, hence, my existence. We live as we are; how much I am able to be either contracts or expands the world. This is the frontier of life. The seed of love is available to anyone; to make it blossom in the fields of the soul depends on how good a farmer each one is capable of being. When I am transformed, the seed that I will plant for the next harvest changes. Even when the fruits are of the light; their intensity, clarity and reach are different. I define the change of future crops not out of a wish, but by a careful choice. How to differentiate a wish from a choice? A choice is a free, conscious will of the soul, without the contaminants of fear, selfishness and their variations. One makes a different type of wish because one is already different. It isn’t enough willing to be good, one must in fact be good. There is nothing wrong in wanting to be good; it is part of the steps of the ladder of illumination. However, wanting to be good is just a wish. To be good is, in fact, a choice.

I loved the desert. I realized it on that morning, when I sat on the sand with a cup of coffee, to say my prayers, to reflect and meditate, even if for a few moments. The caravanner was training his hawk. It had been days since I last followed this routine. The bird floated in circles, supported by the air; I thought about the things in my life. I wanted to have the necessary lightness to fly over the things of the world, I thought. 

“Birds don’t fly because they are free. They fly due to biological determinism, as an attribute of the species. They are no better or worse than snakes that slither on the ground. The lion is considered the king of the jungle only in people’s imagination. All that exists can have no further meaning or can serve as inspiration for life’s poetries. Art can just hang on the wall of a museum or, on the other hand, it can have the power to ignite the fire with which the cauldron of transformations purges the essence of light that is still mixed and hidden by the flavors of shadows. Books may end up being devoured by termites on a shelf; or they can provide the fire of knowledge that heats the cauldron. This is what makes things either common or sacred”, said the beautiful woman with lapis-lazuli eyes when she approached me from behind, without me noticing. Without asking permission, she sat by my side and continued.

“The metaphor of the wings is for those who can feel they are floating in thin air, despite the density of the planet. The things of the world are not obstacles, but they work as torches, waiting to burn into light. The smooth fire of love, the serene fire of wisdom, and the tireless fire of will. The fire of transformation.” 

“An old scientist taught that ‘nothing is lost, nothing is created, everything is transformed. He wasn’t talking about the chemistry of matter; he also meant the magic of life. However, this famous sentence is only the beginning of the lesson. Schools must also teach that in order for something to be modified, it must undergo a certain process, or it will not achieve a favorable outcome. Nothing appears or happens by chance. The foundations and the preparation are essential; next, comes the experience until its completion. To learn, transmute, share and move towards a new journey are the stages of an evolutionary cycle that came about from a choice. The mere wish to undertake a journey is not enough. The illumination will never be an act of pride, vanity, fear or selfishness, or due to unbalanced emotions or a will to escape the world. These are motivations common to the desires.”

“No one becomes illuminated by going to a temple or watching a movie, having tea or conversations with a monk, having a dream or an intuition. The tool is not to be confused with the toil. The lightness of the self is a choice, and achieved with study, exercise, effort, persistence and surpassing oneself. Reading, meditating, praying and doing good. More is required; it is necessary to understand, internalize and transform yourself as a balanced and conscious choice; then, you will experience changes in the self.” 

“The choice must be a commitment to evolution; it is accountable for transmutation through the virtues that make up the light. To be light is an attribute achieved by the awakened soul; it is possible to a consciousness that has reached the plenitudes. The virtues are the map, the compass and the sandals; however, crossing the desert is a choice. All the rest is desire.” 

I joked by saying she seemed to guess my thoughts. The woman smiled and shrugged in response. I presented her with the ideas that had enveloped me that morning. She went deeper: “To do good for fear of a journey to hell does not make a person good; it is not a choice, but a wish propelled by fear. To do good so that you or society will have a good image of yourself is also not a virtue, but vanity.”

“To do good is to share the fruits sowed in the fields of the soul and be genuinely happy in offering the best you have. Then, tomorrow, you do it a little differently, a little more, through any virtue that lies in a spontaneous action, an action of pure love. Because it is love, there is nothing required in exchange, nor you are tainted by pride for doing good.” 

