Grains of sand
and fireflies

Nausica Manzi

The grains of sand are human beings who in the desert of existences discover their true identity as a small light capable of merging with others.


Sun and rain mingle, cold and heat go hand in hand, spring fights with winter, autumn chases summer, and radioactive storms and droughts have become the horizon of the existence of so many grains of sand within a dry landscape called Earth. A landscape that is a hopeless desert in search of a source of salvation. 


A desert is a totality of innumerable grains of sand for whom, from their individual and unique points of view, it takes on a different meaning: it is a hot, oppressive horizon or a raging storm, it is a territory in which hope and despair dance. Each grain of sand experiences its own personal desert. Everyone inhabits a corner of it and, losing themselves in that dry landscape, little by little, they perceive in it the origin of a precious jewel: digging deep down, the aridity becomes a spring.

In sacred writings and literature, a desert is a place of suffering, passing, and revelation, where the fatigue of facing dryness brings with it the seed of hope and rebirth. 

The desert represents an existential phase that comes about in order to free oneself of cumbersome burdens, in order to feel only that identity as a grain of sand, a fragile entity but one endowed with marvellous power.  Therefore, this existential phase offers each grain a change of perspective when looking at that arid landscape: nothingness and dryness become the origin and source of newness and salvation. But how so? How is it possible to go beyond the distressing drought and find in it the origin of an endless, unexpected, profound yet invisible spring of water that restores life and is able to unravel the tarnished glass of all existence?


For each grain of sand, trapped in its own corner of the desert and in the horizon presented to it by this space, life suddenly appears as a miracle because it is not taken for granted: extreme dryness ignites the sensitivity of feeling alive, the drought of the soul becomes what fuels the fire of the human mind; its ability to observe and embody the unseen and the power contained in it. The desert thus becomes a container of small grains of sand that, digging, meeting, mingling, discover fireflies that, each shedding its own light in the darkness of the desert, by getting caught up in that landscape, illuminate the tarnished glass of existence. So, the grains of sand are human beings who in the desert of existences discover their true identity as a small light capable of merging with others, of passing from lifelessness to full life, embodying that dry landscape and turning it into a blinding source of transformation: «Ho sempre amato il deserto. Ti siedi su una duna di sabbia. Non si vede niente. Non si sente niente. E tuttavia qualcosa riluce in silenzio»


By entering the desert, therefore, one has the opportunity to enlighten one’s soul and set it to a new goal, to dare continue walking, because one is certain that, at any moment, first within oneself and then without, an oasis of refreshment will appear on the horizon and thus, in its depths, the aridity of a grain of sand will be transformed into a source of light, a small firefly of renewed life.

Hence, the desert represents an inner landscape. In fact, the landscape is not only something with which each person relates externally, it does not cease in contemplation, but goes beyond the glance, the perspective of each grain of sand that becomes a firefly: in this exceeding, the desert becomes a figure of the evolution of identity, an internal landscape, a ‘neuro-aesthetic and ethical landscape’ that travels through the brain, involving the body, affections, memory, the senses, the glance, all the way to beliefs, values and behaviour. Each desert is a passage from interiority to exteriority, a landscape of the soul of a grain of sand that becomes a panorama of a new existence as a firefly, a brave and bright inhabitant of planet Earth.


In such a neuro-aesthetic, ethical and exterior landscape, one starts from chaos, uncertainty, the surface, grains of sand, and ends up with order, stability, depth, and the birth of fireflies whose small glows become a stimulus of creation, a source of salvation. The desert as an inner landscape trespasses and overrides its definition, it creates a fracture in the ground, in that community of grains of sand, a tension that both embraces and separates, mind and body, fear and mutation. However, little by little, from that very fracture, from that suffocating darkness, from that deep invisible container of the true root, something unexpectedly begins to shine: a flickering light of grains of sand that turn into fireflies of new existence which, like stars and like insistent drops of gushing water, appear as the source of a new origin; like a well of renewed souls and breaths, of transcendent glances and revolutionary and tender actions, of grains of sand that then take the risk of becoming bearers of ‘new landscapes of existence’ and of becoming fireflies in the barren deserts of existence, « “ciò che fa bello il deserto”, disse il piccolo principe, “ è che nasconde un pozzo da qualche parte” ». [2]

[1] Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, Il piccolo principe, Fabbri Centauria, Milano 2014, p.108.

[2]  Ibidem.

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