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Grin and “Bear” it or (How to Cure the Hard Heart Syndrome)

The Hard Heart Syndrome!

Over the course of a lifetime lived in a corner of the world that is full of conflict, war, and death, it sometimes happens that people get a condition that I will call “hardening of the heart”: this is not a medical condition but it is more of a psychological condition or syndrome that gradually diminished one’s apathy and compassion and that makes a person indifferent to the agony of witnessing so much injustice, so much violence, and so much pain.  It is also a condition that makes people selfish, hey, survival in dire times requires self-protection, and self-protection requires a big dose of self-love.

I write this because of a seemingly insignificant incident that happened last week and that got me thinking about starting to reverse the process of the hardening of my heart in order to really feel human again, not only that, but I wanted to remember how a younger version of me experienced life with a fully functioning heart.  So I am writing this blog entry as a totally transparent exercise in self-examination!

It’s just a bear!

Some friends and I went on a little road trip to a mountain village and visited a little wild animal shelter run by a couple who have taken it upon themselves to raise awareness about wildlife in Lebanon (the story of this shelter is very important and I may write about it at a later time).  There we saw different animals with different injuries in enclosures and in cages being taken care of in order to be re-released into the wild.  One animal, a large bear that looked a lot like a grizzly, somehow touched my hardened heart.  The caretaker told us that this species in now nearly extinct in Lebanon, and that this guy is a sole survivor and has been living at the shelter for a while.  This made me sad and stuck with me for days and I’m not the kind of person that gets emotional over animals: I eat meat, and I would wear fur if I could afford it!

It’s a lot to bear!

But this whole unexpected emotional episode over a lonely bear in a big cage really got me thinking about how tough I have become on the inside and I asked myself some hard questions: why is it that children begging in the streets don’t move me? Why don’t the senseless and violent deaths of innocents in the many warzones all over the region make me angry or sad anymore? Why am I indifferent to the plight of millions of refugees? Why do I only care about a small number of people who comprise my family and close entourage? When did I become so good at selecting who to feel for and when to feel? And how did the big sad bear break through my defenses?

Bear with me on this!

Each person who is suffering from “hardening of the heart” will probably have different answers if they were to ask themselves the questions I asked myself, or similar ones depending on what they have selected to harden their heart about.  And (I know I shouldn’t start a sentence with and) even if they found the answers, would that make any difference? Would it cure this affliction? I don’t think it would, although it might help a little in finding a cure or a course of treatment.  And are we really sure we want to be cured? YES I WANT TO BE CURED because a lukewarm life is a sign of surrender!

And I found that the cure lies in a decision, a decision to care again in spite of the pain that is suffered because of caring.

And once I start to care and hurt again, I just might become part of some kind of solution.

Thank you almost extinct bear! I love you

The Bear! You can visit him at https://www.facebook.com/animalencounter.org

The Bear!
You can visit him at https://www.facebook.com/animalencounter.org

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Filed under Literature, Social Organization

“Heritages” the Movie: an Introspection on Lebanese Reality

I don’t usually rush to my blog to write movie reviews, I am not an expert in the field of film making but I am a movie buff.

HOWEVER, after watching the movie “Heritages” by Lebanese director Philippe Aractingi, I felt moved and compelled to share this experience.

“Heritages” holds a mirror to our daily realities as Lebanese, our choices, our lack of choices, our constant love hate relationship with this small, deeply flawed, yet beautiful country.  It is a brave endeavor that does not seek to beautify a very bleak reality; it does however approach its subject matter with great love and respect, and that is commendable!!

The movie is an autobiography of a Lebanese family and has a documentary feel to it, but what is really exceptional and noteworthy is that the makers of this film bravely told their intimate histories with depth and honest reflection.  Every Lebanese watching this film will related to this family is some way, they are ‘us’.

Philippe Aractingi’s personal struggle to understand, cope with, and get over the experience of the Lebanese civil war rings very true with those of us who remember it vividly.  It is an experience that we have all tried to keep hidden somewhere in the backs of our minds so we can carry on with our normal lives; the images and scenes that this director chose to show of that era resurrected a monster that we must all learn to face…

The movie deals with all of our doubts and struggles: our diverse backgrounds and heritages, our relationships with each other and with the region around us, our exiles, our returns, and most of all our trying to understand why we are so attached to this country and why we are so reluctant to leave it.

This kind of scripting is very rare in Lebanese cinema as it contains depth and real multi-layered characters and story lines.

Go see it, it’s one of the gems of Lebanese cinema and I hope it gets the attention it deserves.

https://www.facebook.com/heritagesthemovie/info

 

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Filed under Arts, Social Organization

In Defense of the “Cold” Generation

My generation, the one that is stuck between the old idealists and the new revolutionaries is cold!

We have in this corner of the world seen too much death,  conflict,  blood,  politics,  despair, injustice, and violence.  We have heard our parents’ stories of their golden days of struggle (whatever their ideologies were), we lived through some of what are now historical events, and we did this over and over again.

Some of us were young revolutionaries, some of us lived for the “cause”, and many of us struggled to find the true meaning of being who we were where we were.  Some of us didn’t bother with ideology and just tried to have normal lives from the get go, but what is a normal life for someone living in the Middle East?

My generation understands the corrupt systems, may be too well, we are the ones who have had to deal with them the longest, we may even have become part of them, in our quest for a “normal life”.  We have had our day against the evils of these systems whether sectarianism, nepotism, human rights violations, etc… and that is why we are cold!

We are quite a bit more informed than our parents’ generation, and have more life experience than the young revolutionaries, and our sometimes neutral stance on the events of the day leave both of those generations baffled.  So in our defense I’d like to ask the forgiveness of both the old ideologues and the new revolutionaries: We are tired of re-re-revolutions that only spawn more of the same evils eventually.  The lofty ideals of today’s revolutionaries will soon become slaves to the power struggles that will ensue, and to the greed inherent in the hearts of men.

As long as our social systems stay the way they are, no other outcome can be expected.  We are cold because we see what is coming, because we have other humans to take care of in the midst of this uproar, we have children and aging parents.  We are cold because in all this uncertainty our roles have become blurred, our feelings tepid, and our core beliefs shaken.

There are solutions, and revolutions and bloodshed are necessary for change in some cases.  But the way I see it the bloodshed and misery going on now will only lead to a “same shit different regime” status.  Our problems in this region are deeper and more fundamental than dictatorships and totalitarian leaders.  It is worth a pause to think about that before more deaths are offered at the altar of these uprisings…

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Filed under Political, Social Organization