“Love is humble because it knows it only exists because it cannot be dissociated from the whole. To love your neighbor as yourself is to understand that the other is part of me; we are unique pieces of something in common. I love you because I love myself wholeheartedly. If I love myself but do not love you, the love that exists in me is incomplete. There is still light to be lit.” The blue-eyed woman looked at me and asked: “Is this complicated?”

I said a little. I kept waiting for her to go further is her explanation, but she did not do it. Much to my surprise, she stood up. Before she left, I asked her if the secret for plenitude was to share the best in me with the world. She said: “No, this is a natural outcome for a whole being. To distribute the fruits is essential for the fields of the soul to fertilize and thrive. However, this is a later stage.” Because she was enveloped in mystery, I was concerned that she was leaving without first answering my questions. I had to know what the initial step was. Before I asked, the woman stopped, turned to me and said: “You must enhance the taste of the fruit for yourself, and then, share the sweetened taste with the world.” 

And she added, enigmatically: “The cauldron that purifies the soul has to be kept over the fire of light. You will always be the outcome of yourself. At each season, a different being. You go to the world and return to the cauldron. There, you become a different being. Always better.” She made a pause before completing: “Or you will not be able to walk on the higher ground of choices and will remain in the meadows of desires.” Then, she left.

I reflected for some time. Those words had propelled me to think. However, I was not sure I had understood their full meaning. I packed my gear and soon the caravan set off. We continued without making our usual midday stop for a brief rest and a light meal. We had to arrive early to a spring, to supply ourselves with water and also to set up camp for the night. The day was uneventful. Early evening, we arrived at the spring.

That had been a quiet day, with no tumultuous events, contrary to the previous days. I moved away from the camp hubbub. I needed quietness and solitude. Seated on the sand, I reflected about the words of the blue-eyed woman. If sharing the best in me was a consequence of plenitude, what was the action that would cause such an effect?

“Pure wisdom remains hidden in time, behind heavy curtains closed by the shadows.” It was the woman with lapis-lazuli eyes, once again surprising me with her sudden, unexpected arrival. I said I hadn’t understood. She explained: “When you go deep in the first two primary commandments of the Old Book, you will see that all wisdom is there. ‘Love God above everything. Love others as you love yourself.’” She shrugged and added: “All the rest is just commentary.”

“All books written since time immemorial are explanations, inferences and romanced versions from this primary, absolute wisdom taught by old wise men during the crossing of the desert.”

I objected. I argued that those few words were not enough to illuminate anyone’s life. They seemed unattainable and subjective. I said I needed clearer explanations. She shook her head as if saying I was a basket case and said, good-humoredly: “Not even if you crossed the desert a thousand times you would be able to understand.” But she was patient enough to explain: “Other wise men tried to explain this to humankind, but it refuses to learn. Socrates based his entire philosophy on the First Commandment, ‘Love God above anything else.’” I rebuked. Socratic philosophy was based on a sentence carved on the stone gate at Delphos Island: “Know yourself and you will know the truth.” 

That had nothing to do with the biblical teaching. The Greek philosopher reinforced the importance of self-knowledge, I insisted. The woman opened her arms and said: “Don’t you realize they were conveying the same message using a different discourse, each one according to their time?” In view of my astonished gaze, she continued: “When Socrates advises one to know oneself, there are two basic things he is suggesting. The first is to dive deep in the ocean of one’s own essence. One should meet oneself for a coherent, conscious perception of one’s reality. To accept the shadows so that one is capable of seeking light.”

