Adonis Diaries

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“Two or three things that I know about…” Part two

Sabine de Bustros and Loris Moutran had a bunch of questions.

For two years, they interviewed 28 French personalities whom they never met before, and gathered their responses.  This part include samples of answers.

1  If the night could say a word?

2  What is eternity?

3  If you were an echo?

4  If you were a gesture?

5  What cannot be communicated?

6  What is fear?

7  What do you watch alone?

8  What you could never forget?

9  How do you negotiate with the unknown?

10 You are a tear drop: Where do you stop?

11 You are a caress: Where do you land?

12 What is sadness?

13 What is smile?

14 What is an emotion?

15 What silence holds?

16 What cannot be grabbed?

17 What is the impossible?

18 What is not logical?

19 Any use for the redundant?

20 What is beauty?

21 What is decency?

22 What is leaving?

23 What is your noise?

24 What give eternity to emotions?

25 What gesture for sadness?

26 If pain was a location: Where would it be?

27 If soul could give a kiss: Where would it be given?

28 If tears could form a sentence?

29 What is the Hour of the moon?

30 What is the gift of autumn?

31 What is a terrible love?

32 What is the sound of solitude?

33 If you were an error, a mistake?

34 What season describes best?

35 What mark would you leave?

36 Ask a single question to God

37 What book you like to be?

38 What fictitious love affair you like to have?

39 Where is your ideal  stopover?

40 What is an instant?

41 What’s the origin of solitude?

42 What is your preferred dance?

43 Your preferred water?

44 Preferred light?

45 Preferred rhythm?

46 preferred work of art?

47 Preferred Word?

48 Space you would hate to fill?

49 If you were a lie?

50 Is fire a beginning or an end?

51 If you were a form?

52 A question most revealing about you?

53 In what shape should God appear?

54 A single reason to selling your soul?

55 What would you suppress or delete if you were immortal?

56 What is induced sadness?

57 The single fear you would like to confront?

58 What in life is never anticipated?

59 What justify the truth of a word?

60 What word is as powerful as a storm?

61 The music of your life?

62 How to be reincarnated?

63 The difference between destiny and fatality

64 Name your prime emotion

65 What God should know?

66 A compliment that destabilizes you?

67 Time is a wheel or a stage?

68 Is life a question or an answer?

69 Would you build in space or in time?

70 What would you introduce as a preamble?

71 What is your own question?

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Books published lately by Lebanese authors

Stuff We Love. on Aug 28, 2016

By Lynn El Amine

This perpetual cycle of instability and joy gave birth to several generations of lovers, thinkers, artists, writers, rebels, and intellectuals making Lebanon a multi-cultural hub of creativity and literature.

To the Lebanese, creating life with words was not an idle activity, rather an unshakeable impulse that demanded to be tended to, time and time again.

Here are just a few of the must read books that portray the beauty that stems from that very impulse.

1. De Niro’s Game by Rawi Hage

In this novel, protagonists Bassam and George tell tales of love, sex, and pain during Beirut’s civil war. The problems that the characters face in this novel are sadly problems that the Lebanese youth still faces today. Both a heart-melting and heart-breaking read.

Memorable Quotes:

– “Dust was friendly and loved us all. Dust was Beirut’s companion.”

– “Death does not come to you when you face it; death is full of treachery, a coward who only notices the feeble and strikes the blind.”

– “Ten thousand bombs had split the winds and my mother was still in the kitchen smoking her long, white cigarettes.”

2. Koolaids: The Art of War by Rabih Alameddine


Image via timbalaning.wordpress.com

This book constantly jumps through space; through various journal entries by different characters, the reader is told two mirroring stories. The first is that of the civil war in Beirut, and the second being of the AIDS epidemic in San Francisco. Rabih Alameddine’s whimsical writing style gives the reader a sense of closeness and identification with the struggles told in the book.

Memorable Quotes:

– “In the commemoration of death, I unearthed myself.”

– “The Syrians killed my father, but I blame Yoko.”

– “I did not really know the good old days. People started dying when I came out.”

3. Nietzsche’s Camel Must Die by Rewa Zeinati

This hilarious and refreshing gem reveals the adventures of Lebanese-American poet Rewa Zeinati in Beirut through a series of unrelated Facebook posts. Easy and fun to read, this book offers insight into different social issues found in Beirut, without the heaviness of facts and figures.

Memorable Quotes:

– “Right. So my gym membership expired. Finally. Now I can finally wake up, and not go to the gym, and not feel an ounce of guilt about it.”

– “Everything is a big fucking deal when you’re still under thirty.”

