We Really Have Failed!

A month ago while the whole world was watching the world cup, atrocities were being committed against humans and against humanity in some parts of the world to such an extent that it was impossible for me as a blogger to just watch and not do anything. I had to write about how miserably ‘We Have Failed’ to get my frustration out.

Exactly one month later, these killings and atrocities have not only continued but rather spread to include new grounds and territories. The loss of innocent lives in Gaza, the shooting down of a Malaysian airline over the Russian and Ukrainian border, killing all the passengers among whom were 100 scientists on their way to an Aids conference in Australia…

Unbelievable! Yes! Have we as humans sunk so low as to do such a thing? The reason those scientists were on that plane was because they were going to do something good. Can anything bad come out of scientists meeting to help Aids victims? Why that plane?

As a person who has first hand experience with civil war, I worry when politicians come together to solve a crisis. Because then I know that no matter what decision they take, someone has to pay, someone has to suffer. But scientists? What’s wrong with us? Once again, I say:

In a century so advanced both technologically and scientifically, we have failed as humans. We have failed because we are allowing innocent people to be tortured and killed in the hands of militias and gunmen in the name of religion. We have failed because we are watching women and young girls being gang raped in Tahrir Square in Egypt, on buses and in fields in India. We have failed because we are allowing these same terrorists to kidnap teenage girls, students, and sell them in the name of Allah or God! We have failed because innocent children and women and men are being slaughtered in the name of democracy in Syria and in Iraq.

And now Gaza? Where innocent children are being blown up by bombs while playing on the beach or in their own backyards. And the plane? But to whose benefit? What’s next? Or rather, who’s next?

We constantly worry about the economy and about the environment while these atrocities against innocent civilians continue around the world. Perhaps I am mistaken to think that we just sit empty handed and try to find someone to blame or wait for someone to take responsibility.

But what good is the environment, the economy, science or technology anymore. I get shivers when I think of the kind of example we are setting for our children and grandchildren. If we the people can’t stop all this then maybe we should seek refuge on a new planet and leave all this madness behind.

Keyhole-1

ChK

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Lack Of Complaint

Today is the 16th of July. On the 16th of every month I become nervous and jittery. I try not to. But unconsciously, unknowingly, every month around this time I can’t stand myself. I try to busy myself with work. I try to read. I try my best to fight my urge to write about my feelings, my thoughts. But I can’t. It’s hard to ignore my thoughts while my heart tells me the opposite. Leo Tolstoy wrote: 

“The strongest of all warriors are these two – time and patience.” 

Time and patience. They say time heals all wounds. I don’t think it does. It does not bring back loved ones, nor does it lessen the pain. With every passing day the pain gets bigger and the realization sinks in deeper. The realization of a lonely future ahead, a future without your loved one beside you to make it easier. And what is patience?

Patience – endurance, tolerance, fortitude, serenity, staying power, lack of complaint, persistence.

Of all the above definitions, I choose “lack of complaint”. At some point you stop complaining. Because you realize that there is no point in doing so. What’s the use, you ask yourself. Life goes on whether you like it or not, whether you are ready or not. Nothing changes except you are a day older than yesterday and perhaps happier or sadder or poorer or richer or lonelier. 

“Why do we call all our generous ideas illusions, and the mean ones truths?” Edith Wharton

Because by asking all these questions, by putting down on paper all these thoughts I can shake off everything. Believe it or not I can recall everything when I write.

Pen

It’s like being on a journey to find my inner self. After I finish writing my sorrows disappear, and my courage is reborn. Then my mind dwells on new thoughts and new ideals and new fantasies. Because as Simone de Beauvoir wrote:

“Self-knowledge is no guarantee of happiness, but it is on the side of happiness and can supply the courage to fight for it.” 

ChK

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In A Perfect World

In the book I am currently reading about dreams there is this question:
“In a perfect world what would you like to be?”

I close the book and think… If the world is perfect, then does it really matter what you dream? I think the biggest dream itself is wishing for a perfect world.

I close my eyes and think… How many times did our dreams change? How many times we were forced to take detours and abandon our dreams? Something we wouldn’t have to do in a perfect world.

I am so upset by what’s happening in some parts of the world now. Especially in the Middle East. The fighting between Israel and the Palestinians. How many more innocent civilians have to die for the world to interfere to stop this madness? And what about Baghdad and Nigeria and Syria, to name just a few.

There was a time not that very long ago when we were living in Beirut during the civil war. We were living in West Beirut at a time when Beirut was divided into East and West. The two sectors fought each other for reasons that until now are unclear to me. The two sides would bomb each other and bombs would fall on us randomly. I used to be so scared and jittery that I used to hear the bombs the moment they were being sent and I used to tell my husband that “they’re coming” and a few minutes later they would explode near us.

