The crossing was on its fifth day. The caravan continued its journey towards an oasis where lived a wise dervish, who knew “many secrets of heaven and earth”, with whom I wished to meet. Dozens of people formed the caravan that traveled on the sands of the Sahara, including pilgrims, traders, tourists and crew members. On the morning of that day, quite early, before we broke camp, I saw the caravanner a bit apart from the group, training his falcon. It caught my attention that whenever possible, he would distance himself from the group to tend to the bird. What an odd way to entertain himself, I thought. I attributed this habit of his to the inescapable cultural differences of different people. I looked for the gorgeous woman with lapis-lazuli eyes, to no avail. Then, my attention was drawn to a man who, whenever the caravan would make a stop, would roll out a nice carpet and put, in small bowls, some fine cookies. In addition, he would serve tea for those who wanted. Interestingly, this man did not hamper the pace of the caravan, as I had previously thought; once a year he would take the journey to meet relatives. He would make this tea ceremony out of pleasure. I was impressed with the great care he devoted to this task. An English merchant who used to travel to trade rugs with the skilled weavers of the oasis, noticing my interest, came closer to me and said: “This is the best tea I have ever had in my life.” I replied that such commendation from an Englishman should not be taken lightly. Then, I continued with a remark that it seemed to me a bit far-fetched to take all that care just to serve tea and cookies in a camp in the desert. The Englishman retorted as if telling a secret: “They claim he is a master.” Immediately, I became quite interested. I approached the man and asked him if I could take a seat; he smiled and gestured with his hand for me to make myself comfortable. He had just finished making an infusion in the teapot, and carefully poured me some tea in a refined porcelain cup and told me to help myself of cookies. I felt like a king. I sincerely complimented him on the tea. It was indeed delicious. He smiled again and said: “It pleases my heart. I like when people say it is like a nectar of the gods.” I confessed it was exactly what I thought when I tasted it. Next, because I was interested in ascertaining if he was indeed a master, I asked if he liked Blavatsky, a well-known Russian writer in the esoteric milieu. He looked at me with simplicity and replied: “I don’t know who that is.” I insisted in knowing his opinion about Krishnamurti, Yogananda, Kardec, Gibran, among some others. He repeated the answers by shaking his head in negative. Despondent, I asked him what kind of books he enjoyed reading. The man, whose name I later came to know was Kalil, told me with humility: “I don’t know how to read.” And explained: “I was raised in a refugee camp. There were no schools there.” Then, he added with extreme pride: “I learned how to make tea.” Disappointed, I outlined a smile as if saying that I understood the situation. I emptied the cup, complimented him on the tea once again and when I was about to leave, he made a point in explaining: “The tea you just had was made from a flower that is very common in the desert, but rare in cities. It should be placed in infusion fresh, for no more than 3 minutes, or its flavor is altered. I was lucky to have found a small bunch yesterday.” I said it was indeed a delicacy and thanked him. As I was not interested in knowing more about teas, I left.
The caravan followed its course as I expected, with nothing new or disruptive, as in previous days. At the end of the day, a bit earlier than usual, we stopped to set up camp, prepare the meal and spend the night. After the tents were pitched, dinner was served in huge pans, a stew made of vegetables, grains and lamb. In an organized line, each person would take a bowl and was served by the cooks. In those circumstances, and on account of hunger, that was always a pleasant moment of the day. When I distanced myself from the crowd to eat by myself, I saw the beautiful woman with lapis-lazuli eyes seated on Kalil’s elegant rug savoring same tea and entertained in a lengthy conversation. I tried to approach them, with the excuse that I wanted to drink some tea to help digestion, but one of the caravan’s security men prevented me from doing so. He just told me, seriously, to wait. With no other option but to accept, I remained at a distance waiting the end of the conversation, that seemed interminable. I kept wondering what that enigmatic woman of remarkable intelligence was speaking so much about with the tea man. At some point, I realized she also listened to him a lot. As I was hungry, I went back to the tent where the pans were and refilled my bowl. When I returned to Kalil’s, much to my surprise she was no longer there. Other people were being served by Kalil, always kind and thoughtful. I looked for the woman everywhere, unsuccessfully. It seemed she had vanished in thin air.
With the sun still up and not having much to do, I got a book and sat in a quiet corner. I hadn’t yet start reading when I saw the caravanner returning with the falcon perched on the thick, long-sleeve leather gloves he wore on the left arm. I approached him, trying to engage in conversation, but he said he was busy at that moment: “I will have some tea and talk to Kalil.” Curious, I asked what he talked about with the tea man. The caravanner shrugged his shoulders and said: “About everything, nothing in particular. About things of the world. I like to talk to him. He is a master.”
