03 May 2015

Day Five - Petra/Aqaba

Day Five – Living in the Land of Dreams

The Jordanian desert seems unforgiving and desolate and yet you keep bumping into life and into human dreams. It might be the picture (I couldn’t take because the bus was moving to fast) of a corrugated steal building sitting in the middle of the desert, on a plot maybe 20 meters by 40 meters, the fence filled with date palms, olives and vegetables. This was more than subsistence, it was a celebration of what the earth might provide. It could also be the house that hopes for more, but more about that later.

I woke up this morning and realized that going down the Siq into Petra again was not going to be possible for me. My knee was inflamed and I convinced Arthur that he ought to go without me – which he reluctantly did. I walked with him over to the Visitor Center, and then went to a couple of shops to look for books, etc. Back at the hotel, the Petra Moon, I thought about writing my blog on the lectionary, but that didn’t seem possible at the moment. Then I thought I’d continue John Dally’s reading assignments for the class on preaching that I’m taking this June at Bexley-Seabury. It didn’t seem to follow, and that’s when I realized that the walk yesterday, indeed the whole time in Jordan, had opened up other ways of thinking – pieces that I needed to add into my own personal puzzle. Preaching the Gospel seemed very far away – inaccessible until I had wrestled with these other thoughts.

Behind our hotel and visible from our room stands the Venus Hotel. At first glance it seemed a bit shabby and not kept up, until we noticed someone sweeping the front plaza, with its fountain, and granite balls, all intended to dress it up a bit and invite people in. This was somebody’s dream, probably a family’s dream, where they made an effort to extend the desert people’s gift – hospitality. It is an aspect that we have noticed all along here. Every effort is made to make you feel welcome. From food to amenities to body gestures, the effort is to give you a bit of what will make you feel at home and welcome. So that is what I spent the morning meditating on, and there will be more about that later.

Arthur had returned with wonderful photographs of the Roman ruins at Petra, and some wonderful shots of a Byzantine church just across the Cardo from what seemed to a forum. There were wonderful mosaics.

And a baptistery.

It reminded me of a wonderful double basilican church that we saw in Ephesus, Turkey, where the baptistery had been placed at the juncture of the two naves. From the church there was a wonderful view of the whole forum complex.

This was such a wonderful gift from him to find places that would greatly interest me. He described them with gusto and interest as well.

Remember the house at the beginning of this blog entry? Let’s zoom in on it.

This is a feature that you will see not only in Jordan but all across the Middle East. Notice that the columns reaching out from the roof with rebar extending from the tops. I am minded to think that this feature represents hope for a family and a community. You don’t see this so much in urban centers, but rather in villages and small cities. It’s like our carriage driver yesterday, who has been to the city, has a college degree and yet comes home to his village to work. The home is a place that can be added onto later, for more family, for more of the human community.

It would be wonderful to spend more time here to not only explore antiquities, but also to meet the people who live for and from them – to better know Islam, and to learn not to fear it.

Arthur commiserated with me over drinks in the evening, “You didn’t have a very interesting day – more of a transit day.” But I did have in interesting day, attempting to integrate what I had learned in my seeing. Sometimes we just have to stop and think.

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