Adonis Diaries

Archive for August 2017

‘What the Isis jihadis lose in strength from the air strikes they may gain in legitimacy’

Note: Since 2014, the picture has changed drastically in perspective and on the ground. This international war on Syria that dispatched 300,000 fighters from around the world is being defeated by the Syrian people, its army and Hezbollah fighters, backed by Russia and Iran. The nemesis were USA, France, UK, Israel, Turkey, Saudi Kingdom.
Qatar supported Turkey financially to insure the logistics to the extremist Islamic factions in weapons, fighters and almost everything.
Lebanon, Iraq and Syria are very close to liberate their territories from ISIS.
Protest against the US air strikes in Raqqa, Syria, 26 September 2014.
Protest against the US air strikes, Raqqa, Syria, 26 September 2014. Photograph: Reuters

Since Islamic State (Isis) were formed in their current incarnation in April last year, they have had a dilemma: how to gain legitimacy from the local population while continuing to be ruthless and genocidal against fellow Sunnis.

The decision by the American-led coalition to strike against Isis while overlooking the Assad regime seems to have resolved this dilemma for the jihadist organisation. What Isis will lose in terms of strength and numbers as a result of the air strikes they might gain in terms of legitimacy.

Air strikes against Isis were inevitable, as the group’s advances towards Baghdad, Erbil and northern Syria seemed irreversible by local forces. But the way the US-led coalition, which the UK has now joined, has conducted itself so far threatens to worsen the situation in favour of Isis.

Most importantly, by overlooking the regime of Bashar al-Assad, which caused the death of nearly 200,000 Syrians, the air strikes create the perception that the international coalition is providing a lifeline to the regime. Despite repeated reassurance by Washington, such a perception is likely to become entrenched if the Assad regime begins to fill the vacuum left by the offensive against Isis, especially that there has been no evidence yet that the opposition forces are part of the military strategy against Isis.

The regime might deliberately step up its campaign in some areas to retake areas it has recently lost to the jihadist group to reinforce that perception, as Syrian officials were quick to issue statements that the regime had been briefed about the air raids before they were launched.Many Syrian rebel factions, including ones directly financed by the Americans and the Gulf states, expressed reservations about, or opposition to, the air strikes, including Harakat Hazm, Division 13, Suqour al-Sham.

The significance of such statements is that they are issued by groups currently operating in areas outside Isis control but which are adjacent to Isis front lines. That makes them more capable than other groups of being part of potential ground forces to attack Isis under air cover. Even though some of these groups made such pronouncements mostly for practical reasons, since they are the ones who will bear the consequences of any failure to dislodge Isis as they fight on the ground, they are also concerned that the international campaign will aid the Assad regime.

Regionally, the offensive against Isis has received a similar cynical reaction from groups and people in the Middle East. The Muslim Brotherhood, including prominent figures such as Doha-based Yusuf al-Qaradawi, condemned the attacks inside Syria.

Arab countries that have participated in the international military campaign (Not in soldiers) including Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Jordan, have been particularly criticised for failing to push for a formula that undermines Isis and Assad at the same time. In comparison, Iran opposed the air strikes against Isis in Syria while Turkey made it clear that the offensive would fail without moves to undermine the Assad regime, including a no-fly zone. (Turkey is becoming the main culprit in sustaining Al Nusra terrorists in north west Syria)

These attitudes mean that Isis are set to gain from the international campaign against them, if the current strategy does not change. Based on conversations with people from eastern Syria, including Isis members and sympathisers, the offensive against Isis seems to have already achieved one thing for the jihadi group: to push some Isis members who were on the periphery into their core, and neutralise some of their Islamist opponents.

Many of Isis members are new to the group and they are still ideologically uncertain. But since Isis are now face to face with a numerically exaggerated alliance led by Washington, Isis members who could otherwise shift away from the group have become more determined adherents.

Isis can afford to lose their supply lines, infrastructure and many of their members – who are likely to be among the ones who recently joined it – as long as they can compensate by achieving popular recognition. They are already adapting to the campaign, reducing checkpoints (now mostly mobile) to a minimum and relocating weapons warehouses to safe areas in both Iraq and Syria.

