Adonis Diaries

Posts Tagged ‘William Choukeir

Does emotional intelligence make you a better designer?

If you need to understand what is coined Emotional Intelligence, do refer to links in Note 2 and 3.

Emotional intelligence does make us better designers. a substantial body of research supports this.

Better designers understand the relationship between their designs and the resulting emotional experience 1.

And that’s because the emotional connection to a design is what engages us in the first place 2.

Later, we attempt to rationalize those emotions.

William Choukeir posted this November 14, 2013

F.C. Buck Rogers wrote: “customers buy on emotion and then justify with logic”.

Look at the image above. What do you feel?

Those of us who can identify with what the woman is feeling are on the right track.

“The iPod was not the 1st mp3 player, but it was the 1st to be delightful”. —Tim Brown, CEO of IDEO

So what is emotional intelligence really?

In short, at the center of emotional intelligence is empathy 3. and empathy allows us to understand another’s feelings, and be able to re-experience them 3. empathy allows us to understand another’s point of view 4.

design thinkers can imagine the world from multiple perspectives—those of end users and customers (current and prospective.) they can imagine solutions that are ‘desirable’. —Tim Brown, CEO of IDEO

A few are better than others at using emotions to solve design problems 3. this doesn’t mean that those with lower emotional intelligence are doomed at design. there’s good news for them. it seems, emotional intelligence is a skill that can be learned 3.

there are now proven steps to improve this skill 5:

1. the first step is knowing what the 8 core emotions are. all remaining emotions are a mix of those core emotions 6. each emotion is a button. the more we can identify the nuances between emotions we’re feeling, the better we can trigger them through our designs.

2. knowing which button to press might not make our job easier. but it sure helps us identify what’s important from all the noise.

you might look at the image of the woman above and feel something negative. or you might notice a more specific emotion, like sadness. if you’re more emotionally aware, you might identify more subtle emotions like disappointmentshameangerremorse and, just maybe, hope. if you identified those more subtle emotions, then you’re on the right track.

Note 1: If you like to submit you reply and participate, link to Does emotional intelligence make you a better designer?

references:
1• Chitturi, R. Raghunathan, R. & Mahajan, V. (2008). Delight by design: The role of hedonic versus utilitarian benefits. Journal of Marketing, 72-73,
2• Brown, T. (2008). Harvard Business Review: Design thinking, 84.
3• Salovey, P. Yale University. Mayer D., J. University of New Hampshire. (1990) Emotional intelligence. Baywood Publishing Co. Inc.
4• Hogan, R. (1969). Development of an empathy scale. Journal of consulting and clinical psychology. 33.
5• Emotional competence framework, Consortium for research on emotional intelligence in organizations. (1998). eiconsortium.org
6•  Plutnik, R. (1980). A general psycho-evolutionary theory of emotion, in emotion: theory, research, and experience, Volume 1. Academic press, NY. 3-33.

Is Imagination a better quality than Smart? Comparing TEDxRamallah and TEDxBeirut

Note: I have attended both events of TEDxRamallah (last summer in Beirut) and TEDxBeirut (this summer). My comparison will focus on imaginative thinking and smart processes. TEDXRamallah was organized by Palestinians in Ramallah and Jordan, and shown direct in a small theater in Beirut. This event was a catalyst for a group of Lebanese to try their hands at organizing the event in Beirut. TEDxBeirut was a huge success attracting over 750 people in the auditorium of a high-tech institution.

Does an Imaginative person refers to someone who can do things in a different way than the “masses” do, (people being carried away by the common sense dicta)?  Is a smart person someone who comprehended the customs and tradition of his community and is capable of emulating their methods of thinking and satisfying the community wants and desires?

For example, Steve Jobs claimed that “consumers have no idea what they want” and went ahead and set a trend. Is that what we call a tendency for imagination?  But then, when Steve Jobs and Apple emulated all the other companies in turning a blind eye on sweatshop factories that manufacture their product, are we within the Smart-ass side of vision?

Does the difference between Imaginative and smart extends to the technical matters?  For example, can we say that a smart person accepts the consensus standards of methods and logics and is capable of applying them in his field?  Is the imaginative person someone frequently looking at a problem from different perspectives in order to discovering a shortcut or a better way of resolving a problem? Is looking at various perspectives a one time shot or it might generate into a trend in handling problems?

Could we extend this concept into groups? For example, we say this community is imaginative because it considered alternative solutions, while that community is smart for taking advantage of knowing the system and working a solution within the system from “Ine to2kal al katef”?

