Adonis Diaries

Posts Tagged ‘nostalgia

“Never” is the name of my homeland

Note: re-edited the post of October 14, 2008

Neverland Lebanon is ruled by the officially recognized 19 religious sects and does not enjoy a real State or government as defined by the UN:  The “citizens” are practically chattel to religious clerics and feudal lords, and the election laws are designed to institute these kinds of affiliations.

Do you know of political refugees who have no hope of returning to their homeland? Palestinians are a striking example since 1948.

Currently, many ethnic groups have experience genocide and forced transfer and are Not allowed to return and the UN is totally helpless in that matter.

So many colonial powers’ civil wars and pre-emptive wars in non developed countries have dispersed millions of people from their homelands and within their lands and many have preferred drowning in the seas or crossing inhospitable deserts for any kinds of future.

Do you know of members of professional diplomats who are frequently transferred around the World’s Capitals?

Have you ever asked your folks “when shall we go home?” and the reply is “Never!”?

Amelia Nothomb grew up in Japan till the age of six. Her father was a Belgian diplomat.

Amelia loved green, flowery and well provisioned Japan of the seventies.  Her Japanese nurse adored her.

When her father was transferred to China it was the period of the Gang of Four after the death of Mao Tse Tong. This Gang made it a policy to burn all the cultural manuscripts and heritage of China before the revolution; and famine was endemic.

Amelia was terribly nostalgic for Japan; she asked her dad “when shall we return home?” Her dad answered “Never”!

Little Amelia reflected that her homeland is named “Never”.

The inhabitants of Never have no hopes; their language is Nostalgia; their currency is idle time; their Capital is called Slow Death.

The inhabitants of Never are incapable of erecting a house but they worship any kinds of stones.

They substitute stone homes with monuments of love, friendship and writings.

The citizens of Neverland learn from childhood that life is in constant decadence, dismemberment and dispossession.

They know by the age of 3 what 63-year old citizens of other homelands cannot fathom: The citizens of Never are a happy lot because any bit of grace dives them in a state of drunkenness. Kind every minute is a miracle bliss for survival.

I am Lebanese by nationality, but I was Not born in Lebanon.  I was born in Africa and lived there till the age of 6 before I suffered a near death illness (Typhoid). I spent my childhood in a Lebanese private boarding school; my folks used to visit every two summers.

These rare summers were hectic: my parents did their best to convince me that they were my mother and dad. I used to flee to my “home” at the boarding school and my parents frequently retrieved me from there.

Later, I made USA my home for over 20 years of my adulthood (on and off twice), and never visited Lebanon due to the war and lack of money. I finally settled in Lebanon Neverland in 2000 because I got bored in the USA and terribly tired alone.

They say tiny Lebanon is the most beautiful land on Earth because the sayers didn’t travel that much.

In this tiny and compact State you find all the varieties of natural beauty except deserts.

For people living in countries of extreme weather conditions all the varieties of natural beauty on earth are just curiosities, but never feel home.

I figure that if you lived in a gloomy country, darkening weather, No sun for months on, constantly raining or snowing or if you lived in an arid country where fresh flowing water is nonexistent and the sun is constantly blinding and burning hot, then your nostalgia for your country is the more acute and everlasting.

The citizens of Lebanon enjoy unbridled liberty, an adjective that describes the financial capitalist freedom to embezzle.  This freedom in Lebanon is characteristic of a non-government or administration; you are totally free to live and die; totally free to demonstrate and criticize since there are no ears to listen to your complaints or act upon them.

Lebanon, the land of water and no potable water reaching the houses; no public electricity; you have got to rely on private providers for all your essential utilities; for quick results you need middlemen for all public service transactions.

And you pay twice for every facility of what the State is supposed to offer, from your taxes.

When Lebanon obtained its “independence” in 1943, forest covered 35% of its superficies; it is now less than 12%.

Every year many terrible, wildfires, initiated by men,  eat whole mountain slopes: why cut down tree and make coal? Just go there and collect ready-made coal free of charge.

The successive governments never found it a wise idea to purchase a single specialized airplane to put down these recurring fires; and when they purchased one, they discovered that it was Not fit for Lebanon landscape. Heck, we have no forest rangers department.

The Lebanese, in this Never land, subconsciously prefer chaos to order; they are not serious about changing their caste system.