– “In a world that lacks, I’m not sure what’s the best thing one can be accused of. The second best thing must be: indecisiveness. It implies the availability of choice.”

4. An Unnecessary Woman by Rabih Alameddine

This book tells the tale of Aaliya, a childless divorced woman who is now cast as “unnecessary” by the society she lives in. An Unnecessary Woman does not only offer readers beautiful language, but it also offers insight into the lives and struggles of “unnecessary” women in Lebanese society.

Memorable Quotes:

– “If literature is my sandbox, then the real world is my hourglass — an hourglass that drains grain by grain. Literature gives me life, and life kills me.”

– “There is non more conformist than one who flaunts his individuality.”

– “I used to find old people, men and women, terribly narcissistic. All they ever want to do is talk about themselves. But then, what are these pages if not an exercise in narcissism?”

Of course, there are several Lebanese and non-Lebanese writers that have experienced Lebanon’s exciting ride through time, and many have described it in their literature. You can read about them here.

“It is a truth, universally acknowledged that…”

“It is a truth, universally acknowledged that a Moslem man, regardless of his fortune, must be in want of a 9 year-old virgin wife…”. That’s how Nassrine started the discussion with the opening sentence of Jane Austin book “Pride and Prejudice”, a temptation that a reader is most likely to feel and rearrange…

Azar Nafisi held Thursday’s sessions for 7 of her former students, discussing selected English fiction novels and keeping diaries.

Manna rejoined: “It is a truth, universally acknowledged that a Moslem man will eventually displace his older wife for a fresh naive 16 year-old virgin…”

What is your “truth, universally acknowledged….?”

Azin, who is in the process of divorcing her third husband, said: “Who is thinking about love these days? The islamic Republic of Iran has taken us back to Jane Austen’s blessed arranged marriages. Nowadays, girls marry either because of famiy pressures, or to get a green card, or to secure financial stability… And we are talking about educated girls, discussing English literature, and who have gone to college…”

Mahshed replied: “Many women are independent in Iran, and are business women and who have chosen to live alone…”

Manna retorted: “Most women don’r have a choice now. My mother could chose her husband and wearing the veil was optional…”

Nassrine said: “Temporary marriage contracts are all the rage. President Rafsanjani is encouraging these kinds of short-term marriage contracts… Many conservative clerics call these contracts a sanctified form of prostitution… A few progressive men are for these contracts, and I tell them that they should demand that this law gives women the same rights as men… Talk about hypocrisy!”

At the start of the 20th century, the age of marriage was changed to 13 and increased to 18. In the 1960’s, there was little difference between the rights of both genders, and women were at a par with western democratic States standards in human rights.

As Khomeini grabbed power in 1979, and this totalitarian and theocratic regime came in the name of the Past, and individual freedom was banished… the first law was to repeal the Family-Protection law, which guaranteed women’s rights at home and at work.

The legal marriage age for women was lowered again to 9 year-old, sort of 8.5 lunar years… Adultery and prostitution were punished by stoning to death, and women were considered to have half the worth of men

And why this 9 year-old cut-off standard?

Prophet Muhammad had officially married Aicha at the age of 9. Aicha’s father was Abu Bakr, later to become the first Calif of the Moslems.

Muhammad didn’t have intercourse with Aicha until she was 13, but they didn’t beget any children. Aicha was the most beloved of wives and the most educated.

This terribly jealous wife used to throw tantrums when exposed to injustices. As Muhammad announced his desire to marry another wife (9 in total), Aicha shouted: “This God of yours has the habit of satisfying all your desires in verses…

Aicha was in charge of transcribing the verses during Muhammad’s bouts of epilepsy.

And the Moslem clerics want to emulate their prophets, particularly in life-style that pleases their pleasures and comfort…

Sanaz was to meet with her long-time preferred Iranian young man, accompanied by her family, across the border in Turkey: The beau was settled in England for the last 6 years and decided to give it a shot and get engaged with Sanaz. The discussion among the girls was on how to discover the compatibility attribute, after so many years of absence, before Sanaz agrees to get engaged.

Nassrine suggested that “The first thing you should do to test your compatibility is dance with him

This suggestion was a reminder of the “Dear Jane Society” idea of forming dance sessions: Teacher Azar had gathered the girl students after class following a lecture on Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice to dance in the style of Austen’s period (the Napoleonic age). But that is another story.