People inside Syria say most of the bases or facilities hit by air strikes had been already emptied. While the air raids will surely undermine Isis’s ability to generate revenue by disrupting supply lines from factories or oilfields, Isis can survive without such easy-money resources. Also, it is important to highlight that Isis have established an intricate sleeper cell system that has not been unveiled, even when they felt secure in their territories.

Legitimacy for the fight against Isis cannot be achieved by simply having Sunni countries involved in it, but, rather, by addressing the true reasons that drove tens of thousands of Syrians to rise up against the regime.

Regardless of who is involved in the campaign, the perception is that the allies have overlooked the acts of the Assad regime over the past three years and quickly assembled a major international coalition against a group that the Syrian rebels have been fighting since last summer.

Unless the strategy against Isis shifts to a broader one that appeals to the local communities, the fight against it is doomed.

(Note: the USA still air bomb the Syrian army when it approaches ISIS strongholds)

Hassan Hassan is an analyst with the Delma Institute, a research house in Abu Dhabi. @hxhassan

Measuring Petanque performance? Which club took this important step?

The game of Petanque is like playing horseshoes with additional complexities: We play with metal balls that could be hit and displaced and the target is a tiny light ball called cochonet that can also be hit, displaced with various consequences.

In Lebanon, the game of petanque (boules) is mushrooming in many villages because young and elder people can play it and gather and meet.

The drawback is that this physically relaxing game (though you end up walking a lot) is Not that relaxing emotionally: A few people (mostly the bullies) shoulder the responsibility of selecting subjectively who is a good player, who’s Not and forgetting the potential new arrivals.

Petanque is a relatively easy game that requires plenty of consistent training to conveniently acquire the skills for analyzing the field and controlling your nerves and muscles for punting (pointeur) to the target or hitting the closest enemy ball to target (tireur).

A team in competition is of 3 players, holding 2 balls for a total score of 13 points to win. Otherwise, we can play with 4 members or even 2 people holding each 3 balls. The target cochonet is to be located between 6 to 10 meters.

The subjective selection, usually done by lousy performers, is alienating many players and discarding great potentials, especially when travelling to other villages for competition.

Asking someone to take statistics of each player in each game in order to tabulate performance shouldn’t be such a great burden. A computer software usually manipulate most of the data, provides all kinds of ratios and print the best performers.

I suggest the following criteria for taking statistics:

  1. For punting, coming closer to the cochonet, a distance of less 20 cm is allocated 3 points, less than 30 cm two pts, less than 50 cm a single point
  2. For hitting the ball (tireurs), a carreaux (displacing the other team ball and taking its place) allocate 3 pts, just displacing the ball 2 pts, hitting but not making a significant difference a single point. If the player displace his team’s ball then we deduct 3 points (-3).

It is important to discriminate between performance and consistency in potential skills.

Performance is measuring the scores and selecting the highest scorers for any competition. Potential is just adding the binary numbers of 1 and Zero, like hit or No hit, satisfactory punting or totally lousy.

For example, if you are consistent in hitting regardless of type of hits, or satisfactory punting like within 50 cm, then this consistency can be promising with additional training.

The metallic ball can be of various weights (680 to 730 grams), of slightly different diameters and of various alloys.

I conjecture that the ball is a minor factor, but the types of field is the main variable. 

If you are not flexible and do Not exercise on different throwing methods, in holding the ball, the trajectory of the ball (high or rolling on the ground…), and flexing of the wrist… you will be at a disadvantage.

I find that the wrist is an important factor: if you are Not conscious of the direction and position of your wrist before throwing, the ball will travel according to the normal direction of your wrist.

Also, take all your time to aim and throw: you have 10 seconds to throw. At least, you will enjoy throwing the ball and play on the nerves of the opposing team members.

Beware of those who volunteer to give you advice on their particular methods of throwing the ball: Just keep experimenting with what is best for you.

