Behind the Name

April 14th, 2010

A number of people have asked me why I’ve chosen the name The Desert Jerboa. I also seem to have discussed it with a few people a number of times in the last while. So I’ve decided to share what’s behind the name with you.

Desert jerboas, as you know, are these cute mouse-like creatures with long kangaroo-like legs common to the deserts of the Middle East and North Africa. They’re hardy animals, adapted to and surviving in particularly harsh environments.

The fact that the animal is: (a) native to the country and area I grew up in and love; (b) a survivor; and (c) inconspicuous, low profile and easily underestimated; all kinda appeals to me.

There’s also another reason behind the choice: It’s an obscure Dune reference. Dune is a book by Frank Herbert, one of my favourites. I’ve always thought of it as a combination of a handbook on politics and a manual on how to create a messiah. And no, I’ve no illusions of any kind re my messiahness (or lack thereof, rather). It’s just a seminal work that has singularly marked me, growing up. And it retains all the magic it had when I first read it more than 15 years ago, even after repeated readings.

For those of you who haven’t read the book, it tells the story of Paul Atreides and how he is made into, for all intents and purposes, a messiah. As it does so, it explores the intersections of power through politics, religion, economic dominance and human emotion, as well as the impact of man on ecology. The novel introduces the term “Muad’Dib”, which is, among a number of things, the name of a desert-inhabiting kangaroo mouse much like the jerboa. It is also the name selected by Paul Atreides when he is accepted into the Fremen, who are Arab-Bedouin-type people. You can find out more here.

Herbert’s play on words is not lost to me, either. Muad’Dib (muaddib) in Arabic means variously: instructor, scholar and teacher. Someday, I hope to achieve a measure of wisdom, and to be in a position to be able to share this wisdom and the lessons drawn from my experiences with those around me.

Finally, I have one more reason for choosing the name: jerboas are cute (check this out). I mean, seriously. No? 😉

Anyway, I leave you with a picture (not of jerboas unfortunately – I have yet to come across one from behind a lens).

This is a panorama taken at around 7 am from a balcony in Paris overlooking the Seine. The image was created by stitching together 11 pictures taken in rapid succession from right to left. The spike mid-image and to the right of the rightmost crane is the Eiffel tower. To the far right you can see the first few buildings in the La Defense area.

Click on the image below to view the larger picture.

Comments welcome, as always.


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