These days, we in the west regard the Middle East with disdain. It is a war zone, riven with in-fighting. The people there are not like us- they follow a different religion, wear funny clothes. They are less developed than us too- many of them live in primitive squalor. Not to mention the fact that they are dangerous, prone to radicalism and even terrorism. We fear that they will sneak in through the backdoor, smuggling toxic difference into our society.
This view persists, despite the fact that most of us know very little of the realities of life beyond our small island. Perhaps it has always been like this- we fear the outsider and this fear converts to hatred if we are not careful.
Then there is the historical perspective. Once, we were the backward terrorist heathens. We marched behind a cross rather than an ISIS flag, but we were every bit as blinkered and bloodthirsty as the Taliban. We were the bogeymen that kept children in their beds. Meanwhile, for thousands of years, civilisations of the middle east had established great cities with libraries and centres of learning. They mapped the stars, made great scientific and mathematical discoveries, became physicians and poets.
The advent story, when seeking to portray the science of divinity, looked not to the West, but to the East, out towards the ancient Persian seats of learning…
Where, we are told, wise men saw signs and portents in the stars and set out on a journey of discovery…
Some search for fame, for fortune
But I search for answers;
Who set the stars in their celestial arcs?
Who pulls back the skirts of the sea?
How many the grains of sand in my hand?
What is the meaning of me?
Where does the stream in the desert rise from?
How does the eagle take wing?
How high are the hills that rise to the west?
Why does the caged bird still sing?
Whose massive bones are cast in this rock?
What is the point of a flea?
How did I come to be born here at all?
Can we ever make alchemy?
So many questions for one short lifetime
How then am I being pulled
(Like a magnet draws iron)
Into this crazy quest
Far away from how
Into primitive Hebrew superstition?
I am hooked like a perch
By a worming words of foolish prophecy
My only excuse is that a light came in the west
And it might just illuminate the biggest question of all;