Lately, many players would like to impress on you that a certain throwing method is the rule (regulation), but I didn’t find any rule, pictures, graphs or anything of the sort of how you hold the ball and throw. (Usually, those who mention “rules” at leisure are lousy performers)

Note: I realized that balls made in China are practically discarded as Not fitting regulation? Why? I think it is a French political and economic colonial constraint for players.


Toda tribe in India southern Nilgiri plateau

On the secluded Nilgiri plateau in the hill country of Southern India, there is small pastoral tribal community known as the Toda.

They reside in small Toda Huts, also referred to as “Toda Hamlets.”

These structures, set at a distance of around 5.6 km from the mainland of Ooty, are an original representation of a Toda community still in existence.

A man and woman of the Toda tribe standing in a photographic studio, with a dog lying at their feet. Photograph, ca.1900. Iconographic Collections
A man and woman of the Toda tribe standing in a photographic studio, with a dog lying at their feet. Photograph, ca.1900. Iconographic Collections.Photo Credit

Until the 18th Century, before the British colonization of India, the Toda peoples coexisted locally with other communities, including the Kuruba and the Kota, in a loose caste-like society, in which the Toda were on top.

A Toda hamlet or Mund. Edgar Thurston in The Madras Presidency
A Toda hamlet or Mund. Edgar Thurston in The Madras Presidency. Photo Credit

The Toda population has drastically (dangerously?) hovered in the range between 700 and 9oo during the 20th Century.

Even though the tribal community is an irrelevant fraction of the massive population of India, since the late 18th Century ” they have attracted “a most disproportionate amount of attention because of their ethnological aberrancy” and “their unlikeness to their neighbours in appearance, manners, and customs.”

Dressed stones (mostly granite) usually make up the front and back of the hut
Dressed stones (mostly granite) usually make up the front and back of the hut Photo Credit

Buffalo is the sacred animal and an instrumental element of Toda Religion. Toda faced a lot of changes in their lifestyle and culture as a result of forced interaction with other peoples with technology.

Photograph of two Toda men and a woman. Nilgiri Hills, 1871.
Photograph of two Toda men and a woman. Nilgiri Hills, 1871.

Toda used to be pastoral people, while now are increasingly venturing into agriculture. Even though the vast majority of Toda tribe are meat eaters now, they used to be strict vegetarians.

Toda mund (hamlet) and barrel-vaulted houses in the Nilgiri Hills in Tamil Nadu, 1869.
Toda mund (hamlet) and barrel-vaulted houses in the Nilgiri Hills in Tamil Nadu, 1869.Photo Credit

The study of Toda culture by linguists and anthropologists proved very important in developing the fields of ethnomusicology and social anthropology.

Toda people in front of their hut in the Nilgiri Hills.
Toda people in front of their hut in the Nilgiri Hills.

By the end of the 20th century,  some Toda pasture land was overtaken by outsiders who used it for agriculture.

Here is another story from us about the Toda people: Toda huts – The original homes of an ancient Indian tribe.

This has endangered Toda society and their culture, as vast buffalo herds have been diminished.

At the beginning of the 21st Century, Toda culture has been the primary focus of an international effort at culturally sensitive environmental restoration.

Strength through peace

Anticipating doom is brutal. And anticipating brutality is even worse.

It creates an enormous amount of emotional overhead.

It makes it difficult to invest, hard to make long-term plans. And it fills us with dread, short circuiting our creativity.

Peace has a dividend. Economic peace, political peace, interpersonal peace.

It gives us room to dream, to get restless and to make things even better.

We don’t need other people to lose in order for us to win. And keeping score is overrated.

Most of all, it’s worth investing in peace of mind.

The dividends are huge, and the journey (the way each of us spend our days) matters.

That’s one of the primary benefits of enlightened leadership. It creates a safe space to do important work.

Qu’est ce que ca peut bien te faire?

