Tag Archives: lebanon

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

Advertisements

3 Comments

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

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Arts, Social Organization

If Lebanon was a Person

If Lebanon the country of my birth and my chosen place of residence were a person it would be:

A bipolar poet…

A small person in stature but extremely beautiful and attractive at first sight.  If you stick around to know this person better you would discover that  she is much older than she actually looks (I always think of Lebanon as a ‘she’).  Behind her welcoming smile and the bright Mediterranean eyes there is an unstable personality.

Lebanon  is suntanned and hardy, but the well concealed lines of her face keep quiet secrets.

She hides her scars under impeccable designer clothing.

She has children but she hasn’t raised them well; they dislike each other, and have a love hate relationship with her.  They leave her and miss her charm and charisma, then come back to her and get aggravated with her moodiness and selfishness!

She has been suffering from an acute case of identity crisis since her birth.  One day she thinks she’s an Arab princess, the other she thinks she’s the concubine of a Sultan. Sometimes she sees herself as the mother of all knowledge, and other times she sees herself as the party girl.  This identity crisis often manifests itself in the form of a snobbish attitude and an acute superiority complex…

Lebanon the person is too generous with her gifts to others; she wants to be liked and loved to satisfy her narcissistic tendencies.

Lebanon the person is as lovable as Lebanon the country.  In spite of all her madness, her flaws, and her faults, she still holds a spell over those who meet her.  She is a sorceress of sorts, a changeling muse, and I for one, can’t live without her!

6 Comments

Filed under Arts, Poetry

Ridiculing Ourselves…Sarcasm and Change

I have noticed that the there is an ongoing trend in Lebanese thought, literature, art, and general attitude: the “caricaturization” of our vices with a sarcastic and condescending tone of voice.

It seems everyone has something to say about how ridiculous Lebanon has become, politically and socially. Everyone is a critic with a sharp eye and rapier wit… Lebanese wit is definitely thriving!

I just have to stop and say this: it has become tiresome.  I don’t want to read another book or article or social media status, and I don’t want to listen to another song cleverly describing the following subjects:  The vanity of Lebanese women, The chaos of traffic, The corrupt officials, The night life, The plastic surgery, The treatment of domestic workers, The price of gas, The electricity, The slow internet, The deforestation and other environmental disasters, The hypocrisy, The decline of musical taste, etc…..

Mockery and cynicism seem to have become the communication outlet of choice:  Oh we are so smart, we see the problems and we tell them in a way that makes the reader or listener chuckle “a la Ziad Rehbani”.  But guess what? It ain’t funny anymore; it’s gone on for too long, we have taken a good look at ourselves in the proverbial social mirror and many times we don’t like what we see, and I believe it is a little dangerous to keep mocking ourselves and finding the humor in a bad situation. This can be counter productive and makes us less prone to find solutions, or to accept these changes as inevitable in the highly dynamic Lebanese environment.

One more thing:  Perspective is a very important thing.  To those writing so drolly about the vices of our society, I urge you to reconsider your perspective and your purpose.  Do you just want to amuse people by tormenting them with their weaknesses? Do you want to share your perspective for fame and profit?  Do you want to hold up a mirror to show people their true selves in order to initiate change?

We have serious problems, and I think we’ve ridiculed ourselves long enough about them, let’s either accept them as the reality of who we are, or find serious ways of eradicating them.

1 Comment

Filed under Anthropology, Literature, Social Organization