Note 1: The story is taken from “Reading Lolita in Tehran” by Azar Nafisi

Note 2: If interested in a biography of Aicha, check https://adonis49.wordpress.com/2008/10/11/aicha-la-bien-aime-du-prophet-by-genevieve-chauvel/

Forget that there are colonizers and colonized? Just two sides at war in Gaza?
Ghassan Hage, professor at the Univ.of Melbourne Australia, wrote:
The good unbiased westerner just told me: “Forget that there are colonisers and colonised, what there really is are two sides”.
Forget that there are people losing their land and people stealing it. What we have are two people with different histories.
Forget that the Israelis have killed tens of thousands of Palestinians, while the Israelis killed by the Palestinians can be counted in the hundreds.
For what there really is are two people prone to violence.
Forget that in terms of actual capacity to cause violent destruction the Palestinians are to the Israelis what a single ant is to an Elephant.
For what is important is that both sides ought to show restraint.
The good unbiased westerner is adamant:
“We don’t want to talk about the fact that one side is filthy rich and technologically over-equipped while the other is getting poorer and poorer; Nor do we want to talk about injustice, dispossession, racism and apartheid, for this doesn’t allow us to see what is wrong with both sides…
For the most important thing that one should always remember is that both sides are sides.
And if both sides did not side, there would be no side.”

Is that one of the fucked up Aristotelian logic, uttered by people sitting in comfortable peaceful conditions?

And what the American author Henry James wrote a century ago?

Henry James lived in England for 40 years and died there in 1916. Not until 1914, Henry James avoided being socially and politically engaged and kept aloof from the actual passions of existence. He was blamed for his “Mandarin” attitude toward life…

It was the start of WWI that got James in overwhelming intense activities and involvement, in his old age. He was everywhere, in Belgium, in France… visiting the hospitals, comforting the injured soldiers, raising money for belgian refugees, haranguing the US government to get engaged in the war…

James wrote: “hadn’t it been for the War, I should certainly have gone on as I was, taking it as the simplest and easiest and friendliest thing: but the circumstances are utterly altered now…” 

He wrote to a friend: “I have an imagination of disaster, and see life as ferocious and sinister… The war has used up words… We are confronted with a depreciation of all our terms, speaking with a loss of expression through increase of limpness, that may well make us wonder what ghosts will be left to walk… I eat my heart out alone… the paralysis of my own power to do anything but increasingly and inordinately feel...”

James was aware of the toll such cruelty takes on emotions and the resistance to compassion during these absurd instances, insensitivity adopted as a way of survival…

James had witnessed the US civil war, but didn’t participate because of physical problems in the back, and filled his time reading and writing. His two younger brothers did fight.

Henry James wrote to the newly wed wife of a husband who died in the war:

“I am incapable of telling you not to repine and rebel, because I am incapable to tell you Not to Feel… Feel for all you’re worth, even if it half kills you, for that is the only way to live…”

To his old friend Rhoda Broughton, Henry James wrote:

” I am sick beyond cure to have lived to see it. You and I, the ornaments of our generation, should have been spared this wreck… we have seen civilization grow and the worst became possible… this crash of civilization… the funeral spell of our murdered civilization…”

James’ idea of home was bound up with the idea of civilization. Culture, humaneness, civilization, and independence of thought were everything to James “We must for dear life make our own counter realities...”

Note: The part on Henry James was inspired from “Reading Lolita in Tehran” by Azar Nafisi

What to expect from Iran Islamic Republic as “Ayatollah” Khomeini had proclaimed:

Ayatollah Khomeini, the original, not the current Khamenei, said: “Criminals should not be tried. The trial of a criminal is against Human Rights.  Human Rights demand that we should have killed them in the first place, as it became known that they were criminals…

They (International Human Rights Organization) criticize us because we are executing the brutes… We all made mistakes: We thought we were dealing with human beings.  It is not evident: We are dealing with wild animals... We will not tolerate these criminal and corrupt elements anymore…”

And who are these criminal elements, the wild animals, the brutes…?

They were the “Westernized” citizens, brought up in a westernized family, having stayed too long in Europe and the USA to study, smoking US cigarette brands in Iran, displaying leftist tendencies in not wearing the traditional Islamic attires, reading subversive foreign books like The Great Gatsby of Fitzgerald, or Farewell to Arm by Hemingway, all those non-politically motivated, considered monarchists, employees who worked in institutions during the Shah’s regime…

Khomeini went on: “The turbaned (militias) are about to execute in public the corrupt elements and burn them, and the story will be over… The corrupt elements are not allowed to publish newspapers…We will close all political parties except the One (Hezbollah?), or a few acting in a proper manner…”

Ayatollah Shariatmadari was heading the most popular party of Muslim People’s Republic Party and this party was disbanded.  The second in command, Ayatollah Muntazeri was blown up in the hotel where his party convention was being held, along with a hundred of the leaders…The irony is that the Communist Tudeh Party and the Marxist Fedayeen Organization sided with Khomeini. Why? Khomeini was against the US imperialist!

