“There is a morsel of flesh in the body that if it is sound the whole body will be sound and if it is corrupt the whole body will be corrupt and it is the heart” ~ Prophet Muhammad

I interact with many people on a regular basis, whether it is through teaching or at my photo exhibits.  At times it seems to me that what I try to communicate to others, either through my photographs or through the lessons I teach or with what I write, goes unnoticed or not cared about at all.  Grant it, I am not a person of great influence, but I think my insights are unique and the knowledge that I have and am willing to pass on does have value.

I am at times perplexed why what I have to offer is not sought after.  It has forced me to become quite introspective about the state of my own heart.  Years ago, when I was a graduate student, I was asked by the community of Muslim students on campus to give the sermon at the Friday congregational prayer.  I gave the talk hesitantly as it was at the time a daunting task.  But I spoke from the heart and it went fine.  Afterwards another graduate student who was studying at the law school on campus, who by the way was already a practicing judge in Egypt, came up to me and thanked me for my talk and said he could tell that what I was saying came from my heart.  He continued to say to me that when the heart speaks the ears do not hear it, but it goes straight to the heart of the listener.

Communication is formed of three distinct parts.  The first is the communicator, second the receiver, and third the message communicated.  If any are eliminated then communication fails.  The message communicated is incidental and it could be anything.  Crucial to communication are the communicator and the receiver.   Both must be present, the communicator willing to broadcast and the receiver open to reception.  To begin, a channel needs to be opened that both the communicator and receiver can mutually access.   It seems to me that the most direct channel would be heart to heart, as this would eliminate any possible barriers to delivering the message delivered.

I was left wondering where the breakdown was happening for me.  Was I failing as a communicator?  Was I not broadcasting on the right channel?  Were the intended receivers not there or possibly not listening or listening with the wrong receptor?

Then I found myself wandering the Eastern Sierra landscape in early October bedazzled by the rich autumn color and enlivened by the crispness of the chilled air.  I was open to whatever I found and I listened carefully to what my eyes saw and what my heart echoed in return.  One morning I came upon a most unusual and almost lurid landscape at the foot of the youngest mountain range of North America, the Mono Craters.  There, on the pumice fields, was an expanse of sage that had been burned to the point where all that remained were the twisted charred skeletons of the main branches of each individual plant.  Most were burned completely to ash, while others still had the substance to stand, yet frozen forever in time and waiting only for erosion to eat away at what was left.  It was as if I had walked upon a holocaust and what remained were only the dead.

As I stood there among the dead I pondered was my stumbling upon this graveyard of sage an indication that I was one among them? Was my heart was so engulfed with material worries and wants that its ability to communicate had been prevented?  Or was I wandering among the dead hearts of my intended receivers of my broadcasts unable to hear what I am saying?  This question still burns inside of me and I do not know the answer.

What I do know is that the heart is the most important channel of communication. Protecting it and keeping it sound so that it can hear the lessons taught by Mother Earth, so that I can hear the calls of my fellow brothers and sisters when they need help, so that I can respond in kind is always on my mind.  What I also know is that I am listening and I am doing my best to keep the channel to and from my heart open.  I hope yours is open too.  Can you hear me?  Are you among the dead?


Burned Sage on Pumice Fields at the base of the Mono Craters

Among The Dead


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