The Nomads


freshly-pressed-rectangle He was never there for me.

Relationships. Those crazy biblical relationships. Of these pastoral Nomads. Semitic-people, with their related languages derived, presumably, from a common tongue. The descendants of Noah’s eldest son. Migrating in large numbers. The ancient Semitic populations, descendants of Shem, including Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.

Those relationships? God, with these nomads. For these always moving nomads. The original illegal aliens. Sleeping with whomever. Seen from a distance. The movement in the story. But with something elusive, seen in the distant.

Those nomads in search of something. Abraham had married his father’s—but not his mother’s —daughter. Sarah. Oh, those crazy biblical relationships.

God and Abraham. In a relationship. With a distance to be moved in life. For the Semites. The changing setting of time and distance, for each generation. And some attachment to belief. About life and death and birthrights. And new nations.

I was a descendant of Irish nomads. With great restlessness. Which developed from, was caused by, famine. Maybe not much different than in these stories of Isaac, and Jacob, and Joseph. About life and death and birthrights. And new nations. The Barren. I spent a January day in the Barren, in Ireland. A stark and barren place, with all of the silence of a great famine. Looking out toward the Aran Islands. On this opposite side of the Atlantic where my forefathers started. Irish nomads, with great restlessness.

God and Abraham. In a relationship which was the basis of Judaism, Islam, and Christianity. God and Abraham and Isaac, in this “western religion.” In a relationship. When after 5 generations, there had to have been quite a divide. In the relationship. So since the days when God’s one command given to Abraham —“Heed the demands of Sarah, no matter what she is asking you; for it is through Isaac that descendants will bear your name” —had Isaac always been a burden? For his father to be with?

Abraham and Isaac. And the women in the lives of Abraham and Isaac. Wives who waited so long for a son. The barren women of nomads. In a relationship, with this deep longing within. And then the nomadic men, also dealing with their infertility. Nomads in search of the Promise Land. Looking to be excited by something. By someone. In a world with all the false substitutes. Soul mates looking to be excited. And she had selected him. So he prayed for his barren wife. In a world where no one can be sure. About endings, after the beginning. In the relationship, where Abraham wanted to satisfy Sarah.

Abraham did have other progeny. But what did it mean sacrificing Sarah’s only child? Had Abraham really liked Isaac? Sarah’s son. Yeah, Abraham. Married to Sarah, his father’s daughter. But not his mother’s daughter. Sarah’s only son. Sarah’s son who after dealing with the years of infertility together, never really has much to say. Or maybe he was not real quotable. Or said the inane things that young athletes say. Like the guys of his generation. The ones who had it all. Leisure time. For the physically able. The ones who did not deserve the future – when the present time had once been the future, for Abraham and Sarah. After all the past suffering. Yeah, that generational thing. But it was Isaac whose descendants would bear his name. So, what was this special power of Isaac?

Those relationships? Speaking of the inadequacies. The covenant that had been all about Isaac. The inner turmoil. The inadequacies. When it is not natural to be the son of Abram. After his new name and new identity as Abraham. Or the son of Sarai, with her new name. When someone like a parent brought you to God. As you learned to pray. And never really talk about the struggles with faith. Or over identity. And never really asked about the struggle involved to reach this point. About what you believed to be true – or at least what had been told.

So at this point in the story, had Sarah, whom Abraham had tried to satisfy, been terribly disappointed? Like an ex-wife, by all the inadequacies. By this time, Hagar had gone where? Speaking of covenants and relationships. Soul mates, who had been through the test. Nomads with barren wives who were never there. Life in stark and barren places. Bloodlines and DNA. And dealing with fertility. When your relationships, with God, with your kin, with nomads, were based only on blood. And love. When no young person can even be sure. About those relationships? Or about their identity. When for Sarah, this set of beliefs had always been passed done by the fathers. At least in this clan.

The covenant that had been all about those relationships? About the things in life which moved you. When the focus was on greatness, not on the shortcomings. In relationships. Oh, but the shortcomings. At least the focus of some wives. Or some sons. Oh, the focus on the distance, with all the shortcomings. “He was never there for me.” The mirage, with the distance in a relationship. With a wife. With a son. Of a nomad. Like those who are in flight, with God. About the beliefs of each generation. Even after what all God had given.

Nomads in search of the Promise Land. Note the different points of view of each generation . . . about the distance. What seemed a natural distance in any relationship, to a nomad? When over time, in a generation, you discovered the meaning. Of a phrase. Of a distance. So that was why in this monotheism with one God, who was so different over the distance of time, the reference to the God of Isaac, distinct from the God of Abraham? In the world of interior design, with a different for each generation, there was the evolution of the God of Abraham which had been written about for centuries, before Charles Darwin’s Theory.

Those relationships? The little movement in his relationship. Or in Isaac’s relationships? For these nomads. Until it finally hurt to move anywhere in old age? Any distance. And God commanded that he take Isaac to Mount Moriah? Another trip? In old age! For this 130-year old nomad? Another demand, a spiritual demand, only when it now really hurt to physically move. When it has always seemed to hurt a guy to move. In a relationship. Once he had one. Just ask your wife.