Je vis ce jour, je reve cette nuit

Je veux rire, crier, hurler

Je veux sauter, marcher, courir

La nuit avance, la lune s’en va

Le jour respire, Sannine eclate

Je vois de ma fenetre les jeunes marcher

Demonstrer pour une cause vieille comme le temps

Pour un petit detail, jeune comme hier

Je me sent bien et je veux grimper,

Je sent la fatigue et je veux m’assoir

Je me sent desesperer et je veux dormer

Qu’est ce que ca peut bien te faire?



Top 5: What Lebanon & The Lebanese Lost Over The Years

05 Oct 2014

Lebanese love lists, everyone loves lists, and we love being featured in them. Whether it is the list of worst passports to have or how awesome are parties in Lebanon or most recently the list of the oldest cities in the world

They basically are fun to share, a quick read and a conversation material… You know, talking about women’s right, political instability, economic fucks up, is not really sexy! -_-

So I decided to come up with my own list of the things Lebanon and the Lebanese lost over the years

I will just name the top 5 (in my opinion) by some chronological order. Feel free to add to it, I am sure there is a lot more…

  1. The Train & Tramway


Rail transport in Lebanon began in the 1890s and continued for most of the 20th century, but has ceased as a result of the country’s political difficulties.

Whereas the tramway system opened in April 1908 and lasted until September 1965. The golden age of the Beirut Tram saw it cover 12 Kilometers around Beirut’s center in 1931.

And of course the employees of the Lebanese Rail Transport are still getting payed till now. Yey!

  1. The Downtown of Beirut – El Balad


No matter what everyone says about this, After 1994, Lebanon lost its downtown, not because of war mind you (even though the war destroyed it) but because of Solidere (sigh!) that forced and coerced the residents and owners into leaving their homes and shops.

Solidere expropriated land from its owners and gave them the equivalent of “market value” (according to their assessment) in Solidere shares.

Property owners were given little choice in the decision, as those who opted to refurbish their own properties were subject to Solidere’s stringent regulations and approval. After redevelopment, many former residents were unable to pay the inflated housing prices and could not return to their neighborhoods.

What pisses me even more about this loss, is that downtown Beirut is now a privatized compound of private fleet of douchebags security personnel and valets parking that control every entry and sidewalk, not to mention the destrored, stolen or hidden ruins that lay under every shop and parking space… Shoukran Solidere!

  1. Lebanese Right to VOTE


The Lebanese government and the parliament members deprived the Lebanese people from their constitutional rights to vote by postponing the parliamentary elections that was supposed to take place in JUNE 2013, the elections are now supposedly to take place in November 2014. (Postponed again till 2018)

However and as most of our illegitimate parliament members are declaring, this round will also be postponed… you know, they care so much about the well being and stability of the country to hold the elections.

  1. Public Beaches (and overall public spaces) 



This is not a recent issue in Lebanon, all over the Mediterranean coast, private resorts are more and more controlling the sand and water.

From the north all the way to Nakoura, public beaches in Lebanon are disappearing. Whether it is the greed of people in charge or those who owns the resorts (they are usually the same person or someone from the family) the Lebanese have lost their public beaches .

More recently, the Dalieh beach is soon to be a private property, a luxury destination they say, a destination that is now fenced in an attempt, which is apparently successful, to end public access to the beach.

And a couple of weeks back I read that also Ramlet El-Baydah’s beach is now owned by two private companies who filed a request to the governor of Beirut to also fence the property.

People in Turkey ignited a widespread protest, Gezi Protests, to contest the urban development plan for Istanbul’s Taksim Gezi Park. The protests were sparked by outrage at the violent eviction of a sit-in at the park protesting the plan.

They have took almost everything from us, what are we waiting for? 

  1. The battle of wage correction, salary scale and universal health coverage

Photo by the late Bassem Chit

Another lost battle (I don’t believe in miracles) is the wage correction battle in Lebanon. Even though some might say a decree of wage correction was signed, it is still a lost battle.

What was passed is not a decent correction (they didn’t include the transport fees in the base of the salary) and of course it favors the company owners rather than the employees, and of course it is not applied since in Lebanon the employers are above the law and if you dare to ask for your right you will be fired or bullied into silence (We all still remember the spinneys case).

