The writer and wandering traveler Isabelle Eberhardt was an extraordinary woman. The remains of her book Dans l’Ombre Chaude de l’Islam – In the Hot Shade of Islam (salvaged from a flash flood that killed the young author) was once called “one of the strangest human documents that a woman has given to the world.” In her early twenties, Eberhardt wrote the following:
Vagrancy is deliverance and life on the open road is the essence of freedom. To have the courage to smash the chains with which modern life has weighted us (under the pretext that it was offering us more liberty), then to take up the symbolic stick and get out! To one who understands the value and the delectable flavor of solitary freedom (for no one is free who is not alone) leaving is the bravest and finest act of all.
Most of us can feel sympathy with Eberhardt’s words and admire her courage, especially considering the fact that she wrote them sometime around 1900. Who has not felt (at some point) the desire to “smash the chains” and set out on the open road? Perhaps when we are young, this can be the bravest and finest act of all. But as we grow older, the act of fleeing is often neither brave nor fine.
Looking toward the life of Jesus, we discover that true bravery is to defend our liberty even when being denounced by others, to honor our conscience regardless of the consequences, and to embrace our independence while others toe the line. In other words, to remain free even when we are not alone. The true essence of freedom is defined not by the depth of our solitude but by how well it stands up to the crowd.
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To read about Jesus’ second coming and the Russian writer Fyodor Dostoevsky, please go to: Jesus & The Grand Inquisitor.
Gospel of Mark 6
On leaving that place, Jesus, followed by his disciples, went to his own part of the country. 2 When the Sabbath came, he began to teach in the synagogue; and the people, as they listened, were deeply impressed. “Where did he get this?” they said, “and what is this wisdom that has been given him? and these miracles which he is doing? 3 Is not he the carpenter, the son of Mary, and the brother of James, and Joses, and Judas, and Simon? And are not his sisters, too, living here among us?” This proved a hindrance to their believing in him; 4 On which Jesus said: “A prophet is not without honor, except in his own country, and among his own relations, and in his own home.”
5 And he could not work any miracle there, beyond placing his hands upon a few infirm persons, and curing them; 6 And he wondered at the want of faith shown by the people. Jesus went round the villages, one after another, teaching. 7 He called the twelve to him, and began to send them out as his messengers, two and two, and gave them authority over foul spirits. 8 He instructed them to take nothing but a staff for the journey—not even bread, or a bag, or pence in their purse; 9 But they were to wear sandals, and not to put on a second coat.
10 “Whenever you go to stay at a house,” he said, “remain there till you leave that place; 11 And if a place does not welcome you, or listen to you, as you go out of it shake off the dust that is on the soles of your feet, as a protest against them.” 12 So they set out, and proclaimed the need of repentance. 13 They drove out many demons, and anointed with oil many who were infirm, and cured them.
14 Now King Herod heard of Jesus; for his name had become well known. People were saying: “John the Baptist must have risen from the dead, and that is why these miraculous powers are active in him.” 15 Others again said: “He is Elijah,” and others: “He is a prophet, like one of the great prophets.”
16 But when Herod heard of him, he said: “The man whom I beheaded, John, he must be risen!” 17 For Herod himself had sent and arrested John, and put him in prison, in chains, to please Herodias, the wife of his brother Philip, because Herod had married her. 18 For John had said to Herod: ‘You have no right to be living with your brother’s wife.’
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To continue reading Chapter 6 of the Gospel of Mark, including Jesus and a lonely place, please click on page 2 below.