I’m not in this world to live up to your expectations and you’re not in this world to live up to mine.”
― Bruce Lee
If Petra had lips, it might well mimic Bruce Lee’s words.
I approach Petra, Jordan by horseback, which is a pretty cool experience for a suburban kid like me who hasn’t been on a horse since elementary school summer camp. Before me is a narrow passage, cut into the red sandstone walls of the canyon. And just peeking out from the other side of the passage: Petra’s amazing Great Temple, a classical façade cut directly into the rockface, complete with columns, arcades and pediments. It is exactly how I imagined it from the first time I saw this temple in 1989’s Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. I can almost imagine Harrison Ford and Sean Connery inside, facing down the last crusader and contemplating Holy Grails.
And then I go inside.
There is nothing inside the Great Temple of Petra. It’s just an empty, dusty room. It’s as if Spielberg and Lucas build a movie set and left the façade for Jordan Tourism. My expectations are dashed! But Petra doesn’t care.
“You think this temple is for you? Ha? I’ll out last you. I’ll outlast them all!”
I imagine some travelers might snap their selfies in front of the Indiana Jones temple, get back on their horse and canter back to their tour bus. But that would be a mistake. From the Great Temple, the valley makes a sharp right turn and continues on for miles, opening up into a vast plain of ruined temples and crumbling facades. None of the building remains are quite as grand or as well-preserved as the showcase temple before them. But they all represent a snapshot into a Nabatean city that co-existed (in privacy) with the great Roman classical cities of the 1st Century AD. As I walk along, my guide shows me the amazingly-advanced aqueduct system that transported water throughout this dry desert region.
It’s quite an amazing place, even if it doesn’t quite live up to my original expectations.
When was the last time you built up the highest expectation only to have them dashed by reality? What if, rather stomping your feet and demanding your money back, you stayed and looked deeper, perhaps appreciating the beauty of what IS in front of you?