Same goes for the universal health plan that was being pushed by Minister Charbel Nahas, a health plan that benefits all Lebanese residents, funded by taxes on real estate and financial speculation. This plan was shot down by almost everyone in power, the ministers, the real estate moguls and ironically enough by Ghassan Ghosn the head of CGTL.

And finally the teacher’s battle for their salary scale, another soon to be lost battle from one of the truest and popularly movement in Lebanon…

A story of a transferred Palestinian since 1948 and other essays

A Palestinian living in New York:

“My grandmother witnessed the following events:

– she lived during the British mandate of Palestine and its turmoil
– the 1948 war and Nakba (Transfer to neighboring States of Lebanon, Jordan, and Syria)
– the 1956 Israeli invasion of Gaza
– the 1967 six days war and Israeli occupation of Jerusalem, Gaza and the West Bank
– the 1973 war

Then she moved with my grandfather to Lebanon to witness:
– the 1978 Israeli invasion of Lebanon
– Lebanon civil war that started in April 1975
– the 1982 Israel massive invasion of Lebanon and entering the capital Beirut and shipping of Palestinian fighters

Then she returned to Gaza to witness:
– the 1987 first intifada (Mass disobedience movement. It was Not the first: 1935 to 38 against the British mandated power and England had to dispatch 100, 000 soldiers to tame it, along with the latest torture techniques)
– the Oslo peace agreement
– the 2000 second intifada
– the 2006 Israeli operation against Lebanon and the victory of Hezbollah after 33 days of war
– Israel cast lead operation 2008/2009 on Gaza
– Israel pillar of cloud operation of 2012 on Gaza
– Israel protective edge operation 2014 on Gaza

Last time I called her she asked me to take care of myself and to focus on my studies- hoping for a better future.

My grandmother’a calendar is full of war and bloodshed. She is in Gaza now and I’m in New York unable to go see her or see my family and beloved.

Since 1948 when she hears the drums of war, she gets dressed and prepares her papers and precious stuff getting ready to become forth, fifth, or sixth time refugee in her country.

Freedom is precious guys, if you live in freedom and dignity you never need to complain….”

Krys Ta wrote:

I kind of feel sorry for holders of passports that could get them practically anywhere. They never get to experience ‘doing an exam’ every couple of months, waiting for results, nailing your interview questions, perfecting your bank account statements, showing up on time, scheduling appointments months ahead, waiting in line for your number…

It’s horrible what they do experience.

They just go to the country of destination? For us at least when you get the visa you feel like you succeeded. You might not want to travel anymore even.

Khalas (finally) you succeeded in that extremely hard test of perfecting your visa application results that you were worthy.

Worthy enough to get granted access to another country where you will spend YOUR money and help thrive their economy.

In a way, we are heros.

Yalla bye. #fuckBorders #قوم_بقا

The Outrageously Racist
The Stereotypical Sexist
The ‘I don’t care about traffic lights’
The Truly Kind & Wise
The Intellectual 
The Hardworker But ‘There’s no more hope for Lebanon’
The Smart/Skilled But ‘there’s no more hope for anything in life’
The ‘There’s no place better than Lebanon’
The ‘Any place is better than Lebanon’

Chapters from a book I could write about my daily encounters with Taxi drivers in Lebanon this summer.

Notes and tidbits on FB and Twitter. Part 55

La joie de vivre est liée a un sentiment d’avoir réussi. Si seulement on pouvait abaisser la barre de ce qu’on considére “Réussir”

Pourquoi écrire si on se croit supérieur aux romans qu’on écrit?

It is Not worth reading the fundamentally “rootless” authors: They cannot worry about any society. Worst, those “rootlessly” living in their own country

Si on sent que le roman envoie des signes de prévisibilité de l’avenir de l’histoire, alors on avance difficilement dans la lecture, on s’ennui.

Les characters et les passions doivent etre décrite comme des entités Libre, pretes a tout moment d’actes imprévisibles.

Le romancier n’a pas le droit d’abandonner le terrain de la bataille.

