Alone in the Desert

"Jesus went into the desert to pray. That Pharisees accused him not of being a loner, but of hanging around too many people, especially the wrong sorts - harlots and drunkards and raffish fishermen. yet Jesus went into the desert to pray, and stayed there for forty days and forty nights, one day for each year it is said the Israelites spent in the Sinai on their journey of liberation from Egypt to the Promised Land. There in the desert, apart from cities and kingdoms, their leader Moses had heard the name of God, who called Himself I AM, or Being, or Love: since His saying "I AM" to the Israelites was also to say "I AM with you." It was a revelation that shook the world. Likewise when Jesus returned from his prayer, his rich solitude, it was not to be some aloof guru, approachable only by a few. He traveled the length and breadth of Galilee and Judea, preaching to people one by bone, or by thousands and thousands. He came preaching in parables, imaginative stories crafted to reveal to man both where his heart really lay, and where it should lie instead. He preached, and the noise was stilled, and people began to hear, just a little, and to know the love to which he came to give witness. "Know," he says in his farewell to his disciples, "I AM with you, to the end of time."

And at a stroke, they who follow that wisdom - whether they acknowledge it or not, and whoever they suppose the wisdom may come from - are set free, if but now and then, to stand erect beneath the star-powdered vault of heaven. They are free to wonder, and free to love. They will be, if but now and then, shiningly human, the terrible creatures against whom no empire can stand. If, then, our current empire of the mass man is to survive, we must resist the temptations of the One whom Elijah heard in the still small voice. For unlike the serpent in the garden, He really would make us be as gods, and set us free. We prefer our bonds instead."

- Ten Ways to Destroy the Imagination of Your Child by Anthony Esolen

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