Death and destruction were everywhere. And our main concern was survival. Many were the times when I wished I was born in a different part of the world. Many were the times when I wished my parents and grandparents hadn’t been displaced. While my friends dreamt of their future I dreamt of a home, not a house where I can live, but a home, a place where I could belong to.

And decades later when I finally achieved that dream, I lost so much that it doesn’t have the same meaning for me anymore. I keep asking was it worth the sacrifice? Because I don’t think I belong only to this place, Canada. My heart still aches by what’s happening in the Middle East. At night when I close my eyes I dream about that small village where I grew up and where my mom and brother and extended family live. I dream about my grandparent’s homes which I have never seen. About their childhood and how hard it must have been for my grandparents to leave their homes and become refugees in a foreign land. I dream about Dubai where my children were born and where it became possible for me to have other dreams. So who am I? Where do I belong?

maze

Because it’s easy to kill people, destroy their homes, wipe out entire cities. But to use William Saroyan’s words:

“I should like to see any power of the world destroy this race, this small tribe of unimportant people, whose wars have all been fought and lost, whose structures have crumbled, literature is unread, music is unheard, and prayers are no more answered. Go ahead, destroy Armenia . See if you can do it. Send them into the desert without bread or water. Burn their homes and churches. Then see if they will not laugh, sing and pray again.”

ChK

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Making Life More Bearable

The other day I was reading a book about how to unblock your creative self. One of the tasks in the book was about collecting images of things or people or places you like or dream about and then making a collage of them.
 
I remembered that I had a folder full of such images that I had collected but it seems like such a long time ago. My images were of writers and the rooms they wrote in. I had collected them not because someone had told me to do so. No. But because I loved books and writing and writers and dreamt one day of writing my own book. And I had tried to gather whatever images of writers I could lay my hands on just for inspiration.

The ones I had collected while still in school and university, I don’t know what happened to, nor do I know where they are or could be. See, back then when I was still in high school in Lebanon, the civil war started and everything changed, including my choices. My priority stopped being about my dreams or what I loved to do. It became more of what was the best and easiest thing to do given the situation I was in. I studied what I thought at the time would guarantee me a job no matter what my circumstances were. I studied mathematics to earn a living. I never even looked at other options. I chose the easy way out, thus silencing my dream. 

Go

Years went by and I got married and we moved to Dubai to escape the dire situation in Lebanon. I kept on teaching.
 
Kurt Vonnegut wrote: 

“We are what we pretend to be, so we must be careful about what we pretend to be.” 

I kept pretending although I wasn’t happy. But Dubai was this beautiful cosmopolitan place, a city where the East and the West came together to create this unique blend of cultures, and I started to dream again. I started a new collage of images, again of writers, from the different newspapers that I collected, both in English and Arabic. I still have that folder. But what’s more important is that I wrote. 

Kurt Vonnegut wrote:

“The arts are not a way to make a living. They are a very human way of making life more bearable. Practicing an art, no matter how well or badly, is a way to make your soul grow, for heaven’s sake. Sing in the shower. Dance to the radio. Tell stories. Write a poem to a friend, even a lousy poem. Do it as well as you possible can. You will get an enormous reward. You will have created something.” 
ChK

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Sorry You Don’t Understand!

“Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.” Nelson Mandela

I know I have blogged about this issue with LinkedIn before. And I apologize in advance for bringing it up once more. Being frustrated and angry about the problem and knowing very well that the solution is not in my hands I can’t do anything at the moment except write about it.

My problem is with one of my published posts. On June 19, I published ‘We Have Failed’ on LinkedIn. Within the first half hour I noticed that there were 30 comments from readers on this particular post. When I tried to read them however there were some technical problems and I couldn’t. I tried using different browsers but the problem persisted.

So I did what we all do at times like this, I asked for professional help. I contacted the LinkedIn help center and discussed my problem with a Customer Experience Advocate. After much give and take, which I blogged about in my article ‘Shall I Publish On LinkedIn’ on the 27th of June, I am sorry to say that my problem still exists. What’s worse I feel like:

“I had done all that I could, and no Man is well pleased to have his all neglected, be it ever so little.” Samuel Johnson

Yes I feel neglected on top of being frustrated. The one thing I have difficulty understanding is how a minor technical problem on a professional network like LinkedIn cannot be solved! I use different platforms like Tumblr, Pinterest, WordPress, and technical problems do occur but are solved so very quickly. But with LinkedIn:

“I feel as if I were a piece in a game of chess, when my opponent says of it: That piece cannot be moved.” Søren Kierkegaard

It is so sad when I can see that 30 people have taken the time to read and comment on my article and I am not able to read those comments and not able to thank them. And for how long???? I despair when I think that I will never find out and the problem will not be resolved. Since all I got from the Advocate a week ago on the 29th of June is:

“I can understand your frustration. I have forwarded your ticket to the respective team to follow up on the issue.”

