(Host) Time has taken on a new meaning for commentator Nick Boke since his recent trip to Egypt.
(Boke) A few months ago, my wife, my daughter and I visited Egypt. The trip was my idea. I’d been deeply moved when I spent a couple of weeks there as a teenager. I wanted my family to visit before the political situation reached the point that it might be years before it would be safe to go again.
I had remembered the power of the place accurately. Driving from the airport through a stark desert dotted with pyramids, we were as astounded as I had been 40 years ago.
Every day we traveled seamlessly from world to world. One world took us back to a time when success in preparing the ruler for life after death determined the success of life on earth. To a time when hieroglyphs inscribed near the first pyramid at Sakkara five thousand years ago expressed more or less the same ideas as hieroglyphs at Om Kombo inscribed almost three thousand years later, as hieroglyphs at Philae, inscribed five hundred years after that. Except that the inscriptions at Sakkara prayed for the pharaoh Dsoser, at Om Kombo for the Pharoah Alexander the Great, and at Philae for the Pharoah who was Trajan, emperor of Rome.
The same basic theology and political system governed this narrow strip of fertility surrounded by thousands of miles of desert from the dawn of civilization almost until the fall of the Roman Empire.
Our modern world craves change. For us, sameness equals boredom and stagnation. If tomorrow doesn’t look dramatically different from today, we begin to fear that something is dreadfully amiss. And this modern world was just around the corner from the tombs of the Pharoahs. Cell phones and pagers were everywhere. We used ATMs in Luxor and Aswan. But Egypt is part of the Muslim world, too. So the call to prayer echoed throughout every city several times a day. Many women covered their hair with scarves, and a few wore veils. Alcohol wasn’t served to Egyptians.
Sometimes it all came together in a coherent synthesis. This was embodied by the tour guide who felt an honored kinship with the world of the pharaohs, who fasted during the Muslim holiday of Eid, and who gave us her email address before we left.
South of Memphis I stood by an irrigation canal, watching a farmer. He guided an ox pulling a wooden-bladed plow, doing work barely altered in six thousand years. The field in which he worked had probably been tilled for six thousand years. And it just might have been his blood ancestor who did this very same work on this very same spot all those years ago.
This is Nick Boke, still readjusting to life in turbulent, dynamic Weathersfield, Vermont.
Nick Boke is a reading consultant, minister and freelance writer.