Welcome to My Lebanese Dream
When all is far, and all is empty, I set sail and dock on a familiar shore, somewhere in my imagination
Thursday, June 29, 2006
Wednesday, June 28, 2006
Sunday, June 25, 2006
Thursday, June 22, 2006
Wednesday, June 21, 2006
Are you really fourteen?
Are you really a hundred and twenty four?
Did you really put cherry gloss on Lincoln's lips?
Did you really paint the monalisa with coffee and peanut butter?
Did you really walk on mars?
Are you really the greatest unpublished poet that ever lived?
Did you really create a new language and start a civilization?
Did you really explain the universe with a drawing on a napkin in a restaurant?
Can you really sing and make strangers die for love?
Are you really never afraid?
Is this really the face of man on a leaf in your backyard?
Are you really a king?
Did you really save the world from sadness?
Is this really you?
Are you me?
Waaaaahahhhh aya ayyaaaaaaaaa
far away I walk
afraid my child
now low in his one big mistake
far away and low
to this second that rides away
myyyyyyyy now he'll see us be told he really cares
myyyyy now he'll find our gates
and he'll show us his calming face
noooooooooow now as we just dare
it's waiting there
but are we going anywhere, no
maybe we'll stay
myyyyyyyyyyy oh my game of many games
small frames craving for bigger frames
but they're just names
and we're just names
you and I my child
Monday, June 19, 2006
Saturday, June 17, 2006
I Want to Run the Marathon
- I want to run the marathon.
- You heard me. I want to run the marathon. I bought a book about how to train for it if you're not a seasoned runner.
- This is crazy. You'll never do it.
- You're probably right. I will never do it.
- I don't get it. Why did you buy the book then?
- Because now I have something I can always look forward to. I probably will never be able to accomplish it, but I will always be excited about the prospects of accomplishing it. Achievable goals die off quickly. Non-achievable goals last forever and give you a reason to keep moving. And keep dreaming as well.
- I want to live with ongoing purpose and hope. I don't want my purpose to die before me. That's why I want to run the marathon. Not because I can, but because I never will.
Friday, June 16, 2006
Tuesday, June 13, 2006
Of Cruel and Unusual Punishments
The heights of human hypocrisy.
Tickle me this. The remote likelihood of pain at the site of injection at the time of execution represents cruel and unusual punishment. But actual death as punishment isn't. The accusations, the prosecution, the uncertainty, the conviction, the knowledge, to the very minute, of when it will come, those aren't cruel and unusual punishments. The helpless waiting for, walking to, and acceptance of death as a retribution for crime by a group of people who gave themselves the power to decide of life and death, that isn't cruel and unusual punishment.
Potential pain at the site of injection is.
This will probably portray me as a staunch left-winged liberal with a greater love for life itself than for the living, but it shouldn't. I do consider the death sentence as an organized and premeditated tit for tat situation though, and a murderous retribution for murderous acts of sorts. But from a practical standpoint, and trying to accept the countless limitations of being human and living in a human society, I am, at this point neither against capital punishment, nor am I a proponent of it. I won't go more into the reasons of why that is.
However, I cannot stop my tongue and eyebrows from twitching when I see such preposterous displays of "humaneness" in a flawed and entirely hypocritical system of laws and ethical values. To many, myself included, some people inflict pain and suffering and death, and should not deserve to live. But killing them is not justice. It's vengeance. And regardless of whether it should or should not be administered, death, no matter how you look at it, with or without pain, a bullet in the chest or a rope around the neck, is cruel punishment. Making it painless does not make it kind. Or usual.
Now on the other hand, if you want to punish the beast who raped and killed a nine year old girl, and shot a family to rob them of three pieces of jewelry and two hundred bucks, then by God, do it. Give him pain for the pain he's caused. He probably deserves it. But don't go around wearing your self-righteous cloaks and profess the ethical balderdash of painless deaths and cruel and unusual punishments. Because when you do, you're only treating yourselves and your infinite flaws, much more than you're caring for a killer you despise and are about to rightfully and permanently reprimand.
Saturday, June 10, 2006
"Look at this unfortunate old man"
"This is Abou Hassan" My father replied.
"You know him??"