Considerer la “conscience” comme un Black Hole qui rejette tout ce qui ne tient pas debout et essaie de s’introduire dedans. Question: comment les premieres idees furent introduites? A t-on cree notre Black Hole par nous meme?

L’intentionalité est la conscience qui ne peut exister que relier a d’autre chose que soi.

“Toute conscience est consciente de quelque chose” de la haine, la crainte, sympathie, ce qui parait amiable,  les reactions subjectives

Ces maniaques intelligents et raides, digne et toujours humiliés dans l’enfer du raisonnement, se moquent de tout et ne cessent de se justifier dans des confessions truquées qui laissent apparaitre des désarrois sans recours.

Day 28. Palestinian prisoners, 1,700 of them, on hunger strike. Israel again detained administratively 8 Palestinian youths. Intimidation tactics

C’était mathematique: les enfants de USA faisaient trembler leurs méres, les méres terrorisaient leurs maris.

L’infantilism de la politique Americaine s’expliquait de ces liens: les hauts placés exhibaient leurs familles et leurs rejetons pour obtenir plus de voix. (Observations of Louise Weiss on her 3-month tour sponsored by Foreign Affairs association in 1925)

Senator Borah de l’Idaho, USA (in 1925), á peine débarassé de ses Indiens, commencait a dénombrer ses interets communs avec l’ensemble du pays

Comme la harangue du sénateur Borah de l’Idaho (1925) valait á peine pour un sheriff de Western, il me parut plus raisonable de ne point lui répondre (Louise Weiss)

An age difference of 24 years among couples is problematic for many when the woman is the older one, as with new French President Macron. In the USA, Macron would have been defeated for just this factor.

Soon, all sciences will fall in desuetude because of AI robots. Psychology will survive: everyone thinks he is a psychologist

Nothing but this daily repetition of parents to their growing ups children “Come visit me for 5 min every day” may make a difference to your loneliness in old age

When the other children come to visit the old mother once a month for 5 min, ho,ho, ho ka2anno ejo min al safar. Bte7taar keef tashteshon

Par definition, toute énigme a sa solution. Pourquoi les solutions se font si rares aux milles énigmes qui nous tracassent? Même ces rares solutions paraissent subjectives

Avant le début et après la fin, nous ne savons rien.

Life of total work? How to care less about this trend?

“If I’m not just a worker, then who am I?”

Olivia Goldhill, June 11, 2016

We live in an age of “total work.” It’s a term coined by the German philosopher Josef Pieper just after World War II—describing the process by which human beings are transformed into workers, and the entirety of life is then transformed into work.

Work becomes total when all of human life is centered around it; when everything else is not just subordinate to, but in the service of work. Leisure, festivity, and play come to resemble work—and then straight-up become it.

Even our co-circular habits play into total work.

People work out, rest and relax, eat well, and remain in good health for the sake of being more productive. (In my case, just to stay healthy and have enough hope for a better tomorrow, or a better luck in life)

We believe in working on ourselves as well as on our relationships. We think of our days off in terms of getting things done. And we take a good day to be a day in which we were productive. (Does that include being passionate about a hobby?)

But caring as much as we do about work is causing us needless suffering.

In my role as a practical philosopher, I speak daily with individuals from Silicon Valley to Scandinavia about their obsessions with work—obsessions that, by their own accounts, are making them miserable. (Many young people are losing their head hair out from the stress of finishing a project on schedule)

Nevertheless, they assume that work is worth caring a lot about because of the fulfillments and rewards it supplies, so much so that it should be the center of life.

I think this is an unsound foundation to base our lives upon. The solution to our over-worked state isn’t to do less work; it’s to care less about it.

There are many ways to train yourself to care less about work.

Sure, you could become completely indifferent to life and not care about anything, or develop a distaste for working that reveals itself in extreme procrastination.

However, both approaches leave us stuck in a cycle of aversion and feeling deep dissatisfaction. The better option is to care less about work because we care more about other things.

Most of us have had meaningful experiences—finding love unexpectedly, feeling awe when asked an intriguing question—that we quickly dismiss as being no more than passing moments, or which turn into nostalgic episodes to be recalled wistfully now and again.

