Wednesday, July 30, 2008


The common base of all the Semitic creeds, winners and losers, was the ever present idea of world-worthlessness.  Their profound reaction from matter led them to preach bareness, renunciation, poverty; and the atmosphere of this invention stifled the minds of the desert pitilessly.  A firs knowledge of their sense of the purity of rarefaction was given me in the early years, when we had ridden far out over the rolling plains of North Syria to a ruin of the Roman period which the Arabs believed was made by a prince to the order as a desert-palace for his queen.  The clay of its building was said to have been kneaded for greater richness, not with water, but with the precious essential oils of flowers.  My guides, sniffing the air like dogs, led me from crumbling room to room, saying 'This is jessamine, this violet, this rose'.  
But at last Dahoum drew me: 'Come and smell the very sweetest scent of all', and we went into the main lodging, to athe gaping window sockets of its eastern face, and there drank with open mouths of the effortless, empty, eddyless wind of the desert, throbbing past.  That slow breath had been born somewhere beyond the distant Euphrates and had dragged its way across many days and nights of dead grass, to its first obstacle, the man-made walls of our broken palace.  About them it seemed fret and linger, murmuring in baby-spreech.  'This', they told me, 'is the best: it has not taste.' My Arabs were turning their baccks on perfumes and luxuries to choose the things in which mankind had no share or part.
T.E. Lawrence
The Seven Pillars of Widsom