"Of course I know him" He nodded, an uncomfortable smile stretching the corner of his mouth.
Abu Hassan lives on a couple of low lying stairs beneath the Basta bridge, counting the fleeting seconds and passing cars and people, everyday, all day, the bridge above his head and a mosque in sight, at the exact midpoint between Zareef and the Beshara el Khoury intersection.
"I'll ask if he will let me photograph him. Wait for me here".
"Sure. I'll wait here" my dad replied.
I walked slowly towards Abou Hassan, looking at his old emotionless face, his congested, incredibly swollen legs, and, oblivious to the heat, the multiple layers of clothes covering his tired body and unbathed skin. But I didn't see the life story sitting right next him, hiding between the blue patches of shade and the yellow freckles of sunlight.
"Ahla.." he muttered uninterested.
"Ana hon bi forsa wou 3am ekhod souwar mnel manta2a. Btesma7li sawrak?"
"..." He mumbled a few words I couldn't understand.
Abu Hassan, my father later told me, wasn't always the old turgid mass of flesh and misery that haunts a couple of stairs beneath the Basta bridge.
Abou Hassan used to wrestle. As a matter of fact, he used to be a local wrestling champion. He was a sports hero in his small southern village, and he'd won enough matches and made enough money to buy an apartment in Beirut and get married. Also, to save a few dimes for the luckless future that was all but too late to rear its ugly head and at him flash its bitter, toothless smirk.
While he was still wrestling, leg varices quickly became Abou Hassan's unrelenting ailment. Everyday was worse than the day before, and the constant pain was constantly hindering his wrestling career. After trying all kinds of medical and herb therapy to no avail, Abou Hassan succumbed to the option of surgery. He spent half of his savings on a failed procedure that left him, in lieu of legs, with two pain-ridden pillars of swollen flesh, flesh which could no longer carry him and, ironically, he now had to carry as the burden of an untold sin.
The sin of being born under a cursed fucking star.
That wasn't the end of Abou Hassan, though, or the end of his tragedy. He managed to pull his strength together, and with the help of a few good-spirited people, he set up shop in "souk el samak" and traded fish for a while. He made enough money to keep himself, his wife and their three children out of poverty, and save himself the humiliation a jobless conservative middle-eastern man unjustly makes himself endure.
Soon enough, though, Abou Hassan was in too much pain to keep the job. As all hope of him being able to work again and make a living faded away, his wife and children convinced him to register his apartment in their name, as a living inheritance. Which he did.
And as soon as he did, his wife, and his three grown children, kicked him out.
And there he was, sitting in the shadow of his sadness, watching the world go by. And here I was, walking up to him, merrily and unknowingly wanting to make him into so-called picture art.
"Shou 3amm, btesma7leh sawrak?" (can I photograph you?)
"la2? tayyeb leish..?" Why not, I asked disappointed.
"la2enno bil 7ayet ma nje7et, ta 2enja7 bi soura?" (I didn't make it in life, why would I make it in a picture)
Fortunatley, my father came to him and told him I was his son, and asked him to let me take the picture. He must have recognized my old man. He looked away and said nothing. I pointed the camera towards him and shot. For him, it was as if I did not exist. And it was the most uneasy feeling I had ever felt, doing something as innocuous as taking a photograph.
As I walked away with my father and he told me his story, I felt strangely sad. And guilty. I felt like I breached the privacy of his sadness. Of his aloneness. Of his need to just be there and slowly melt in the sun.
"I didn't make it in life, why would I make it in a picture" he said.
Yes why would you Abou Hassan. Why would you. I only hope there is a reason for this to have happened, the injustice, the swollen legs, the broken life and the empty black and white shot.
I suspect there probably isn't.
And I have no answers for you, old man. All I have for you is this picture, these few words, and a silent prayer that will probably go unheard.
Thursday, June 08, 2006
In the Heart of Beirut
Wednesday, June 07, 2006
Words to Live by
A wise wise young woman spontaneously told me this today, trying to cheer me up:
"ma te7mol saleebak bil 3ared"
which translates to
"Don't carry your cross sideways"
Ma te7mol saleebak bil 3ared... All of life in five words and a nutshell.
The truest, simplest kind of philosophy. Words to live by indeed.