This land is governed by elementary forces: atmospheric ones. Unstoppable. The power of elements is such that man is obliged to muster all of his energies so as to harmonise with the environment, without trying to fight its extremes.
It is a land of threshold between those extremes, of concurrence of opposites, of border between epochs, continents, mental and cultural worlds. All is complementary without being in contrast with anything.
Ancient gestures add up to one another and are repeated, in the alternation of light and dark ruling this world. Everything cohabits in the immutable flowing of days, in this dilatation of time and space:
– Infinity with the embodiment of finite, which is man himself:
– History (a load of imperial magnificence and subjugation imposed and suffered over the
centuries, and of all the traditions easily readable in the contemporary lifestyle) with the present,
showing the indelible mark of change;
– Asia with Europe; East with West; buddhist and shamanic Mongolia with the Russian imprint , so
– Nomadic life with sedentary life, the latter being currently further motivated by severe climatic
conditions, especially by the dzud, terrible winters characterised by abnormal rigours, but also
by the ongoing, pressing desertification threatening the land;
– Geographical isolation with the promiscuity of life within the gers (Mongolian yurts).
Mongolia is a vast sovereign state, one of the largest landlocked states in the world, and the most sparsely populated. It is a semi-presidential representative democratic republic. Almost half of the population lives in Ulaanbaatar, the capital city, while 35% of the country’s inhabitants are still nomadic. The horse culture is still integral, and most of the land is covered by grassy steppe. Although Mongolia is known as “The Land of the Eternal Blue” (there are more than 250 sunny days a year), its climate is harsh, being very hot in summer, but reaching easily -30° in winter. The recurrent dzuds are devastating, causing the death of animals.
The population (about 3,000,000) is mainly buddhist. Tibetan Buddhism has become once again the most practised religion in the country, after the end of religious repression in the 1990s. Nonetheless, Shamanism has left a deep mark in the country, and is still largely practised. Shamanism, occasionally called Tengerism, is the animistic and shamanic ethnic religion practised by Mongolians through history. It is a fascinating system of belief encompassing medicine, a cult of nature, religion, and a cult of ancestor worship.
The main national festival is Naadam, including the Three Manly Games of traditional sports: archery, horse-racing and wrestling. This festival has been organized for centuries and attracts an incredibly large public.
In August 2012, I have travelled through Mongolia and the Gobi Desert, 2,500km off-road, gazing at horizons apparently growing farther and farther.
Ever since the very first days, I heard these lines by Emily Dickinson resounding in my mind:
“There is a solitude of space A solitude of sea
A solitude of death, but these Society shall be
Compared with that profounder site
That polar privacy
A soul admitted to itself – Finite Infinity”
I have elaborated a new notion of emptiness, a new notion of endlessness, a new notion of horizon. My inner journey.