Walking About in Perfect Emptiness

[Letter excerpt, 1957]

I opened your letter in the severest of the Sevier Desert, a perfectly desolate waste of reddish-brown sand and huge volcanic blocks: it was indescribably restful. How natural and easy death seems in the quiet anonymity of the dunes! The dry sand drifts with a soft hissing sound in a gentle wind; the bones that lie around beautifully cleaned and polished elicit no pity or remorse, for nothing has any particular identity and everything seems at rest; there is a relaxation and a rightness about everything – after a few hours of sitting or walking about in a perfect emptiness of sand and air one imperceptibly relaxes and begins to soak up certain basic realizations which in any other setting would not be accepted without a struggle. The first is that my being here or not being here doesn’t make the slightest difference to anything, one way or the other. The neat white vertebra you kick with your toe might be that of a lame sheep, a coyote, or Alexander the Great – it doesn’t make the slightest bit of difference, one is no better than the other as far as this world is concerned. For me this was escape pure simple, but I came back another day greatly refreshed, having seen some marvelous country that I had never dreamed existed – less than 100 miles from home…

It is too much to ask or expect of anyone, to renounce all the ingrained attitudes and convictions that society has so carefully taught us all – agreeing with the world has never been a crime: disagreeing with it has always been…Don’t weaken: we’ll both be a good deal better off after some first-class repentance – my own case is more like yours that you would ever think.



About Hugh Nibley

Hugh Nibley, 1910-2005, was simultaneously the LDS Church's greatest intellectual defender from attack from the outside and Mormon culture's strongest critic from the inside. This blog is composed mainly from Nibley's unpublished writings, letters, interviews and conversations, with occasional posts from associates who had personal interactions with him.
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2 Responses to Walking About in Perfect Emptiness

  1. William E. Kettley says:

    Hugh’s reference to Alexander the Great sounds just like him. He was quite a personality. My brothers said he would walk out of his home at BYU reading a book and know just how to get to
    his classrooms without so much as looking up. My favorite was his prayer concerning the ancient robes of an apostate priesthood. He was great to listen to. Bill Kettley

  2. Teakwood says:

    This a wonderful look at a part of creation that is too often put down.

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