It is 2am. I close my eyes and take a deep breath. The Coronavirus Lockdown may have us caged in the new-found prisons of our homes. But in my mind’s eye, I can travel anywhere in the world. In my mind’s eye, I am free.
Concentrate, a voice whispers.
With the power of the human imagination, I form new experiences through images that are not physically present. I hone and develop my sixth sense. I slowly begin to hear Pink Floyd’s Shine on You Crazy Diamond. I haven’t heard this song in years.
Now there’s a look in your eyes, like black holes in the sky
My eyes turn their gaze toward the celestial ones. A blanket of stars wrap me in their embrace. It is quiet and cold. I am in the Negev Desert. The last time I was here was close to a decade ago. It was Hanukkah and we’d come here on a school trip. Why did my my mind’s eye bring me back here?
The heat that marks the light of day has vanished. I am shivering, almost trembling. That is how it is in the desert at night. I am in awe of the million twinkle twinkle little stars that shine in the heavens from light years away. When you are in a place like this – you realise how ancient the Soul of the World truly is.
I am fortunate to be a part of something so grand, so astonishing and so beyond belief.
I’m holding a book in my hands. It is the Tanakh, the Hebrew Bible – which consists of the Torah (Instruction, or Law), Neviʾim (Prophets), and Ketuvim (Writings). I turn the pages and find myself at the Song of Songs. Poetry is not the first thing that comes to mind when we think of religious scriptures – but here it is, nestled away in the Ketuvim writings section.
The Song of Songs is a collection of love poems. It is written as a dialogue – between a young woman and her lover. Although the text has been attributed to King Solomon, the book’s author remains unknown.
Early Hebrew and Christian scholars believed that the love story is an allegory of God’s love for humankind. With time however, it is became obvious that the song celebrates not only God’s love – but also the sensual and mystical nature of unabashed human desire.
I scan through the text… till my eyes finally stop to read and re-read. They linger over Song of Songs 8:6-7. I remember this song from somewhere in the deep recesses of my soul.
The courtship begins.
My Musings in the Desert
I am not alone in the desert. Concepts of time and space no longer apply to me. In my lover’s eyes, I see a rare glimpse into the eternity that resides in each and every one of our souls.
Here there are no boundaries, no nations, no colours and no creeds. Here we are timeless beings amidst the stars that made us. We are stardust.
I am both the lover and the beloved.
Set me as a seal upon your heart,
As a seal upon your arm
The maiden makes a request – that her lover commits to her in both his heart and his life. She asks for his seal, to bind them together in this life and the world to come.
The fear of commitment runs deep. We love people who refuse to commit to us. We commit to people whom we do not love. We love one person, whilst we marry another.
You let me into your home, and not your heart. You let me into your heart, but not your life.
We surrender desire for the shackles of duty. We do our duty and bury our heartfelt desires.
My lover gives me his seal. I have become his beloved.
For love is as strong as death,
Jealousy as cruel as the grave
Even all-powerful and inescapable death cannot and does not diminish the bond of love. It survives in our souls – and lives on as a part of us even after we part ways.
Jealousy – the most primal of human emotions – is what drives us to make that commitment to one person and forsake all others. It is what drove the young maiden to ask her lover for his seal.
You are the only one for me.
Jealousy gently teases two souls to come together; and it is jealously that destroys everything when the seal is not strong enough to withstand the trials and tribulations that life inevitably brings.
That is why she asks for his seal, in both life and heart.
My love for you will survive death, he says.
He has become her beloved.
Its flames are flames of fire,
A most vehement flame.
The spark died, they say.
Was it true love or simple infatuation?
If you’ve ever lit a candle – you understand that even a tiny little light needs nutrients to survive. The fire in our souls need nourishment and care. The spark that once ignited us needs our utmost attention if it is to realise its true destiny – to grow into a most vehement flame.
The spark we do not nourish, will only consume us and turn to ash – or wither away and die.
But in that case, was it ever true love?
My love is stronger than death, he says.
He is hers and she is his.
Many waters cannot quench love,
Nor can the floods drown it.
No misfortune – even of the most heinous nature – can destroy love when it is pure. Pure love is such that even nature’s calamities cannot diminish its light or warmth. It is a spark of the divine that resides within us.
Even torrential floods can never distinguish the flame that resides in the human heart.
The lover and the beloved survive. The seal of their union echoes through the sands of time and distance.
We will be together forever, they say.
If a man would give for love
All the wealth of his house,
It would be utterly despised.
Love is not a transaction. It is neither give nor take. It simply is.
Love lives on beyond our material possessions. It cannot be bought or sold. It is a part of us. It is what connects one soul to another through the annals of time. It is what binds us together and keeps us together – beyond duty and desire.
It is a soul contract drawn up before we are born – and will continue to shine brightly within us even after we are gone.
The Lover and the Beloved are one.
I close the book. I have enjoyed my private reverie. Despite the physical constraints of my the cage, I have travelled through time and space to meet the Lover and the Beloved.
I gaze up at the stars for the very last time. The desert is a vast, solitary and quiet friend who listens and speaks in the gentlest of whispers.
“It has been a decade since you were last here,” its voice whispers. “Will you return?”
It was an innocent question. And like all innocent questions, it was not one to be answered lightly.
A promise is a seal – that ties us and binds us together through lifetimes. I want to say yes, but the truth is – I do not know. For now, the future lay uncertain ahead of me. So I made no promises and thanked the desert for its company.
I take a deep breath and open my eyes. I am back in my bedroom. Am I really here? Was I really there?
I reach out for the time. It is now 4.20am.
I groan inside.
Living in your imagination is all fair and good – until you realise you have a meeting early that morning. I’m about to chastise myself for staying up so late – but then I decide to shrug it off. Regret is not an emotion I’ve ever cared to indulge myself in.
I set my alarm and close my eyes. I have a long day ahead of me tomorrow – but for now, I will close my eyes and sleep.
I bid goodbye to the world of waking and welcome the world of dreams.
About the Author
Dipa Sanatani is the Merchant of Stories. She delights in gazing out at the ocean and jumping in. She sees life as one great adventure and is an ardent student of the human experience. She is the author of The Little Light and the Founder of Mith Books. She works in a top secret day job.