THE BURNING EXPANSE
Eyes squeezed shut as the sting of sweat slowly faded. Sitting on a dune, the silence of noon was broken only by a beating heart. Movements slowed under an unforgiving sun, time stretching out to the distance where sand became sky.
There is nowhere to run, not even from myself.
The pretty holiday article that inspired this trip had long dissolved, disappearing like sand-dunes into the wind. The democratisation of travel has meant that expeditions once undertaken by bearded adventurers, have now been made accessible to anyone with a credit-card & a selfie stick. However, the expanse doesn't reveal secrets to those who snap a photo from behind the glass of an air-conditioned jeep. The desert demands honesty.
As the clouds pass overhead, I think of the geometric concrete buildings of home, people commuting to the cacophony of consumption. Under fluorescent lights, hives of workers teem in serfdom to an image of who they are supposed to be. Mortgages as masters, their cubicles become self contained kingdoms where they are only serfs. From a distance, you can see their silhouettes through the glass framed offices, but you will never reach them. They live in a place not of physical solitude, but in the desert of connection, of compassion, of meaning.
Sitting quietly in the emptiness reveals the shadows of tiny insects that arrive with gusts of wind, drawn away from some oasis by a whispered promise. One lands on my hand and I gently rest it on a bone-dry weed. I watch it walk erratically, until it finds a trusted friend, and they disappear into the sand. No discussion, no impenetrable calendar, no meeting invites for an hour long cup of coffee. They are off on their quest.
Slaves to the passion, citizens of consumption. Loneliness in a city is like a hunger, when those around you have already eaten. Faceless corporations smile and conveniently fill the void. The glow of the phone becomes a needed companion, with tiles of images desperately seeking validation. The instant gratification nation. A like here, a comment there. Echoes remains where kinship once lay, replaced by a unwillingness or inability to truly connect. Surrounded by people, yet completely alone.
Purple & pink streaks paint the sky as the sun sets. The magical horizon captures every cell of being, as the wind whispers wisdom. The pain of disconnection subsides, the amputation begins to heal. Avoiding the temptation to fill the silence, meaning rushes back into the void, beyond description and transcendent. What was once lingering loneliness is growing into a smile of solitude, connecting the fleeting idea of 'me' to something much larger. Perfectly incomplete & infinite.
In solitude, a secret that we are the least alone.