Just over the furthest hill from where we live there are billions of folks doing what we are doing and waking up and living and working and slowly making sense of life as they know it. Happens to everyone, even those we can't see from where we stand. And more pointedly, up in the desert mountains overlooking the Dead Sea and Jericho there is small tribe of Bedouins, descendent from three brothers. I've yet to meet those elders, nor the women and other children and while im hopeful that i will someday be invited back to their homes for a meal, so far i have only been given access to their labors. The cousins Ali, Salam, Achmed, Munsa and Mohammad herd from 8 in the morning until 5 o clock, spread out on lunaresque timeless hillsides that have convinced me i only know a little about life on earth. Their eyes have to be sharp for the kind of work they do and every time i come, they see me and call to me from their perches long before i see them.
An interesting new development this trip was that the guys have a radio now, complete with an sd card slot. I think they got it in Jericho. They were banging some badass Arabic music and even locked arms and did a dance for me before the radio ran out of juice. It seems inevitable that technology will travel to all corners of the globe and while i'd never introduce it where it didn't already exist, it's something that is happening and i don't have enough wisdom to feel strongly about it either way. I thought of it quite a bit on the way home though. Also, i met one of the younger brothers, Mohammad, who i assume just became old enough to start going out with the big boys from time to time. Much like Roots' illustration of Kunta's coming of age and proudly receiving his first herd of goats, it vividly recalled to me my once being Mohammad and what it felt like to be a small boy with daydreams of growing up and doing grown folk things. For now though, his legs don't quite keep up and his brother patiently carried him whenever the herd was on the move. He spent much of the day clinging to him and hiding his face in Salam's shirt, from both the sun and the stranger. Not real sure if he'd ever seen a white man and he was pretty weirded out by me and my nonsensical language up until the end when i gave him a sand dollar from Florida. Organic currency for the win and giving is universally better understood than speaking. And still though...
To sit with someone and not have language at your disposal as a means to connect is both frustrating and revealing. We do pretty good at making a fire together and having tea, which apparently remains a popular summertime drink for the homies. Each time i see these guys though we hit a plateau and it feels like a Buddhist exercise in mindfulness of the other. Eye contact, gesturing and ultimately surrendering to silence when we realize that gestures and images drawn in the sand won't impart what we are thinking. Before i left this time i think i succeeded in drawing and pantomiming the promise that next time i come i will bring a translator so we could exchange information, which is way harder to communicate to someone than you would think. They got the message though. And while i imagine the coming of that day and am compiling questions for them, i can't help but think there is something pure about this present state of unknowns. Beyond form and worldly detail, don't i in fact already know who these young men are, simply just because they are and because i am? Im pretty sure that's what i think. But if the specifics of who we are hardly matter, why am i more excited about seeing these fellas again than most others? What is it that makes one human or group of humans more valuable to the observer than another? While human, is this physical world partiality like seeing through a mirror dimly before we one day come face to face and know fully? It's something i think about now and will continue to until the sun rises and falls a few hundred times, and i again make my way down the pass to hear calls and taps on rocks echoing announcing the presence of a stranger. A kafir. A visitor. And a brother. I've been all of these things.