First published Oct 31, 2016
My existence was not an easy one. I, with my people, lived in some of the harshest conditions on Earth, with extremes of temperature and few natural resources. We were raised to battle others over what little there was. We fought fiercely out of necessity. We roamed the desert, living a way of life that our people had done for millennia, herding, trading, traveling.
But despite the difficulties and uncertainty of such a life, I remained happy and peaceful. My family thought I was simple in the head, and I suppose I was, but simple is not stupid. Without bothering to contradict them, I simply considered it a more intelligent way to live.
I reveled in every moment, every sensation. At prayer time, I rolled out my rug to the east like the others, but unlike them, I did not say my prayers, not aloud and not silently to myself. I did not occupy my mind with God, but rather cleared it of everything, making myself an empty vessel, allowing myself to be filled.
I smelled the air, infused with the scent of cooking fires and of the animals and of the other men, sometimes of date palms and fresh water. I felt the warmth of the rising sun or the heat of noon or chill of the wind after the dusk. I noticed the shadows as they changed throughout the day and the colors of our shelters against the orange sand. I did not worry that God would punish me because I did not say the proscribed prayers. I felt my own method was worship enough.
I loved the low humming of the sand when the wind passed over the dunes. I was comforted by the familiar bellowing of the camels. I listened for the skittering, hissing noise of the beetles in the quiet of the night. I felt safe hearing the muffled conversations of women inside their tents.
Not every sensation was pleasant. There was heat and thirst, naturally, but there was pain of an injury or insect bite. There was illness and eventually the infirmities of age. There was the terrifying, swirling, howling blackness of the sand storm.
There were many occasions to be afraid — of nature and of men — but I rarely felt fear. I was prepared to accept whatever might be. If it was my time to die, I was prepared for that as well. I was at peace with myself and my maker.