Would you be wasting time and resources if you do things just like everyone else is doing? Does investing time and energy to find a shortcut in order to figure out a way to do things differently a worthy endeavor?  Does a smart person necessarily lack imagination?  How would you define a person who is frequently looking t problems from different perspectives in order to resolve the difficulty? Is this characteristic of considering problems from various perspective resulting from Smart or Imagination? Does mankind needs more of the Smart or the Imaginative kinds of people?  To doing what? Toward which goal and objective?

Let us read this inspirational post from notesby.me (a main organizer of TEDxBeirut) and analyze what behavior (smart or imaginative) transpires. (Words and sentences in parenthesis are mine).

Under the title “How TEDxBeirut showed me that you can handle much more than your wildest dreams” William Choukeir wrote:
“This is not a story about me. It’s a story about YOU (meaning the team of volunteers). Through my eyes.
While organizing TEDxBeirut, I had so much to do that I barely had 3 hours of sleep even night, for 1 month straight. I barely slept a single hour during the last week. I was eating in the car while driving. I also made most of my phone calls in the car.

During all this time, I was still running my design studio, at a reduced load (personal enterprise), but it was still running nonetheless. We were still working on the time-sensitive projects (that we had contract on).

At the studio, we were also doing everything (related) to design and communication for TEDxBeirut. The website, T-shirts, emails, event catalog, banners, sponsor kits, business cards, invitations, etc.

In addition to that, I was meeting TEDxBeirut speakers, almost on a daily basis, starting at 3 or 4 pm, and coaching them, and refining their talks.

I was receiving around 300 emails a day. Toward the last 2 weeks, I was clearing my inbox every other day. I was taking and making so my phone calls that my phone bill surpassed $300 that month.

I also spent time supporting Hanane in her times of crisis. Because without her, I and everything around me would crumble. Hanane is my partner in life and in work. She’s the pillar that supports me. I stand in the spotlight, but she deserves all the credit. I’m just a facade.

In addition to all of these (tasks), I was still sitting with my thoughts every day. I was still writing my notes every day (notesby.me). Even on event day. I was still showering and brushing my teeth.

And yet, I didn’t crack. I didn’t crumble. Not that it was easy. On the contrary. Not that I wasn’t on the verge of collapse. I was. But I didn’t. I hung in there. I saw it through. I realized that I am capable of handling far more than I ever thought possible.

But this isn’t my story. This is the story of Patricia, our curator. This is the story of Ziad. This is the story of Aya. This is the story of Sandra. This is the story of Joseph. This is the story of Farah, of Fatimah, of Rytta, of Marc, of Zeina, and of every single person that was at the core of TEDxBeirut.

I’m not the hero. We all are. I’m not the only one capable of handling much more that I ever thought possible. We all are. And that’s how I realized that anyone, yes anyone, can handle much more than we all ever imagined.

YOU can handle much more than your wildest dreams. Just throw yourself out there. You’ll see. You’ll come through.We all did.” End of quote.

Could you deduce from the previous post whether TEDxBeirut was driven by imaginative thinking or pure smart hard work?

For example, candidate speakers were to submit a one-minute video.  Candidates didn’t receive any feedback for the reasons of declining their candidacy. Is this attitude a smart behavior for organizing events.  Suppose the organizers used the video as an excuse to meeting face to face with candidates and investigate the range of limitations and inspiration of the candidate, would that decision be within the imaginative behavior?

Why do I have this strong feeling that TEDxRamallah had a stronger impact on me?  Is it because it was the first event that I attended live?  This event was held in a small theater (barely 300 attendees) and it lacked the technical power that Beirut organizers managed to install and run; and yet, I felt sweet vibrations that have nothing to do with feeling amazed by technology. The Ramallah event was well-organized in its simplicity, and I enjoyed the compact atmosphere of engaged people to listen to “what’s going on in Palestine and in the Arab World”.

Can TEDxBeirut organizers claim that the audience had this feeling of “What’s going on in Lebanon? What’s going on in the Arab World after the spring upheavals?”  Did the audience appreciated the potentials for change and reforms? I had the net realization that women speakers tackled Lebanon socio/political problems, and actually offered tangible, pragmatic projects and programs to resolving our problems.

I sincerely wish the TEDxBeirut organizers refrain from throwing in this statement: “We were shooting to be global”.  That would insult my intelligence and imagination.

How can you think global if you are immature in comprehending the limitations and needs of your own community? Worst, lacking the desire to get engaged in changing Lebanon rotten political/social structure?