And successive waves of makeshift trials executed thousands of Iranians, and the communists and marxists were diligently persecuted and massacred.

Women were forbidden to dance and sing in public, and going to movie theaters, and going out without veil and long nails…

Azar Nafisi wrote in her book “Reading Lolita in Tehran” a fitting similarity between radical ideals and their consequences when grabbing power.

Mike Gold, the American radical Marxist of the 20’s, wrote about his American dream in his newspaper New Masses: “The old ideals must die…Let us fling all we are into the cauldron of the Revolution.  For out of our death shall arise glories…”

Iran Islamic Republic “Revolution” applied Gold ideals, adopting exactly the mechanism that should lead to glory… and did much harm to Islam by manipulating the religion to its political ends…

For example, Mike Gold wrote an essay in 1929 titled “Toward Proletarian Art“:

“Art is no longer snobbish or cowardly. It teaches peasants to use tractors. gives lyrics to young soldiers, design textiles for factory women’s dresses, writes burlesque for factory theaters, does a hundred other useful tasks. Art is useful as bread…”

I was under the impression that this long statement was being utterly sarcastic: Gold was damned serious.

Compare the above proclamations with Conrad‘s description of the artist in his preface to The Nigger of the Narcissus:

The artist appeals to our capacity for delight and wonder, to the sense of mystery surrounding our lives, to our sense of pity, and beauty and pain…and to the subtle and invincible conviction of solidarity that knits together the loneliness of innumerable hearts, to the solidarity in dreams, in joy, in sorrow, in aspirations, in illusions, in hope, in fear which binds men to each other, the dead to the living and the living to the unborn...”

Origin of languages? Has Mankind stopped migrating?

Apparently, the main factor that discriminates mankind (the latest Homo Sapiens) from the other mammalian species, particularly the chimps-kind, is the capacity to communicate in grammatical structure, starting with the verbal structure 50,000 years ago.

There exist in nature sophisticated communication systems among the animal species, and they are highly efficient, and making sense associated with signals…Among them all species, mankind was the only one making complete sentences.  This evidence is an either we can communicate in grammatical structure or we cannot. “If you are unable to learn grammar, you stay a chimp…”

Grammatical structures do not means learning how the linguist want you to express yourself according to specific rules in a particular language, but the capacity of expressing yourself using words that the community use, in full sentences, and making sense to the community. There is structure in every dialect within the larger family group language.

Language requires a specialized part of the brain.  It is turning out that this specialized part shares the capacity to adapt to extreme environmental conditions.

Most animals survive within particular environments, give or take mild changes in the climate and the vegetation…but mankind survived and settled in extreme regions and thrived…

The American scientist Luca Cavalli Sforza discovered high correlations between languages and the genes of the speakers. Developing a new dialect might take no more than two centuries, but genes diversity need a couple of thousand of years.  Two genetically close populations have the same family group language, where the vocabulary are similar…

Although we are descendant of chimps, a couple million years ago, the chimp can learn (recognize) more than 900 words, but was unable to construct a sentence from the words they acquired…

It is currently admitted that mankind (the latest Homo Sapiens) had a single original language (about 50,000 years ago) and that the current 12 large family languages resulted from periodic mass migration to other regions. Every large wave of migration within or toward another of the 5 continents generated a new group of a basic language and were diversified by local dialect. This presuppose that the people settled the region for many thousands of years.

For example, linguists categorized 4 family group languages in Africa:

1. The Khoisan in the south of Africa

2. The Niger-Kordofan region in the west and central Africa

3. The Nilo-Saharan region that includes Arabic, ancient Egyptian, Berber, Hebrew…

4. The East of Africa group language starting from the Niger Delta (in current Nigeria) and expanding eastward

And how the linguists agreed on these classifications?