The Never land “citizens” are great magicians; they want you to believe that the variety of their castes (over 19 castes) is proof of their cultural heritage and their sense of openness, but they Never communicate with one another.  

They can be as remote as the Moon in human interrelation. Before the audio-visual technologies a few castes were believed to have tails and a few others corns.

The “Neverland” indigenous can convince the World that Lebanon is the Switzerland of the Middle East; they won the first prize in acting all the dramatic roles.

The immigrants are trained to exhibit to you long faces and even cry to express nostalgia, but they are expert fakers.

This magical Neverland shifts from a glitzy environment to a very conservative climate of women wearing black robes from head to toe within a ten-kilometer drive.  You move from disgusting display of luxury in one location to utter poverty in the blink of an eye within a hundred meter radius.

The Capital of Neverland is ranked second after the city of Anver in Belgium as the zaniest, funniest, varied, and modern location for tourists and offering the best culinary choices.

The rankers never troubled to investigate if its indigenes can afford the pleasures displayed in their Capital. The capital Slow Death was re-transformed and re-built to attract the petrodollars visitors.

The soul of Neverland is endemically melancholic, but its people learned to show off happiness and contentment.

Maybe the ancient inhabitants of Lebanon enjoyed the healthy and frugal life style in its mountain villages but that was decades ago.

A person has to cater for his soul; it is his responsibility to discover his own set of Truths.  The name of my homeland could be “Never“!

“Unfruitful Nostalgia”, controlled nationalism and degraded sharing of cultures…

There was a tradition, long time ago, in several City-States in the Levant. This custom was for the city council to encourage and coax unmarried males and new couples, who could not afford the life-style in the city, to buy them a one-way ticket to a far away land, to work in mines, fend for themselves and survive on their own, and eventually participate in building a new town

These “unwanted citizens”, as was the case in the modern  colonial nations, and as it’s practiced now in financially “depressed countries”, discovered  lands and transferred their knowledge, language, customs and traditions.

The world was dominated by the rule of the Elite Class of dispatching abroad the unwanted, undesirables, and untouchables.

This “civilized world” was built with the unwanted classes of people who quickly learned that “It is not where you were born, but where you live and were accepted, as one of the community member in the “New World”, that is Your Home

New City-States around the Old World were created with the knowledge and customs of the period of the current generation of unwanted caste-off people.

Not long ago, apprenticeship was the system for acquiring the skills for an artisan job. There were a few disadvantages in that system:

1. The kids lived as a slave with his master, and if the sons of the master or one of his close relatives turned out to be as talented as the slave, there were no outlet for the kid to be paid decently as a talented artisan. The Gild system would cast out the talented poorer relative and he was to move outside the city limits or be transferred to one of the “colonies”

2. After many years of slaving, it is possible that the kid showed no talent in what he was supposed to master.  Given the short life expectancy, it was difficult to change job.

There came a time when transportation were relatively accessible to return to the Homeland, and to die there, setting the stage to this Unfruitful Nostalgia.

This kind of nostalgia gave rise to Controlled Nationalism, a gathering of closed-minded citizens who refused to associate with the world communities and share with their cultures.

I want to die where I was born” generated the downhill of cultural sharing trend.

As the unwanted got it in their mind to return and confront the old system, the Old Guard decided that it would be best to control the poorer classes instead of sending them to taste freedom abroad.

Instead, The Old Guard  dispatched the poor citizens to wars of expansion under the premise that “What benefit the Elite class will trickle down to the poorer classes of the newer generations”.  

After colonizing a land, the less skilled “citizens” were sent to manage, direct, and train the promising natives in the mines and manufacturing outlet… where they spent most of their lives in foreign lands and left generations of new breeds.

The Roman Empire started the process of forcing their “civilization” on native people. The European colonial powers added insult to injury by allowing their criminals and violent prisoners to instill Law and Order on the occupied natives.

The less educated members of their elite classes were sent to “administer” the colonies, adopting the brute force and the latest techniques and vilest of ideologies in crushing the will of the natives, labeling them animals and barbarians, devoid of mankind soul that enable them to enjoy human rights.

And the ugly preemptive wars degenerated into the nastier of violence and brutality, and mankind learned to increase his brutality by a notch with every war.