In the book of Genesis, the Akedah is the account of the binding of Isaac, when Abraham, at the command of God, takes his son to be offered as a sacrifice on Mount Moriah. With the travel factor. Concerning distance. Perhaps it was Isaac who felt that his father’s God seemed three days away from the real world in which he lived. Yeah, the Isaac that through him Abraham’s descendants would “bear your name.”

The perspective about distance, for the son or a father. For a veteran nomad. Those who were in flight. Was there a reluctance present? It had taken Abraham three days to get to Moriah. Was the issue about impending death and relationships at life’s end. Between a father and a son? Or with God? Was there something missing in a relationship with God? In what seemed a natural distance in a relationship of a young nomad? Was there an undercurrent of paternal anger? Was that why God suggested sacrificing Isaac? With God’s approval? Was there a power struggle here? A physical or spiritual one? Those Ten Commandments had not yet been put on stone. Killing was not yet outlawed. And always the theme in the stories about Isaac—about birthrights. And the shortcomings. And on the eve of his own death, and where it was where they were really going? Abraham, when he had to have seen his own contemporaries die off. One by one. Was the issue at least for Abraham now about the his own movement. Beyond life? For a nomad, always in search of place.

Those crazy biblical relationships. About birthrights of nomads. The descendants of Noah, migrating in large numbers. These pastoral semitic-people with their related languages derived, presumably, from a common tongue. Those who were in flight. Wrestling in those days, with identity, after Noah’s world had already been destroyed rather than passed along. Just like when God once had elected to start over, in themes about starting over, what would God do concerning the next generation of Chosen People? In starting a relationship with the next generation? Who seemed to have so much less need for sacrifice.

Abraham and Isaac. With their related language. When a son had his father’s dialect. Or his mother’s. With Abraham carrying the fire and the knife. And Isaac somehow, in an unstated way, carrying the future. When dysfunction was related to the depth of communication, in a relationship with a related language? So was this about trying to pass on the manner to pray – the idiosyncratic way that Abraham prayed. For enforcement, with a knife, of his beliefs? With a son maybe 25, perhaps 30-years old, or maybe 35. The shortcomings of a long ongoing dysfunctional relationship? With little communication of the purpose of, the true reason for, the trip. The distance, the movement in relationship? Abraham with the knife. And a dysfunctional relationship?

With the knife, and carrying the fire. Reportedly, at the command of God. Withe the same knife which had circumcised his son, at birth? Symbolic of unconditional love, in his pact with God. And maybe with what was left of the very same fire about unconditional love, at the age of 130. In the world of interior design, with Abraham carrying the fire; when in a birth by fire, in his own version in his own day of a penecostal moment.

Stories about devotion to God. In a largely pagan world, with migrating large numbers of nomads, into cities, in search of something. In the polytheistic world. In a tradition that was all about a covenant of the past with the present day, was Abraham no better than any other pagan making a sacrifice? To move the next generation of nomads, in their search for the Truth. The movement in relationship, when you prayers seemed so alive. How to keep something alive about your life and about the past? How to keep something alive in such a world about the past, so that God would never be forgotten by the next generation.

Stories about devotion to God, written on manuscripts, bound and passed down. Note the importance of the binding in the Akedah story, about devotion to God, when you were bound by belief. How to keep something alive about your life and about the past, as over time, in a generation, you discovered the meaning…of a phrase, or of your beliefs from your past tradition clashed with the present day world. With the younger generation. When you were bound to the blood of your children. And how quickly the knife appeared, after Abraham had tied up Isaac. As the knife approached the binding. In an act that was to express belief. Or disbelief. For the ages.

Those crazy relationships. And you wanted others to have the same experience. Yes, how quickly the knife appeared, after Abraham tied up Isaac. Was the Akedah story about the need for change in Abraham’s relationships? As a nomad in search of something. And you wanted others to then have the same experience. With God wanting more. And so God’s intervention in the relationship, with the command. “Do not lay our hand on the boy….do not do the least thing to him!” And the movement in his relationship. God’s direct intervention, for nomads in search for the Truth. The distant Truth, when Abraham’s God was the True God.

When your prayers were so alive. In search of the Promise Land. When your relationship was so alive. And somewhere along the line, you witnessed the Truth. And the movement in His relationship. And then writing it all down.

Flesh and blood nomads in search of something. “Mostly they are the same lives. The same stories, over and over,” wrote David Remnick, the editor of The New Yorker. When we endow our lives with stories. The importance of the binding in the relationships, in stories about unconditional love. When your relationships were so alive. When you prayers were so alive. And you wanted others to then have the same experience. With God’s intervention in the relationship. Mostly the same stories, generation after generation. With a great restlessness. Carrying the fire. With your own tradition. In search of the Promise Land.

For those who are in flight, just trying to survive, a religion starting from blood relationships. Looking for union, but with God’s intervention in the relationship. In bloodlines. And learning about the proper way to worship. And sons somehow learning their own identity along the way. So, what was this special power of Isaac, who seems to speak in Genesis less often than God. Was it a story about the power of the future, in these stories about some form of deepness within like in Isaac’s descendants who would bear his father’s name – and all the conflict of the past creation not so much with the present but with the future human creation to come? And the fertility in a world to come.

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