The Desert Weight

The weight of the world is love. Under the burden of solitude, under the burden of dissatisfaction the weight, the weight we carry is love. Who can deny? In dreams it touches the body, in thought constructs a miracle, in imagination anguishes till born in human– looks out of the heart burning with purity– for the burden of life is love, but we carry the weight wearily, and so must rest in the arms of love at last, must rest in the arms of love.

Allen Ginsberg

Not long ago, Juan and I were driving down the road and I drove directly through a small stream of human feces. A pipe had burst open next to the road and sent a steady flow of sewer water, and all of the wild smells that come with it, into traffic. That was the first time that I had ever driven through human waste. This summer we had tremendous rain storms; so much rain fell that our sewer backed up into our house. The water bubbled up into our shower and from around our toilet, flooding our bathroom with an inch of sewer, and coming to its final rest in our living room. Nasty. That happened about four times this summer.

One of the first smells to greet us when we cross the border is a faint smell of waste. There are several places in the city that carry a constant and quite potent smell of crap, which you catch a whiff of when you drive by. It would be wrong to say that I appreciate that particular smell, and I am not entirely sure why I am thinking about it this morning. Maybe because it is good to reminisce about the funny stuff like driving through poop, but it is certainly not what has captured my heart about this city, nor is it the first thing that I think about our new home. It seems that blood and bullets, razor wire, violence, and waste overwhelm what is truly capturing about the desert and what is alluring about this country. It is unfortunate that Mexico can be such a barbarous place, it is certainly not just a long walk on the beach, sun tans, and margaritas. There is a darkness and oppression that has been rooted here for ages.

There are other roots as well, amorous roots that reach deeper, have lived longer, and indeed are much stronger than the incorrigible ones that everyone wants to talk about. Those are the roots of family and an ancient love that continues to thrive amidst the thorns and terror. This is the desert that I am beginning to know. The desert is not simply a scrap of dirt with a cactus and a vulture perched on top of it. The desert is just as alive and feral as the people that live in it, and it would not be what it is without them. It is part of those people, it works and lives along side of them, it is a convergence of emotions and feelings, beauty and passion. I have spoken to many people about my own surprise at how connected I feel to the desert and how I had never dreamed that I would live in a place like this. I even used to loath simply driving through this corner of the world. It seemed depressing, dry, burdened. I did not know the people and I had no connection to them. But over 2 million people call this piece of the desert home. Children live here, moms and dads, families, life is reborn and deteriorates, it blooms and wilts, just as it does back home. It is easy to forget that there are normal, everyday people that live their lives here when all we hear about are the guns, violence, and poop. It is easy to forget that these people are our next-door neighbors and that their problems are truly our problems, that their pain is our pain.

Hope continues to push us forward even though it is ferociously opposed on many levels. I need to continue to speak about that hope, foster it, and let it grow within me. And with resolution and belief, we can carry that light burden together. There are messy things all around us (I will not ignore them or stop pointing to them), but in the spirit of hope I now point to what is greater, stronger, deeper, and richer: love.


2 Responses to “The Desert Weight”

  1. Love your perspective Matt. Hope…One of the best gifts God has given us. Can you imagine life without it? Impossible.

    We’ll stick a box of those pine tree air fresheners in your care package so it’ll give you a ‘different’ kind of smell (not necessarily better) and the pine trees will remind you of good ‘ole CO!

    Love you 2!

  2. thevitales Says:

    I deeply appreciate that you and Misty share your heart on this blog– these are more than just words you write, they are truth and they are life. And please know that you are not alone. I hope we can be faithful to God right here in the midst of our modern plumbing. I hope we can bear that burden of love like I know we are called to do and not get lost in the comforts that surround us! We love you both, keep up the good work!

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