Note: I wrote this post around 4 am while watching the movie Marugi or Ohuru Freedom. A 80-year old Kenyan who participated in the Mao Mao uprising against the British colonial power. The British killed his two kids and wife, and was detained in several concentration camps and was beaten and handicapped.

Marugi decided to learn to read and to joined a school with the kids after Kenya independence. He eventually was allowed to sit with the kids and was asked to deliver a speech at the UN to encourage learning and free schools for children…

Nostalgia is “Who we are”

Kinds of Nostalgia: Happy, sad, indicible, inexpressible, neutral…...

Do you think that the term nostalgia applies to elderly people who can only recall the earliest events?

Do you think that the term nostalgia applies to memories you want to absolutely forget? Is it possible anyway for forget “criminal” memories, real or imaginary, impressed in your consciousness?

Does it apply to people in “perpetual state of nostalgia” because they are unable to fit in any environment?

Do you think that the term nostalgia applies to dreams?

I so often dream of far away locations and people, and decades old. And I am walking and biking in streets of towns I live in for years. My brain edit my memories and adds hills and slopes to flat towns. And I take references from restaurants, churches, monuments, shopping centers.. in order to reach my apartment as night fall.

And I am hurrying to an apartment that I cannot recall which one I rented the last… As if I don’t remember where I parked my car, my bike, my brain… And I am selecting the friend I should sleep in, until my cloudy brain re-orients properly.

And I wonder: “What triggered this “nostalgic dream“? Have I heard, read or seen any piece of intelligence during the day that excited these old memories?”

First we feel nostalgia, and we don’t know the source of this feeling. We wrack our brain to track down the cause for our nostalgia, and whatever we discover is fundamentally a false alarm cause.

You have to be imaginative to allow your subconscious to guide you and let go.

You have got to remember that a whiff, a touch, a taste can generate so many nostalgic emotions that reason is helpless in that domain…

Usually, the voice expresses the types of nostalgia we are feeling, though it is the smell and taste that generate the most powerful of nostalgia, buried deep in our primitive memory.

That is why the types of food cooked in the kitchen invariably excite our nostalgia.

That is why people say that culture is fundamentally rooted in the kitchen and what it produces: The palate and smell are king.

In Japan, the closest to Nostalgia is Natsukashii, or Happy Nostalgia as opposed to the regular Sad Nostalgia in the western culture.

Natsukashii expresses the recollection of sweet events and soft feeling in our memories?

Do you think there are happy nostalgia once you decide or know for sure that you will never connect with this person or return to a particular location?

Is nostalgia referring to habits we are forced to substitute with other habits in a different setting of civilization? And it is hard not to feel sad and depressed for habits we had to forego, bad or good habits.

For example: “It is not the wine that I long for: It is the state of inebriation and its consequent behavior that bring out my true nature...”

In general, people say: “I am nostalgic to my hometown, my family, the childhood gathering, the traditional meals…”

Basically, it is not our conscious memories that generate a nostalgic feeling, but our unconscious reactions to the senses…

When you state in a gathering: “I am nostalgic to…”, probably this is a false-alarm nostalgia: Real nostalgia comes as a surprise and grab you, and not from the overloaded visual or auditory senses.

After a session of nostalgia, I feel a void, and I am in the present moment, and words don’t touch me and have no meanings.

Why do I link nostalgia with nights? Is it because it starts with N? Or it is at night, as the bombardment of external stimuli are minimal, that the lymbic senses take over in our brain?

Nostalgia is “Who we are”. If we attend seriously to our bout of nostalgia, we learn better  than any other medium of who we are and try to cherish these surprising opportunities. Otherwise,

Nostalgia could be the main reminder of the passing of time, irreversible, indomitable

Nostalgia might be the best reminder of opportunities and occasions we missed and failed to attend to, while we had the energy and endurance to process...

Definitely, nostalgia is associated with sadness, of missed opportunities, missed connections, missed chances to change

Modern Times Ulysses (June 22, 2009)


            Ulysses in the Odyssey was away of his City-State Ithaca for 20 years. The first ten years were spent battling Troy.  The next ten years were disposed of in other kinds of adventures and he was buffeted by storms and sea dangers. Ulysses was very lucky being loved by Calypso for over seven years in a paradise–like island. The love of Ulysses and Calypso were mutual; in fact, Ulysses knew Calypso far better than he knew Penelope; he loved Calypso much more than Penelope.  Ulysses real life was not in Ithaca; he matured and experienced life outside of Ithaca.  That Ulysses’ nostalgia for Ithaca to be so great is not within the realm of reason or of feelings. Homer wanted Ulysses to return for some other purposes.  The stronger nostalgia is the poorer the memory.  Nostalgia is self-sufficient in emotions and absorbed in its sufferings; it does not need any refreshing of reminiscences.

