Lately there’s been something calling to me. I keep experiencing a longing for what I can only describe as the desert. This may sound bizarre to you but the desert seems to beacon me. At first I thought it was merely a desire to play Assassin’s creed origins – the one that takes place in Egypt. But then when I was in west Texas on a tour of the Waddell ranch the sand dunes were so satisfying to see and yet they left me unsatisfied. I wanted to jump out the bus and walk among them. I had what felt like and unquenchable thirst. A craving. I then realized that it’s the same feeling I feel when I reflect on 2019. A time when I was somewhat lost and lonely but I was making incredible headway on my goal of strengthening my body and my character. More on this later.
During my walk yesterday I decided to meditate on the concept of the desert within the context of the book of exodus. I wanted to expand on the general ideas presented in the book and perhaps apply it to my life to see if I could come to understand why I was so drawn to this imagery of the desert. The book of exodus doesn’t begin with the desert but with Egyptian civilization. The Israelites were slaves to the Egyptians and ultimately to the pharaoh. This brought a question to mind. What am I a slave to?
I’m privileged enough to live in a free country where every man is believed to have been created equally and as a society we take that to be self evident. This was not the case in Moses’ time. While I might not be a slave in the same sense, I’m still a slave in many ways. If I’m being brutally honest with myself I’m a slave to the following; THC, Nicotine, Alcohol, Entertainment, Video Games, Consumerism, Social Media. These are my pharaohs, and sadly this list is far from exhaustive. I think that it’s important to realize that these things (as such) don’t enslave me but rather my desire for these things enslaves me. That’s what I’m truly a slave to. That’s the tyranny that I impose on myself.
So Moses’ leads the Israelites out of tyranny only to find themselves wondering aimlessly around the desert. In many ways the desert is much worse than Egypt. Its chaotic, lonely and unforgiving. In fact, many of the Israelites wish to return to Egypt and the tyranny that once ruled over them. That’s important and relatable – think of an alcoholic that considers having “just one drink”.
Where are the Israelites going? Well hopefully somewhere that’s not only better than the desert but also better than the tyranny that they were born into. What do they do? Moses’ climbs to the top of mount Sinai and returns with the ten commandments. He give the people rules to structure their society, to impose order onto chaos. Its tyranny in a different form. Hopefully one that will enable them to build a civilization/nation better than the one before.
This is what’s happening when we identify our bad habits (pharaohs) and create new rules for ourselves (Think new years resolutions). Problems only arise when we allow ourselves to break those rules or when we don’t even take them seriously in the first place. But those rules that we impose on ourselves with the intention of self betterment are sacred. They are absolutely necessary for us to become more than what we currently are. Greatness can not be achieved without that sort of structure and self discipline. It’s difficult but it’s vital to progress.
So why have I felt like the desert has called to me? And why do I relate that calling to a time where I was lost and lonely but making strides towards my goals? Well that became clear to me during my meditation. I’m longing for freedom from the pharaohs of my life despite the suffering that come with the desert. I’m craving that suffering because its ultimately progress towards my goal of becoming a better man than I currently am. I know it’s trite to say this but no pain = no gain.
One way or another I will make my way out of the desert, hopefully to somewhere new and better rather than regressing back to Egypt. But even if that new destination is better than the place I once came from it will inevitably present new pharaohs. I pray that once those tyrannies reappear in my life the desert will again call to me.