"The sweetest thing in all my life has been the longing —
to reach the Mountain, to find the place where all the beauty came from —
my country, the place where I ought to have been born. Do you think it all meant nothing,
all the longing? The longing for home? For indeed it now feels not like going, but like going back."

~C.S. Lewis


Tuesday, July 3, 2012

On singleness and souls: My first day in Jerusalem

I walked with my friend down a crowded Jerusalem street, vendors with glorious scarves, headbands, jewelry, sandals, bags, carvings -- overhead, underfoot, on all sides. >We laugh (clutch our purses like obedient tourists), I point out to her a purple scarf with dangling golden medallions, we take in the streets and shops and land. The shopkeepers sit outside their booths, want you to come in, want to bargain. One calls out to my friend. 

"Are you single today!?"

We both gasp and give an appropriately shocked look at the ground in front of us (did we just hear right?) -- refraining from staring at each other with mouths agape until out of earshot, where we burst out laughing. Single today? Why, certainly, glad you caught me now, as I wasn't single yesterday and may not be at 5 p.m. tomorrow. But today, yes, of course! We laugh until silenced again in the beauty of the city.

It's different here. But of course it is.

I'm in Jerusalem, I'm in the city of God.

Here I'm walking through a crowded Jerusalem street. Notice the two things you always see: beautiful scarves, and signs in three languages.
I didn't know what to expect arriving here, but what I am receiving is enough. There is endless stone, rubbed silky raw by millions of feet over hundreds of years; it's like walking on hot ice. Olive trees grow like weeds, and there are no flies; I thought there would be.

Always three languages --usually Hebrew on top, Arabic next, English on the bottom. Orthodox Jews dressed in black move by Muslims on their way to prayer while stepping to the side for a Christian coming out of church. People warn of tension here, of violence. What I am amazed by, humbled by, is not that there is sometimes violence, but there is not so much more. So many people so passionate about their faith, their very souls tied into the depth of this land, each person disagreeing with the next about so much critical to who they are, knowing that disagreement simply by the way the other is dressed, with centuries of violence behind them -- and yet, side by side, day after day, year after year, friends, coworkers, selling each other bread, bargaining over a skirt, and smiling at the laughter of the other's child.

The human soul is a remarkable thing.