It’s been 2 weeks since I returned to my normal life. But questions of what “normal” means have been plaguing me since my Wadi Rum tour.
“If you made me a king,” Mosalem, our Bedouin host, said, “And gave me a palace, and servants, and a feast every night, I wouldn’t take it. Out here in the desert, I already am a king.”
“Climbing the mountains, looking for wood, making a fire… That is the life I want.”
Maybe it was his words.
Maybe as I’m coming into my mid-life, I’m examining myself and my own way of life more.
Maybe it was the way his uncle roasted coffee beans on the fire, served us barefoot, and had nowhere else he was rushing off to; simply to be with these guests he had only just met.
I can’t shake the simple contentment Mosalem and his family displayed; what it says about his way of life, and what it says about mine.
Tiny Rum village is still “too noisy” for him. Though he settled in the village for his kids’ schooling, he still wants to raise them the way he was raised. “I like to take my kids with me when I go out into the desert,” he said. “I want to raise them the way I want, not based on what other people say is the way to live. There are people who think the goal of life is money. ‘How can I get more money? How can I buy more things?’ I don’t want my kids to think that is the purpose of life.”
He told us of a local Bedouin man who has made a very good living in tourism. “He has houses and cars and is always busy. When I go to visit him, to have tea, he’s always saying, ‘akhh’ and shaking his head… Is this what he has bought with his life? Headache?”
Whatever culture we grow up in, we assume it is the one right way to live. If people from other cultures aren’t living like us in the West, we assume they aspire to. With our technological advancements and abundant financial prosperity, it’s hard for us to see that not everyone wants to live like us, or even should.
Occasionally you’re confronted with a challenge to that Western ideal, that American dream.
It doesn’t take much time for the plague of those questions; “what am I chasing?”, “what am I doing with my life?” to fade. I’m back at my computer, back in my routine. I need friends like Mosalem to remind me what is truly valuable. That time in the desert, unplugged from my “normal” life, was cleansing. But after returning home only a couple weeks ago, I’m already feeling the need to be cleansed again.
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