“I’ve seen many things in my time, like a movie flashing before may eyes. Perfect scenes and seasons, driven by a deep fascination with this wide wide existence…” – words I wrote some time ago, still fresh to me, seeping deep into the crevices of my mind, a mind that is always exploring, always retreating, always moving towards complete stillness, yet always on a journey. Sometimes I wonder if life is really supposed to be a journey, a becoming, a growing of the self… or maybe this is just the state of one who hasn’t fully given-in yet, fully embraced the nothingness, still attached, somewhere, to the world and its treasures. Maybe… in many ways I am old, far too old for my time and generation, and in many ways I am still a child, a little boy, wandering about barefoot through gardens of my relatives, wondering what lives beyond the fences, the hedges; what lives beyond the blueness of sky, beyond the realm of stars and moon. In some ways I am fully aware, fully conscious of how my life’s musings have impacted people, how they have been totally necessary for me and for others. And yet, also, I feel totally blind, blind to the greater reality at work, blind to the true power of God functioning in the unseen realm around me and my path, blind, probably, to what God truly wants from me… But maybe that is the journey itself – to discover what God wants, to let go of all else, or to admit the fact that you will never truly know the will of the Unknowable, until we shed this outer existence completely – a time when all things will be opened-up and revealed. And, until such times, the purpose is just to Be, and let Life work through you, unknown to you… like a bird or a bee, just buzzing away in some unseen garden, tending the pastures of paradise.
It’s a name so famous, so simple and evocative, its mere mention re-calling a plethora of timeless moments from that story, the Greatest Story ever told. Like Jerusalem this place to me was mythical, and surely didn’t exist up to the present day. I’ve always been the kind of person to search beyond the myth, peer closer into the fabric of things… always searching, seemingly always finding. For a person who professes to value very few material things, I seem always to be acquiring, growing in the richness of life experiences, connections with people and places far and wide, and the deeper reality of being human.
Of course, when I say Galilee, I mean the Sea of Galilee… for whatever tales and versions of the history, one thing for sure is that this was and still is His place, an intimate place, deeply connected to His story, life and ministry. It was a place I had to see, to witness with every part of me, before my time was up… and, like many of the most powerful places in my life’s story, I nearly didn’t make it…
I believe the reason Father has allowed me to keep travelling (and by travelling I mean to keep having fulfilling and impactful experiences in the world) is because I appreciate it so much, not that I would ever claim to perceive the will of the Creator… such things are mostly expressed in deeply subtle ways that take a lifetime to decode. But with travel I’ve not allowed it to become an addiction. He knows I would give it all up for Him. He knows I see the greater picture, and will pursue Its calling in my life with all my might and energy, and that nothing else truly matters to me but this pursuit. Going to the Holy Land, to Jerusalem, just that would have been enough for me… but of course, as always, I have a wish, a prayer, to see or reach a place, and God gives me a whole lot more… more than I could ever ask for, and more than I would dare to ask for. Truly it brings to questions, do I have so much more than others? Or have I just been able to see what I have, as it is, with clearer eyes? If we could really see the Grace at work in our lives, we wouldn’t complain, or ever doubt or worry, we would be whole, at peace, forever One.
I remember it distinctly – the weariness, the heaviness, that feeling of just wanting to cradle myself in a familiar place – the familiar place in that moment being Jerusalem, the Old City, in an ancient building nestled between the Armenian and Christian quarters, a place I called home for about two months. I won’t go deeply into my life in Jerusalem here, but I will say that the place truly felt like a true home for me, as if I wasn’t a traveller there, a tourist or visitor, but truly a part of the fabric of that legendary city’s enduring legacy. And a part of its future.
I was in the communal kitchen with Thomas, himself a seasoned traveller from Holland, and we were pouring over maps of Jerusalem and the wider Holy Land together, whilst he recounted tales and snippets of his own journeys. I’m always in awe of other people’s adventures. I’ve always adored listening to stories, engaging with the very personal expression that is storytelling. Listening to great storytellers is very much what made me want to be one myself. I’ve never nurtured that feeling of ‘competition’ with other travellers. Sure I’ve been inspired by others, and the deeds of other explorers have certainly spurred me on to do bigger and more-daring things, but it’s always been a mutual salute for me, a sharing. I am happy to meet and collaborate with others, and would hate to think I have ever discouraged others from pursuing their dreams, or hindered others on their paths. I can’t say the same sentiment has always been returned to me. Jealousy, competition, inferiority/superiority – they reek, people, they truly reek. And whilst we are taught to turn the other cheek, we also must stand up for what is right, what is true. I have encountered souls who sadly have turned out to be a vivid illusion, one they themselves believe in and pursue around the world. I try to keep such souls in my prayers: they who project hurt are always hurting themselves. We are all just children really, vulnerable children who’ve grown up in a world of pain. I find it helps to look at everyone this way. And of course everybody is a teacher: some good, some bad. Ultimately all teach us something about ourselves.
Anyway… so back in Jerusalem Thomas was trying to convince me to visit the Sea of Galilee as he knew I only had a week left in the Holy Land before flying on. I was ‘on the fence’, wishing deeply to see the place, but feeling, for some strange reason, an inability to actually make a decision on whether or not I would go. I’ve travelled to so many places on my own, with such enthusiasm at times, for months on end, and yet, here, I couldn’t align my desire. I was blocked. After urging me for some time Thomas eventually insisted on my going, and offered to go with me, saying he had friends we could stay with along the way. I agreed of course, how could I not? It would be ungracious to refuse such a positive spirit.