            We find Ulysses sleeping under an ancient familiar olive tree in Ithaca.  How many familiar trees remain after 20 years of absence in our modern times? The harbor is unchanged. A single bulldozer can move a small hill and open a breach into a new horizon, or block another one.  Ulysses realizes that he is in Ithaca. 

            After killing the suitors to Penelope then Ulysses felt bored. His supposedly ancient compatriots are strangers to him; they are telling Ulysses stories of events that happened in Ithaca and people that died or whatever.  Ulysses is not interested in these unilateral conversations; he is waiting for someone to ask him about his adventures and life during the last 20 years. No one was interested in Ulysses’ life in the last 20 years; no one asked him “Tell us your adventure”.  Fortunately, Ulysses was shipwrecked in Pheacie on his way to Ithaca.  The king of Pheacie was interested in the stranger Ulysses and his adventures; Ulysses felt voluble and told his story in four long songs.

            Ulysses realized that his essence and the treasure of his life lay out of Ithaca. At this advanced age the present of Ulysses is figited because the future is no longer a project or a vision to contemplate and plan for.  The only alternative for Ulysses to fill the present is to recount his very alive past 20 years.  No one in Ithaca is interested in the last 20 years of Ulysses.

            People figure out that they will live to be eighty as of the laterst estimates in developed nations; implicitely, they admit that they will die and that they must be living in a developed State.  People always are absolutely certain that they will outlive their best friends by at least a decade; it is a matter of ego.  Youth doesn’t think about future; it is far away and redundant.  When we reach 30 then our present has value with urgency. We live our present according to how we view our future; we spend our present commensurate to our plans and projects expected in a future that will not change but for our specific projects and ideas.  Whatever change is forecasted for the world community is redundant. People over 60 have a chance to re-invent their lives or spend their present recalling their past; it is time to either write the autobiography or leave peacefully. Homer is taking the task of recording “Ulysses Memoirs”.  Ulysses is pretty old for his time and killing the suitors of Penelope must have exhausted the last shred of energy he saved.  The Odyssey is rightfully not interested of what happened before Ulysses went to war against Troy; that period is totally irrelevant to the story: Ulysses had forgotten that part of his early life anyway.

            Immigrants of my acquaintances come to visit after long absence.  As I try to ask about their life abroad there is always someone to interrupt me and divert the subject to local events, especially stupid local politics; stupid because I am no politician. The immigrants do not get back to my question simply because they were no Ulysses in the countries they lived in; over there it is daily toil, a wretched life for stupid survival.  Not many made it rich and their absence had no value or significance.  Returning immigrants were no Ulysses; they did not live with a Calypso on an enchanted Island and served by slaves for every whim they had.  They were the slaves and they did slave.  Nowadays, societies in developed States are not that interested in strangers: strangers are just statistics and grouped haphazardly for the sake of classification and central data processing. Immigrants don’t have much to tell; they fled for greener pastures that turned dry; dollars were not found on the streets. Whatever rich life they had is irrelevant if not supported by actual material riches. In any case, immigrants were too busy to enjoy their present and memorize the good days; whatever they recall are the worst days which are not pleasing for story telling.

            Immigrants who are in their sixties should not think returning “home”; they should banish “nostalgia” from their vocabulary; they should dissociate from people frequently mentioning “nostalgia”.  Home is where they are now; they do not need further exacerbations of realizing that they are strangers in their “homeland”.  Except if they decided to write their autobiography; then this would be the best location to remembering their real life abroad.

            Ulysses would have not found his old familiar olive tree; the unchanged harbor would have been studded with performing monster cranes.  Penelope would have been too old to ward off suitors if any.  Penelope would not have been waiting if she was pretty and intelligent enough in the first place.  Homer is a magician for transforming wretched reality into poetry, for describing nostalgia in its proper meaning, for showing us the period of real life and our inconsiderate valuing of the present.


Note:  The theme of this article was presented in the French novel “The Ignorance” of Milan Kundera.




May 2023

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