But these experiences are clues that reveal a different lens through which we can see life: The more important things take us out of the endless pursuit of “being useful” while enabling us to lose ourselves in the flow of time.

By caring less about work, we open ourselves up to caring more about other dimensions to life—about what matters more. But that’s easier said—or written on a to-do list—than done.

How to care less about work

To get started, we need to become less attached to our notions of work.

The Buddha helpfully suggests that there are “3 poisons” at the root of our attachments: attraction, aversion, and indifference.

In this case, to become less attracted to, and therefore less hung up on, notions of career success, you should pay close attention to how those occupying positions of power are often over-extended, run ragged by infinite demands and herculean ambitions.

They are rarely leading well-rounded or well-ordered lives. The cost of their single-minded striving for success is unvoiced suffering, loneliness, and the loss of other things worth caring about. If career success too often brings misery, then should it be esteemed as highly as it usually is?

Once you’ve detached the notion of success from that of happiness, you need to work out how else to find that satisfaction—but without actually achieving anything.

This exercise opens us up to Oscar Wilde’s famous dictum, “All art is quite useless.” We can refute total work’s claim that only useful things are valuable by taking Wilde at his word, and considering how we can perform fascinating but totally useless artistic experiments in our own lives.

For example, we could partake in the “art of roaming” without an aim or plan. This is an idea advanced by French theorist Guy Debord, who proposed that we let ourselves “be drawn by the attractions of the terrain” and the encounters we discover.

Alternatively, we could write a haiku, walk through the woods in the spirit of “forest bathing” (shinrin-yoku), or lie perfectly still in a moving rowboat, as 18th-century philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau reports having done in Reveries of the Solitary Walker.

We could take part with others in breaking out of an escape room, immerse ourselves in sensory deprivation tanks, or practice calligraphy, an art that master calligrapher Kazuaki Tanahashi calls “brush mind.

By these means, we can plunge into life, engaging our senses while suspending our buzzing, noisy workaday concerns.

Once we’ve gotten the knack for embracing the idea that certain things in life are wondrous because they’re not focused on getting through, onto, or ahead of something, we can turn our attention to ourselves, inquiring into our own lives.

Socrates’ great insight involved showing his conversation partners that they thought they knew themselves, but it turns out that they didn’t.

Following Socrates’ lead, we can ask ourselves, “If I’m not just a worker, then who am I?”

Let this question sit in the back of your mind for a few weeks before you try to answer it.

“Who am I?” you might ask while getting bogged down at work. “Who am I?” you might think while you notice your thoughts inclining once again toward completing tasks, planning, strategy setting, and making insurmountable to-do lists.

“Is this who I am? Is this all I am?” This philosophical question, posed over and over again, is intended to arouse great doubt in you, inviting you to prod your deepest ambitions, why you’re here, and what it’s all about.

If your destiny is not to be a total worker, then what could it be?

Exasperated, a character in Voltaire’s Candide says, “Let’s stop all this philosophizing and get down to work.” What a waste of time, he seems to be saying—and maybe you’re thinking the same thing.

We could, of course, follow his advice and just keep our heads down. Or we could insist upon working less without caring less about work.

Or we could try to find a time-management guru who would allow us to continue a regime of total work by plying time-saving techniques. But aren’t these approaches just more of the same: total work in action?

If the solution to your anxiety is keeping your head down, easing up a bit, or working more efficiently, you’ll someday regret the awakened life that will have ultimately, tragically passed you by.

Exercises like these shepherd us beyond the world of total work, helping us to remember why we’re here. They allow us to shed our worries, anxieties, irritations, and busynesses.

By caring about work a little less, we can afford ourselves experiences of what is truly meaningful, and let us rest for a while in the unfolding present.

You can follow Andrew on Twitter. Learn how to write for Quartz Ideas. We welcome your comments at

Note: How to behave once you retire? I say: Etre a la retraite veut dire: j’ ai le matin jusqu’a 1 pm pour mediter, lire et ecrire, et toute la nuit pour tout autre chose. Sleep my fill and sleep when I feel like to or when just bored. C’ est comme ca qu’on change une vie de labeur pour survivre.