1. They use key words such as water, sky, I, you…and what are considered “fossil words”

2. A new-born baby has the potential to learn any language: He will acquire the language of his adoptive community, regardless of the sounds and the complex structure… (Chomsky)

3. There exist common grammatical structures in all languages and the brain of mankind is able to capture any structure at birth, and invent new structures…

And guess what:

1. Homo Sapiens, 100,000 years ago, was barely 30,000. And they were saved from extinction several times. The necessity to split into smaller groups saved them from sweeping epidemics and natural calamities…

 

2. Homo Sapiens migrated to China 65,000 ago, and reached Indonesia and Australia…He migrated to Europe 50,000 years ago, and to North Americas 20,000 years ago. Mind you that during the glacial periods, seas and oceans had receded and mankind and animals could travel walking among many continents …

 

3. The original Homo Sapiens settled the Near East (Turkey, Syria, Lebanon, Palestine, Egypt) and from this region migrated and “colonized” the world and later, exported the urban civilization as they planted and harvested the lands 10,000 years ago (the Neolithic age)…

Go figure: from 30,000 to 7 billion of mankind within less than 12,000 years

 

 

Do you have a past? What of generations who grew up without a past?

We take it for granted that every individual must have had a past, that he can recollect bits and pieces of his past, can make some sense of his past…

Many societies take it for granted that their generations had a past, it always had…

There are generations of people who had a past, good or bad memories, and then an “iron curtain” of a theocratic or totalitarian regime fell down and transformed lives. These generations with a past could feel the loss and the void in their current life-style.  They can compare, evaluate, analyze the past and the present situations, they may eventually master this lever to forecast how the future will unfold if no change and reforms are attempted, confronted and grabbed…

What of generations born and living within theocratic and totalitarian regimes?

These generations cannot have any memories and images of a different system and life-style, except if they had a few opportunities to watch foreign movies, documentaries, books, and listen to foreign music, poetry… of other alternative cultures and life-styles.

What if all “imaginary” alternative cultures are banned and you cannot construct different versions of possible existence and life-styles?

The generation with No Past to remember can only talk of stolen kisses, films they had never seen, lack of cool breeze on their bare skin…

The generations with No past long for the ordinary, the taken-for-granted aspect of a peaceful life… They loath mostly the absurd and arbitrary acts of transgression on their ordinary life, the trampling on their open spaces… like the desire of wearing pink socks, dropping the veil in public if they feel uncomfortable, using a comfortable swimming trunk, lounge freely on their balconies, read whatever books that strike their imagination, listen to varieties of music…

The generation with No Past keep dancing with their arbitrary jailers, and never feeling that they have the power to protest and confront the jailers…

How could you internalize your individuality and describe the image you have of yourself if society move, act, speak and dance identically, as delimited by strict regulations?

This section was inspired from a page in “Reading Lolita in Tehran” by Azar Nafisi.

Talking of a society indoctrinated in a cult, the self-effaced individuality, and evaluated on the degree you match the “dominant normal people”, evolving within a closed circle of like individuals…

With the exception of the Catholic Church theocratic dominance for 10 centuries in Medieval Europe, most of the theocratic and totalitarian systems were established in the 20th century, increasing, and expanding eastward…  Iran Islamic Republic took power in 1979, and The Moslem Brotherhood cults are established in Tunisia, Egypt, Turkey, and shortly will take control in Afghanistan and Pakistan

Communist regimes that flourished since 1917 in the Soviet Union, China…had their fascist counterparts in Nazism, Fascism, military dictatorship… with their cultist versions.

Theocratic and “civic” totalitarian systems share many components and diverge on a few:

1. There are all “radical”: They want to impose their value and moral structure on the society

2. They ban all reading and knowledge sources that diverge from their “world view”

3. They do their best to obliterate the past, (the Evil Past), in order to institute the future life-style and concepts…

4. Religious abstract notions, implicitly and explicitly, are the basis for their projects: They want the eternal and absolute and go the extra miles to force the citizens to pay the heavy price of their absurd and arbitrary outlook to commemorating their everlasting achievement

Theocratic regimes are straightforward: Here is the archaic Book, you behave according to the prescription of the Book, don’t hurt your brain interpreting the Words of God… Otherwise, you are a criminal element and only execution is your lot for disturbing the decency and homogeneity in the communities.  This radical leftist woman who proclaims that she is willing to wear the veil if it can secure the Independence of Iran is basically aware of the coming persecutions and want to be “covered” and isolated…

Totalitarian regimes are more subtle: Their ultimate goals are fundamentally of the religious-kinds in seeking the absolute and the eternal, but the mechanism is camouflaged under “scientific processes” for the progress of mankind, in peace, equality, comradeship…. The main brainwashing technique is to make alternative materials very scarce to obtain, and listening to alternative opinions even harder to hear. It is no longer natural and work an individual reflective opinion, and seeking an individual “open space” to regain your freedom

In “Democratic” States brainwashing is performed by the richest elite class who rules the institutions and the mass news media. One major difference is that the past is not obliterated “if you are willing to do your due diligence…” to extract alternative stories…


adonis49

adonis49

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