Intrigued by the interest the caravanner and woman with the lapis-lazuli eyes had in that man, I asked him if, by any chance, he was the wise dervish of the oasis. The caravanner shook his head and explained, as if saying the obvious: “Of course not.” And added with sincerity: “They are two different people. Each one with their own beauty.”
From afar I observed the caravanner talking to the tea man for many minutes. Sometimes one would talk, sometimes the other. At times, they laughed heartily. That was the first time I saw the caravanner smiling. Later on, when the stars begun to appear, I went back to Kalil, who, in a mixture of kindness, patience and joy, continued to serve tea to everyone. I poured myself another cup and asked him if he was a master, as people said. He gave me a sweet look and answered in a tone his words were as soft as his eyes: “Of course not.” I remarked that I have been studying metaphysics for many years and was looking forward to meeting the dervish of the oasis. Kalil nodded his head as if saying he understood what I meant and said: “He is a fine man. We normally have tea together. Our conversation is very lively.” I wanted to know what they talked about. The tea man answered with sophisticated simplicity: “About everything, nothing in particular. The lightness of our meetings oftentimes lets our imagination run wild and takes us to unknown places, where one can see without the veil of delusion.” I asked him if this power came from the tea. He laughed heartily and explained: “Of course not. All the magic comes from within to enchant what is outside. All the power comes from the soul. When your soul finds a nice spot to wander inside the other person, an enchantment occurs. Two candles together better illuminate a setting. I pay heed so that my soul is amicable and gives comfort to all who come.” I asked who had taught him that. Kalil shrugged his shoulders: “No one. I learned that serving tea.”
Before I could continue with the conversation, other people came for a good cup of tea. I went away with those words still circulating in my mind; I was trying to make better sense of them. Then I saw the caravanner. He was sharpening a dagger on a stone. When I approached him, I said the tea man was a very interesting person, despite being illiterate. The caravanner looked at me as if I were a child and said: “Culture and knowledge are undeniably valuable and should be encouraged as much as possible. However, wisdom lies in the soul of the world. That is the only place it can be found.” I said that I found it all too enigmatic and asked him to better explain what he meant. The caravanner obliged: “You have to put your soul in all you do, from the most important to the simplest things. It is a way you have to give your soul to the world. In return, the world gives back its own essence, your soul, the soul of the world. Filled with light.”
“Kalil puts his soul in the tea he brews. Therefore, when he serves it to people, he gives the world small portions of the best there is within himself. Each cup of tea is sweetened with drops of his soul. Kalil’s tea has Kalil’s soul. Hence, his essence evolves and merges with the essence of the world. This is magic. This enchants and transforms.”
I asked him if that was possible only with the tea. The caravanner furrowed his brow and said, in a serious tone: “Of course not. It is indispensable to put your soul in absolutely everything you do. From small daily actions to cornerstone choices of existence; in trade and in art. One must bring things and places to life and cherish the life of others. Hence your soul will color and illuminate all it touches; this forges the connection with the soul of the world and with all wisdom and love therein.”
The caravanner returned his focus to the sharpening of the dagger. I was next to him for a while, without saying a word, concatenating ideas. I broke the silence by telling him the caravan had, indeed, his soul, as if it were a natural extension of his body, his thoughts and feelings. Happy with my own conclusion, I concluded by saying that the caravan was the perfect portrait of the caravanner’s soul. He looked at me, smiled and said: “I love the caravan and put my soul in it. I word hard so that everyone can travel as comfortably as possible and reach their destination safely. We are born with the responsibility of being whole in the slightest things of everyday. This commitment expands to the point of going beyond its limits. Then, it becomes love. By having my soul pulsating throughout the caravan, I strengthen all its travelers with the power of my core. Hence I make the soul of the world come alive, and it helps us cross the desert.”
He paused to inspect the dagger, placed it in the sheath and added: “When I set my soul in motion, I bring forth the best in me and I venture into the soul of the world. This is the crossing to the unimaginable.”
The caravanner left. I kept wondering how I could offer my soul to the world; I felt like knowing the soul of the world. A little while later, my attention was drawn to the camp at the night of the desert. From afar, its many lamps and lanterns seemed to mix with the stars in the sky, as if they formed a single cloak sparkled with infinite points of light. I thought that perhaps it was something similar with the soul of everyone and the soul of the world. I noticed that far away, on the top of a dune, a person was whirling alone, as if in communion with the universe. As if his or her soul was dancing with the soul of the world. I thought it was maybe the beautiful woman with lapis-lazuli eyes. But I did not try to get closer to be sure; I had the absurd impression that she would dissolve into the air with the slightest approach.
Kindly translated by Carlos André Oighenstein.