Cathy Sultan blog

Israel’s new Legalization Law legitimizes under Israeli law dozens of so-called settlement “outposts” that were built without official approval from Israeli authorities but were tacitly supported by successive Israeli governments as part of an effort to colonize as much Palestinian land as possible.

This new law follows Israel’s approval of 6,000 new settlement units in just the last two weeks and the announcement that Israel plans to build its first entirely new settlement on occupied Palestinian land in more than two decades.

According to Jonathan Cook writing in The National on February 8, 2017, the Legalization Law was the right’s forceful response to the eviction in early February of 40 families from a settlement “outpost” called Amona.

The eviction of these families was transformed into an expensive piece of political theatre, costing an estimated $40 million. It was choreographed as a national trauma to ensure such an event is never repeated.

As the evicted families clashed with police, sending several dozen to the hospital, Naftali Bennett, the Education Minister and leader of the settler party Jewish Home called Amona’s families “heroes.” Netanyahu added: “We all understand the extent of their pain,” and promised them an enlarged replacement settlement along with monetary compensation.

The real prize for Bennett and his far right party was the legalization law itself. It reverses a restriction imposed in the 1970s and designed to prevent a free-for-all by the settlers. International law is clear that an occupying force can take land only for military needs.

Israel committed a war crime in transferring more than 600,000 Jewish civilians into the Occupied Territories. (Millions of Palestinians were forced transferred after each war)

Israel’s Attorney General has refused to defend the law should it be brought before Israel’s Supreme Court. Very belatedly the lower courts drew the line in land confiscation in Amona and demanded that the land be returned to its Palestinian owners.

This new law overrules the judges in the lower courts, allowing private land stolen from Palestinians to be laundered as Israeli state property.

In practice there has never been a serious limit on theft of Palestinian land but now government support for the plunder will be explicit in law. It will be impossible to blame the outposts on “rogue” settlers or claim that Israel is trying to safeguard Palestinian property rights.

I saw this injustice for the first time in March 2002 when my Palestinian guide, Naim, on our way to Bethlehem, stopped his car and pointed off to the left.

“My family used to live here,” he said, and began to tell me his story. One of the things which upset me was the part about the ancient olive grove. No one knew how old the hundreds of trees really were. Some of the old-timers swore the olive grove was 300 years old or perhaps even older. The trees probably didn’t need irrigation because they’d been there so long. Their roots intermingled with the rich, dark dirt and delved deeply into the earth. A small village nearby had an olive press and every day during the season the villagers brought their freshly-picked crop to be pressed for oil.

Naim still remembered the exact location of his house, what time the sun shone through the kitchen window, and where each tree was planted. He remembered because he was the one who scurried up the trees and shook the branches at harvest time, carefully aiming for the sheet spread around the base of each tree to catch the olives as they fell.

Now there is no sign of a Palestinian presence. The villagers, if not already dead, have been dispersed to one of the many refugee camps. As for the ancient olive grove, it was uprooted to make way for Har Homa, a massive Israeli settlement. It sits atop Abu Ghnaim Mountain, once a forest of some 60,000 pine trees and a refuge for wild animals and plants.

One the southwest edge of Bethlehem, this entire area was stripped bare to build 7,000 identical red-roofed, multi-storied square housing units, arranged in layers some two kilometers in circumference. When completed, the project looked from afar like asymmetrical Lego blocks. Gilo, another Israeli settlement, dominates the eastern perimeter of Bethlehem, sandwiching the Christian village between these two Israeli colossi. These and other stories can be found in Israeli and Palestinian Voices: A Dialogue with both Sides.

As opposition leader Isaac Herzog said: “The train departing from here has only one stop–the Hague, home of the International Criminal Court. If ICC judges take their duties seriously, we could see Prime Minister Netanyahu tried for complicity in the war crime of establishing illegal settlements on stolen Palestinian land.

This book is available for purchase here: Amazon




August 2017

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