At this point all I can say to her is, “Sorry but I don’t think you understand my frustration. You don’t understand how heartbreaking it is for a writer to not be able to connect with readers.”

Tools

Ralph Waldo Emerson writes:

“There are many things of which a wise man might wish to be ignorant.” 

ChK

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In 200 Years!

Yesterday was a bad day for Gaza. And prior to that a bad day for Israel, when the bodies of three Israeli teenagers who had been kidnapped were found. A bad day, a bad week indeed for all of us, for the world and especially for the Middle East. My heart and prayers go out to the families and all those who lost a loved one.

As always, news like that triggers old memories in me. Memories that I have tried throughout the years to forget. And yet at times like this, old incidents keep creeping into my mind. And I get angry. Because innocent people are being killed every day and we just sit and watch. I get angry because we are first and foremost human beings and as such we are different than animals because we can think and talk. We can communicate! Molière wrote:

“It is not only for what we do that we are held responsible, but also for what we don’t do.”

And I keep asking why. Why? Why? Why in God’s name do innocent people have to die in the most advanced century of our time. Why can’t we as human beings resolve our conflicts in a more civilized manner? Why? What is happening to us? What’s wrong with us?

Endure

In Captain Corelli’s Mandolin, Louis de Bernières writes:

“The ultimate truth is that history ought to consist only of the anecdotes of the little people who are caught up in it.”

And so I wonder… If we had history books written by the people caught up in war, could things have been different for us? Would we have behaved differently now? Just like I wonder about what happened to most of the people I left behind when I left war torn Beirut seeking refuge in a safer place. I wonder what happened to my friends and acquaintances. I wonder where they are, if they are alive, or if they are anywhere safe or not. I wonder if they lost loved ones in yesterday’s bombings.

My family is still in the Middle East. In Lebanon, in a small village near the border with Syria. My mother, brother, uncles and aunts, cousins and friends, all with their families, live there. The place I sometimes become so nostalgic about that it hurts. And with all the talk of ISIS declaring war I cannot help but feel terrified.

Anton Chekhov wrote:

“We are accustomed to live in hopes of good weather, a good harvest, a nice love-affair, hopes of becoming rich or getting the office of chief of police, but I’ve never noticed anyone hoping to get wiser. We say to ourselves: it’ll be better under a new tsar, and in two hundred years it’ll still be better, and nobody tries to make this good time come tomorrow.”

ChK

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Say Yes Quickly

I grew up in Lebanon at a time when people didn’t have much understanding about art and were bullied for being Artists. As a child and later as a teenager I had this passion and love for writing and writers. But I never dared talk about it to anyone.

I remember how when I was in elementary school I would scribble in my notebook and create characters and write stories and make it seem like I was taking notes during class. I remember how happy I was and how scared to be caught and my secret revealed. The smell of ink on paper, the magic of those words on the page. It was as if I was living in a different world. An exquisite and happier world. To quote Alain Arias-Misson:

“The purpose of art is not a rarified, intellectual distillate- it is life, intensified, brilliant life.”

Simple

My biggest fear at the time was to get caught writing for the only reason that my classmates and my teachers would make fun of me. Which they did anyway, not for writing though. My friends teased me for taking notes, calling me the teacher’s pet, saying I wanted to impress my teachers.

I never got caught. But at the same time I carried this burden in my heart and I could not share my dream with anyone around me.

Years went by and I met my husband-to-be in university. He was done with his studies but was having his first solo exhibition as an artist in Jafet Hall in the library (at the request of his teacher). He told me about his dreams as an artist. He also told me about his days in elementary school. He told me how one day when he had drawn something abstract for class his art teacher had slapped him in the face and scolded him in front of everyone. And he had never attempted to show his paintings to anyone after that until his exhibition.

Brenda Ueland writes:

“Why should we use our creative power…? Because there is nothing that makes people so generous, joyful, lively, bold and compassionate, so indifferent to fighting and the accumulation of objects and money.”

Things have changed since then. There’s much more understanding about the arts and about peoples’ dreams as there is a greater appreciation for artists. No matter how busy we are working and supporting ourselves and our families we should always listen to that inner voice of ours and never despair. I was lucky to have a “believing mirror” in my husband, as Julia Cameron calls it. And I am glad I held on to my dream no matter what. Jalaai Ud-Din Rumi wrote:

“Inside you there’s an artist you don’t know about… Say yes quickly, if you know, if you’ve known it from before the beginning of the universe.”

ChK

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