“The wasteland was the land that could never be wasted by people because it offered them nothing.” – Thomas Merton
The desert of today is not a topography of sand and rocks and aridity, it is the familiar landscape of common ideas and tastes that (on the surface) seem harmless. Therein lies the danger. In our modern cultural desert we have reduced temptation to banal images and sensations centered mostly around sex and power. We’ve turned it into entertainment and advertisement. Temptation is more subtle and dangerous than this. Ignorance of what is truly happening, and what is at stake, is the downfall of many.
To dismiss desert experiences and temptation and their consequences as primitive superstitions from an unenlightened past is to fully embrace the folly of a modern ignorance. Our current antidote to superstition is a lack of belief, which is equally foolish. Whether we accept it or not, the age-old dilemma of temptation in the desert still exists. It has taken on some new forms, but the same devastating consequences play out. Just look around you.
One does not rise above the challenge of becoming human by downplaying or relegating the forces at play to the status of myth and superstition. We must be cautious not to minimize the struggle and danger involved in the art of being human.
What is your desert?
What temptations await you there?
Prayer: Lord of Life, help me to see and know when I am living in a wasteland. Help me to overcome the temptation to claim it is normal, and thus remain there.