A story today. Enjoy.
The Trader's Children
Brent van Staalduinen
The desert is still the desert… all the prints of all the feet of all the men who have ever walked across it are eventually vanished by the wind.
There was a young, wealthy trader who lived by the sea. For years the sea provided all he needed to trade and barter with passing merchants. When the days were hottest, he pressed dates into their hands and promised heaven with every bite. On calm days, smiling boys with lungs of steel spilled pearls onto his tables. And each morning, sun-wrinkled men who worked the dhows haggled with him over the price of hammour and flounder and ray.
Then one day, while he was looking for water, a foreigner said that he had found a strange thing bubbling up from the desert, dark and foul-smelling. Soon, another strange man from across the sea told the trader that he should sell the black liquid to people he had never met. The ships came, filled their insatiable bellies with thick desert nectar again and again, and the trader became wealthier than he ever could have imagined.
The world came to marvel at the millions of barrels of oil he could provide, a seemingly endless supply.
The trader’s family and friends were glad for his success, and loved the things he built to make them happy. Whatever they asked, he would provide, thanking the skies for blessing his small stretch of land. Cousins rejoiced with cousins when more oil was found in other desert lands. The people were happy.
And the world lined up to drink from the desert.
But a wise man knows never to forget the uncertainty of tomorrow. So the trader looked at his family and friends and told them that they must make plans to ensure a bountiful future. Some of his people insisted that their fortune was endless and that they would be showered by gold and jewels until judgment day. Others invested in foreign businesses, gold, and currency and hid them in banks across the sea. Still others invited strangers to visit and welcomed them to play in the new playgrounds they had created.
One day, the cousins decided that they must build something so the world would know how powerful they were. From the desert sands a tower began to grow, and the builders proudly proclaimed to the world that it would be the tallest tower ever. The world, while intrigued, cautioned the desert people that tall towers bring tall troubles. But the tower grew and grew and grew.
However, the cousins grew angry and accused the builders of grandstanding for selfish gain. So they decided to build their own tower, masked by desert legends of silk and mystery. Ours will be the greatest tower ever, they proclaimed, and the world will play on our sand and look at us with marvel and wonder. Most importantly, they said, it will be a beacon of understanding and will honor people from every faith, every tribe. And they made announcements and congratulated themselves on their cleverness and resourcefulness.
While the cousins were talking, the trader’s children declared that they would have an even higher tower. They said that it would honor their nation’s success, a mile-high landmark to demonstrate the fortitude of the people to the world. Celebrations were held, messengers carried the word around the globe, and money was poured into the coffers of those who would journey from across the sea to build this fantastic treasure. The nation’s children talked in loud voices about legacies and pride and honor, drowning out the long-dead whispers of a loving trader.
There is an old saying: the desert honors the pride of no man.