Hiking To Heaven In The Middle East–Quickflight

by bria4123 on March 13, 2012

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I desperately needed to exercise. I was staying in a hotel in a small village high above Petra, Jordan. After savoring the pastries at the dinner buffet, I decided to hike up to one of the mountain peaks above.

The village was much smaller than Wadi Musa, which many tourists haunt. My hotel was the only one there, and it was modeled on an ancient village–so it blended right in. As I walked down one of the two main streets, a middle-aged man approached me and asked if I needed something. I told him that I had to exercise my dinner off, and he said, “Go anywhere you want. It’s perfectly safe here.” I trusted him–Jordanian villagers are proud of their hospitality. I turned onto the steepest road and headed towards the mountain top–and an experience that took me back to origins of Christianity, Islam and Judaism.

I reached the village’s edge after 4 blocks and kept walking. Soon, the village’s lights twinkled far below me. They stood out under the night sky. Without streetlights the only things I could see were the stars and barely perceptible peaks around me which were as jagged as lions’ teeth. I couldn’t even see the edge of the road, and I had to take care to avoid falling off the cliff.

I stopped at the highest part of the road. The sky was pure–no streetlights or smog hazing up the stars. The vault of Heaven was encrusted with jewels. Powerful dry winds buffeted me–updrafts from the desert below. The contrasts between things were striking–absolute, like concepts of God that emerged in the three universal religions from the Middle East.

 

The first lines from Genesis came to me: In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. Ancients who saw these stark contrasts between community and wilds, lowlands and uplands, land and sky, and life and death, who wondered how the world was created were encouraged to focus on the power and glory of the creator of it all–rather than harmony between multiple beings, as in traditional Chinese religions. Or metaphysical energies that infuse all of nature, and every person, as in many ancient Indian religions.

I thought of the beginning of the Koran: In the name of Allah, The Compassionate, The Merciful, King of Judgement day. It shares Genesis’ spirit–all come from one god, who is glorious. All power in nature is concentrated in Him. Only a month before, I experienced a very different religious sensibility in Malaysia, where many people believe in a multiplicity of spirits. After traveling through Southeast Asia, the Middle Eastern faiths seemed more similar than different. And the cultural landscapes in both regions seemed as glorious as the heavens.

 

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{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

moncler schweiz December 8, 2012 at 5:24 pm

in Hebrew as “Pillar of Cloud” which the general sense is a “Shekhinah” – the visible symbol of the divine presence – which occurs several times

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hermes7 December 8, 2012 at 6:37 pm

I ascended on a pillar of pastries:-)

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