“Literature has blurred the features of the men who have chosen the empty spaces of the planet for their domain, who seek the broad plains of solitude. All the clichés about ‘adventure’, all the banalities about the ‘magic of the sands,’ or the ‘appeal of the desert’, have thrown a veil of confusion over the truth. The man who becomes a denizen of the Sahara is neither the one stereotype always straining every nerve towards feats of heroism, nor the other who bears within him the unhealed wound of a great love. A sic heart finds no more effective cure in the desert than anywhere else; rather less, probably. The image of the man who is made a ‘Saharan’ by duty, by resentment, or by despair, is entirely false. To picture the desert as a convalescent home or a place to retire to—what a misconception! The desert enriches only those who are already rich. It strengthens only the strong. One must entrust to it the heart’s abundance and the heart’s vitality; for these it brings to fruition.”

“ ‘I have gathered the smallest atoms of time into ever-more-substantial textures,’ wrote Mallarmé. To give substance to that thin thread of water or sand that runs between our fingers—that is our sole problem. It is this that inspires the mystics, as it inspires the poets. ‘The contemplation of time is the key to human life’, says Simone Weil…

Whether one walks, rides a camel, flies, or dives deep into the sea, it is for the sole purpose of crossing a frontier beyond which man ceases to feel himself a master, sure of his techniques, upheld by his inheritance, backed by the crowd. The more powerless he is, the more his spirit permeates his being. The horizon of the world and the horizon of thought coincide within him. Then the water, the rocks, and the sand become vital nourishment, and perhaps a poem.

The sea and the desert are countries of lowly material attributes, where mind and spirit find luxury.”

“Travel is a means of achieving another life. Not the life you had been hoping for, but on the contrary, such a life as you cannot foresee when you set out.”

–all from Philippe Diolé, The Most Beautiful Desert of All


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