Before I knew it we were down the road, on the light rail heading towards the bus station to some destination I didn’t really know of. I wasn’t really concerned: I was just the follower here.
We eventually arrived in an area close to Beit She’an and rested for a night at Thomas’ friend’s farm on a Kibbutz. It was a sweet little place, with plenty of life, greenery, a few travellers and seekers, and a wonderful little kitten who took quite a liking to me, and I to she. After being so long in Jerusalem, surrounded by dusty stone and the towering walls of religion, it was a wonderful thing to be among nature and simplicity for a while.
I remember having profoundly clear prayers there in the morning, and really refreshed myself from the consuming energy of Jerusalem, which I’ll write about more in another story. You see prayer is a clarification process, on many levels. It is not just words, or formulas, empty or vain repetitions as we might be lead to believe by some. When the selves are aligned and devotion is clear, miracles of mind, body and soul truly happen, in any place, not least of which is your own bedside. Churches and temples can be hallowed places, but unfortunately such buildings are often not used or built for the right reasons. If I cannot have access to a sanctified communal space, nature is always the next best thing for me… and I know many of you will be able to relate.
The following day after a good night’s sleep we made our way on foot to the ruined city of Scythopolis, which is commonly called just Beit She’an or Beisan. A fascinating place, full of tales, layer upon layer of history, legends and legacy. The city was founded in prehistory and was subsequently occupied by the Canaanites, the Egyptians, the Greeks, the Romans and eventually by the Byzantines, before being passed through the hands of the Muslim Califs, the Crusaders, the Ottomans, the British and so on. The real life Lawrence of Arabia (not me) passed through the area and recorded the place being full of Bedouin camps, and of course, perhaps most famously, Beit She’an is remembered as the place where the Philistines hung the body of the fallen King Saul in the Holy Bible.
Now let’s just get one thing straight: I loved the place. It felt as though Thomas and I were there on our own, and unlike ruined Roman and Hellenic cities in Europe, here one is able to fully climb and explore nearly every corner, much to my surprise, and as there was almost nobody around I was able to pay light notice to the cordoned-off areas (sorry, usual story folks). It was a step back in time, to my childhood fantasies of 19th and early 20th century archeology, where a whole world of treasures and ruins were just waiting to be discovered, by one daring enough to venture into the unknown…
We arrived finally at the Sea of Galilee, the Kinaret as locals call it. We mostly hitchhiked and made it, really, just in time to spend a few hours before the sun set. It was winter so no sleeping rough on the shores was on my agenda; I’m not great with the cold. Hitchhiking through Israel – you need a good sense of humour. Actually scratch that, travelling – you need a good sense of humour, or a huge budget (I have plenty of the former thank God).
We entered the ruined synagogue complex in Capernaum which also housed Simon Peter’s house (according to tradition), the location where the miracle of the lame man took place. No doubt plenty of the stories from the New Testament took place around this part of the Sea. There was a small Greek Church where we took refuge a while, a beautiful little place with gently-painted scenes from the life of Christ and the Apostles and holy men. I also loved seeing the free-roaming peacocks prancing about the well-tended grounds, reminding me of my time seeing the Prince of the Jungle in his natural environment in India.
We walked around different parts of the old town, retracing the paths of many souls who had come before, setting a trial for the many who would undoubtedly come after… What a world we live in, people – what a strange and wondrous world. There is just so so much out there, and within us all, and yet, we are just specks of light, floating along the timelines of infinity.
I was honoured to be here. I can’t explain that enough. How on earth was I here ? It was no will of my own… this was undoubtedly God’s will.
You see, I never would have made it on my own! God knew that, and so He provided a way, as He often does, through the help of another… a companion for the Road. It’s happened to me many times, I meet the perfect person by perfect ‘chance’ somewhere out in the world and we make some journeys together a while that I probably couldn’t have done alone. You leave your home and you never truly know where you might end up, or who with. You leave alone and return alone but what happens in-between is in the hands of the journey and the Great Artist, whose canvas is the world, and the greater universe.
The shores of the Sea of Galilee were utterly surreal for me, a miracle. It was a no small thing that I was there, even though truly it was a short amount of time. But it was enough, it was everything. I had made it. I was standing there, and my heart was smiling wider than the sky, as I watched birds in formation swooping down gracefully over waters transformed into chiaroscuro majesty before the setting sun. Another mission was completed. Thank God.
Postscript: I have been busy my dear souls! I am back in England now and starting a new era of life, not knowing what it might bring, which is quite a wonderful feeling for me. I am very excited to see what is next for me in the Great Plan. Right now I am sitting in a tiny room in my Dad’s old farm house surrounded by a load of old things wondering what on earth may come next. In the past this feeling may have frightened me and the feeling that the ‘outward’ journey had stopped would make me restless… but, sitting here writing this, I feel far from frightened. I feel deeply fulfilled, filled with hope and gratitude for all that has passed through my making these 30 years… yes 30 years! I turned 30 standing on the back of an open-topped truck watching the Serengeti roll away as tears streamed down my face and I recalled all my travels and struggles and wonderful wanderings. Miracles happen! When you believe…
Check out my latest post with a selection of photographs from my most recent adventures ~ the world is dark but that doesn’t mean you can’t shine your light. And stay tuned for more stories and some exciting short films coming soon (I will post both here and on Youtube). Keep in touch, I always value the connection. Stay safe, and most imortantly keep your faith! You’ll be needing it… 🙂
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