A nomad would have an ironic moment while catatonically stumbling with the tumbleweeds. During such a catatonic episode, the nomad would often mistake a cactus for a water pump, attempt to turn the pump, and instead get a fistful of needles. Upon focusing on his newfangled pincushion, the realization of his error rippled through the sensory area of his brain with both glee and pain. A smile curled his lips just before he fell to the ground simultaneously writhing in pain and laughing at his ridiculous faux pas.
In the scroll, there are only several recorded instances of a nomad’s use of his dry sense of humor. One notable reference occurs in the year 1446 BC and involved Moses. After ousted from Egypt, Moses and his people met a nomad while schlepping across the desert.
Moses wrote: I saw a man of dusty visage and ragged cloth approach staggering. Upon seeing me, the man dropped to his knees and started digging in the sand with blistered hands.
“Why do you do this, my son?” I asked.
The man responded, “To plant a tree in gratitude.”
“But sir,” said Moses. “The river does not run through this arid valley.”
The man became indignant. “You are wrong. Water is plentiful here. It rushes from the limbs of a prolific growing desert plant and then trickles from my eyes.”
“Are you a God?”
“No,” replied the man. “Just a humble traveler,” and began to sob uncontrollably.
“Sir, why do you weep?”
“Because the plant that holds water is filled with needles,” at which point the man stood revealing arms and hands covered with needles and sores.
“Sir, needles protrude from every pore of your arms and hands.”
The man smiled then began to laugh raucously. “I know.”
“Why do you laugh at your pain?”
“Because sir,” he took a breath. “The water from my eyes has saved me from certain death.”
“But your arms and hands are covered with sores that seep with puss and disease that will surely kill you. How can you find humor in such dread?”
The man chuckled, caught his breath, and said, “Because it’s ironic,” then roared with laughter.
“No, it’s mad,” said Moses.
“It’s hilarious,” shrieked the man.
“No, mad.” Moses replied angrily.”
The man continued laughing until the moon rose high in the sky and he lay down and died.
Afterward Moses decreed, “Let it be written that from this day forward, any man wandering the desert wrought with fever and delusion will be known as mad.”
Over the years, storytellers retold the anecdote of Moses’ anger toward the wandering desert man’s laughter when Moses said, “No, mad,” which evolved into the condensed version known today as nomad.