Today was more of a physical exercise than a spiritual journey. We hiked down into and back up from Petra. If you’ve watched the third Indiana Jones movie – The Last Crusade – then you have seen the wonder of Petra. I took my journal but didn’t write a single word – to do so would have ruined the wonder of the moment.
The red rocks formed a natural hallway with walls reaching 100 feet overhead. The wind blew between these rocks like air rushing into lungs. The path expanded and contracted from very wide to surprisingly narrow for the thirty minute journey on foot. As I walked through it I felt as though I was entering through a large torso as it inhaled and exhaled the dry air.
We wound our way through this natural passageway until it opened up to the great Treasury – the place in the movie where it reveals a large palace hewn out of the cliff. I marveled at the artistry – the perfectly rounded arches and ornately decorated columns. Its immensity was stunning. It was a time in our world’s history where art was revered, and form didn’t have to take a back seat to function. From the looks of it, a good artist would never have been out of work. I wish our current culture valued the arts in the same way.
I recently read a quote by Abraham Heschel – a Jewish theologian and philosopher. His reading of the Scriptures is marked by a sense of awe and the sublime. He said, “Mankind will not perish for want of information, but only for want of appreciation. The beginning of our happiness lies in the understanding that life without wonder is not worth living. What we lack is not a will to believe, but a will to wonder.”
Up to this point of our trip, I have felt that the spiritual disciplines of study and meditation have been most helpful in maximizing my pilgrimage. Then today I was touched more deeply by moments of intentional silence. Our guide had many enlightening things to share today, but the greatest blessings grew out of appreciating the beauty and wonder of this ancient city.