Image by regan76 via Flickr (cc)
Halfway between the Kushans and our hike, in the year 1207, in this same beautiful volatile desert, the poet Rumi was born, and became a refugee, a child migrant fleeing a Mongol invasion. In exile, he wrote:
I am so small I can barely be seen.
How can this great love be inside me?
Look at your eyes. They are small,
but they see enormous things.
How to take a clear-eyed view of the world’s complexities, how to grasp the world in its totality of dignity and shame? Can we hold all of it, grief and beauty and the rest, the way the world already does? On this hyper-informed planet, how do we not lose intimacy with one another? What does it mean to look past the mirror, to choose to see something truly other than what has become comfortable? To make a deliberate effort to see the world in a grain of sand requires a level of curiosity that supersedes the confines of our prejudice and fear.
At one point, Flights’ narrator finds herself gazing at a sarira, a fleck-like relic that sometimes remains after the cremation of the corpse of a Buddhist spiritual master, and wonders if the world’s beaches and deserts are “entirely made up of the posthumous essences of the bodies of enlightened beings?”—and acknowledges that she would never become such a grain, she was never devout enough. In this moment, her flight of imagination is so indisputably beautiful, so earnestly true, I feel that she has glanced into that immense beyond.