Meditation: Tumbleweeds and Cacti

Mental sketch: From a friend, the phrase “this wandering in the desert is getting old.” He likely didn’t think add what I did: “said the tumbleweed to the cactus.”

Tumbleweeds and cacti. When we are starved for meaning, when we are wandering in the desert, we invent that meaning, that purpose, that vocalized belief that all is as it should be. Whether it is this cause, or that belief system, or this political touchpoint, or that Othered Enemy over there. It’s what we humans do, when we are naught but cacti.

The Israelites wandered the desert for forty years before entering the Promised Land, all because they dared to question God. But the curse to wander was based on their unshakeable belief that the chaos was just that: chaos. A belief that said God alone knew where to go, what to be, how to live- and, as humans, we were simple tumbleweeds blown by Divine Wind.

I have to wonder what would have happened would have stopped wandering, stopped pushing for the dream and planted roots in the middle of the sand dunes at the next oasis? Defied the will of their God by simply saying, “No más”?

I have a feeling that shit would have gotten real, that’s what, and not necessarily in the way one might think after reading the stories.

During that time, the Israelites were tumbleweeds, blowing hither and yon on the fickle desert winds. Much like that “The Secret” charlatan, this tribe of tumbleweeds were the everywhere, selling a promise and nothing more, and expected to take it on faith that everything would work out fine.

However, there is another prominent form of plant life in the desert. Cacti have deep roots, and they are integral to the local community: providing shelter, food, water, and shade. While a tumbleweed is stronger and more durable when alone, cacti are stronger in the company of others.

If the Israelites had sat down in the desert and stopped moving, exchanging roots and stability for fatigue and desperation, they likely would have to revisit the idea of cosmic determination. Imagine the effect that a singular act of defiance would have done to the cultural forces that forced them into this never-ending situation. God would have been transformed from a diety seen as controlling and harsh, to one seen as the benefactor of hearth and home. It’s an intriguing concept, no?

What happens, then, when this thought exercise is brought close to home? When we, as people of faith, begin to question the cultural forces that shape our religious experiences? What happens when we become cacti, trading roots for wind?

We transform our communities. When we stand forth and cry into the darkness “Let there be Light!”, we are reaching out for our roots. Joke about it all you want- humankind is an inherently transformative force, capable of things beyond imagining, if we would only but actually try.

In the week ahead, I will be attempting to live a transformative truth. To change the things I can, to live in the spirit of compassion that grows from our roots, to be a cacti and not a tumbleweed.