“To reveal and transform oneself into light are the outcomes of this essential dive. The individual discovers that the whole universe is in him. In there lies the whole power of transformation. Questions into answers; shadows into light; knowledge into evolution. The whole truth, power or force one needs is inside himself, dormant, waiting to be awakened, ready to be enlightened or to move life. Life is lit little by little, as you move forward in the desert. The world is a map to return home. One must understand oneself in order to understand the world; it is necessary to love oneself in order to love the world. From the edge to the core. Then, in the opposite direction, from inside out. The self is the path it traverses to the light.” She paused and added: “The self is the road of the soul; light is your power and destination. God awaits for you there; He dwells in you.” She looked at me with kindness and said: “Knowing yourself is the true crossing of the desert. At each step, there is a little more of light in you. When you radiate light, there is the truth.”

I was disconcerted with those words. However, I asked about the risk of feeling selfish, vain, pride and arrogant because I found God is in me. “No. The virtues are the pillars of the bridge that will take you to light; the support is subtle. Under the slightest possibility of a shadow, it will collapse. To make the crossing, the lightness of virtues propelling the being is required. The bridge that takes to the light does not stand the weight of any density.”

“However, to ward off such danger once and for all, and, more importantly, to put into action the values of self-knowledge, some time after the Greek philosopher, the Master of Nazareth came, preaching the indispensable Second Commandment, ‘love the other as yourself.’ He guided us towards self-fulfillment and the use of virtues as tools of the light. He showed the importance of the abstract over the concrete; the infinite power of love and the reality that exists in the invisible; the light as an antidote to the shadows. The beauty of transforming the desert of the world through flowers that blossom in the gardens of the soul. Only the light remains tangible while all that is solid vanishes into the air.”

“Because it is difficult for us to believe it is possible to follow the Second Commandment, ‘love the other as you love yourself’, he showed us how important and necessary it is: ‘Know the truth, and the truth shall set you free’. With this essential lesson, Jesus, the master of virtues, guides us to use them as tools of the truth, in order to open the emotional bars that imprison the soul; as remedies to heal the wounds that bleed sorrows. All the pains of the soul stem from our relationship with others. All of them, no exception. Therefore, I need to be in peace with the world to find peace in me. To that end, love is indispensable. Plenitude comes after this great encounter, you with yourself; in it, light. In it, truth. Truth is about dignity, freedom, peace and happiness we look for in the world, but we find in ourselves. As long as there is love. In plenitude, liberation.” 

The woman with lapis-lazuli eyes became silent for a moment and repeated, much to my surprise, the same reasoning she had presented in the morning: “Love is humble because it understands it only exists together with the whole. To love the other as you love yourself means that the other is a part of me; we are unique pieces of something in common. I love you because I love me as a whole. If I love myself but do not love you, the love within me is incomplete. There is still light to be lit.” The woman looked at me deeply and repeated the question: “Is it complicated?”

Now, contrary to what had happened earlier, it was all clear. “Love others as you love yourself” and “Know the truth and truth shall set you free” were not lessons that complemented one another, but the same lesson that explained itself. To know myself to be able to love the whole of me, with no subterfuges, committed to all stages of the evolutionary process. There, in the caldron that burns to the fire of light, in the refinement of the self towards liberation as a necessary step, one finds the power of love, which reaches its peak when envelops the other as myself; the end of the prison without bars. The absolute light; full liberation.

She continued to show me that the words she spoke in the morning explained the lesson taught in the evening: “Finding the light in yourself makes your wings emerge; learning how to fly is an attribute of the soul. Illuminating the world with your flight will take you to a destination you can’t miss.” 

“‘Love God above all things; love the others as yourself.’ This is the summation of the millennia-old law established during a long crossing of the desert.” She made a pause before adding: “‘Know yourself and you will know the truth’; ‘Know the truth and the truth shall set you free.’ This is another way to state the same lesson.”

“Know yourself to be whole; this is the summation of the truth and the power in essence. Be whole to everyone; the sense, the reason, the power of the light. All the stars in yourself; the power of the universe present in your hands.”

“All lessons in one. The truth of the desert.”

With no further words, the woman with lapis-lazuli eyes stood up and left. In the desert, even on uneventful days, everything happens. Quiet days are also intense. I saw when the woman went to the top of a dune. With the desert as a ballroom, she danced with the stars.

Kindly translated by Carlos André Oighenstein.

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