By Paulo Coelho
In The Book of the Ghost, Alejandro Dolina links the history of sand with one of the creation myths of the Arab people.
According to this myth, as soon as the world had been made, one of the angels pointed out to the Almighty that he had forgotten to put any sand on Earth, a grave omission, given that human beings would be deprived for ever of being able to walk along the seashore, massaging their weary feet and being in direct contact with the ground.
Worse, river beds would always be rough and rocky, architects would be unable to make use of this indispensable material, and the footprints of lovers would be invisible. Eager to remedy this oversight, God despatched the Archangel Gabriel with a huge bag of sand so that he could spread it wherever it was needed.
Gabriel created the beaches and the riverbeds, then made his way back to Heaven, carrying with him the surplus sand, but the Enemy – always watchful, always keen to spoil the Almighty’s work – made a hole in the bag, which burst, spilling all its contents. This happened in a place now known as Arabia, and nearly the whole region was transformed into a vast desert.
Distraught, Gabriel went to ask the Lord’s forgiveness for having allowed the Enemy to creep up on him unawares. And God, in His infinite wisdom, decided to recompense the Arab people for his messenger’s unwitting mistake.
He created for them a heaven full of stars, such as exists nowhere else in the world, so that they would always be gazing skywards.
He created the turban which, beneath the desert sun, is of far more value than a crown.
He created the tent, so that people could move from place to place and thus always have new landscapes around them, without any of the irritating duties involved in the upkeep of a palace.
He taught the people to forge the best steel for swords. He created the camel. He developed the finest breed of horses.
And he gave them something more precious than all these things together, he gave them the word, the true gold of the Arabs. While other peoples were shaping metals and gemstones, the Arab people were learning to shape the word.
There the poet became priest, judge, doctor and chief of the Bedouin. His verses have the power to provoke joy, sadness, yearning. They can unleash vengeance and war, bring together lovers or reproduce the songs of the birds.
And Alejandro Dolina concludes:
‘God’s mistakes, like those of great artists or of true lovers, unleash so many happy compensations that sometimes it is almost worth wishing they would happen.’
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