Note: Attached are links to the first session of both events and you may take it from there https://adonis49.wordpress.com/2011/10/01/session-one-of-tedxbeirut-inspiration-regardless-of-lack-of-limitations/

https://adonis49.wordpress.com/2011/04/17/tedx-ramallah-in-beirut-sunflower-theater-part-one/

Mostly a Hoax: “From Limitation to Inspiration” slogan of TEDxBeirut

The slogan or motto of TEDxBeirut was “From Limitation to Inspiration”.  At first, this slogan didn’t inspire me much, in the sense I felt I have read that slogan before, or that is essentially the theme of TED in the first place.  When you read that slogan what comes first in your mind? What does it mean to you?

I interpreted the motto as: “Your are an individual with huge limitations (physical, mental, financial, connections, unstable family, poor country with no institutions, a disintegrating social structure with no community cohesion and support…) and yet, you managed to struggle and be a “success story” that can be “inspirational” and benefit society and people connected to you…”

You may send me the alternative interpretations to inspire me further, but my article will be based on my interpretation of the slogan.  From the 19 speakers, I could barely isolate four who actually fit my understanding of the slogan, and will demonstrate my case shortly.

I am convinced that the slogan was meant to catalyze the basic two organizers of this huge undertaking, and to inspire the other members and support network to surmount the difficult obstacles and limitations in Lebanon for coordinating the event.  William Choukeir and Patricia Zoghaib overcame many real limitations and inspired thousands for a “big cultural and reflecting events, which connect engaged youth and set them to communicating pragmatically, can take place in Lebanon!”

My impression is that the organizers failed to take advantage of opportunities in order to define what is “limitation” and the wide range of limitations in the Lebanese society, and gather categories and define what could be “inspirational”.  If they invested the time to meeting individually all who submitted a one-minute video and had a talk with potential candidate, they would have been far more inspired and would have an excellent background to establishing meaningful criteria for the selection process.

Mind you that the first six months were kind of trial and error journey, and meeting the potential candidate would have aided in what “From Limitation to Inspiration” means to them, instead of the common biased understanding that “success means establishing an enterprise that generates profit or acceding to a CEO position her and there…”

For example, is it impossible to find handicapped or autistic people who could be considered “success stories”?  Should all speakers be very much ambulatory and looking “presentable” so that the event doesn’t give the impression of a gathering of “retarded” Lebanese?

For this article, I will selected sample speakers from each of the three sessions who do not fit the slogan, and the speakers who do fit.  It is very likely that I will re-edit this post and be as exhaustive as possible to proving my case.

Group one: Speakers who do not fit the “limitation” criterion.

Speaker Ali Jaber was born in Lebanon in 1961 (he looks much older). Ali was correspondent of New York Times, chief correspondent for the German Press Agency (DPA), founded and managed Future TV and Zen TV. In 2004, Ali  was hired as consultant to head Dubai Media Incorporated…He is currently General Director of the MBC Group TV.  He founded the Mohammad Bin Rashed  School for communication at the American Univ. in Dubai and working on a PhD degree at Cambridge Univ. on Arab satellite TV… What was the story of Ali at the TEDxBeirut?  Ali Jaber wanted to link the University via internet to other universities (ultimately, hooking with 148 university in the US). Selim Edde told Ali to shoot for 100 Mbite.  Ali made a few phone calls to higher-ups in Dubai government and got the funding and facilitation…70% of the students receive scholarships…

What kinds of limitations did Ali Jaber had to surmount? He had the connections, the money, the position…Does this case applies to the slogan? Good work Ali Jaber: Inspirational talk.

Speaker Hala Fadel is chair of MIT Entreprise Forum of the Pan-Arab region.  She has been organizing the MIT Business Competition for the last 5 years: Over 3,000 participate from 17 Arab States.  Hala manages $13 billion at Comgest…She is married with 3 children. What’s the story?

Hala was 21 and happily married. One evening, her husband (currently a deputy in the Parliament) asked her: “Hala, are you happy”.  That set Hala into deciding to continue her education and on the path of success.  What kinds of limitations Hala was confronted to?  She had the support, the money, the brain… Does Hala fit the slogan?  Great job Hala: I enjoyed your speech.

Speaker Ziad Abi Chaker is CEO of Cedar Environmental.  The enterprise specializes in building Municipal Recycling Facilities on the communal level, contrasting with central Mega recycling plants. The three-way deal is for banks to extend soft loan to build the local plant, and the municipality to paying only the services of recycling/composting in monthly installments, not exceeding $5 per household per month.  Ziad told me that the Hariri clan, having monopoly of the wast disposal for the last 20 years, offered him $5 million to get out-of-the-way… Ziad studied industrial engineering at Rutgers Univ. (New Jersey).  How limiting was Ziad situation?  He has the brain, the energy, the family support (rich and into import business…) and the connection…Does Ziad fit into the slogan?  Cudo Ziad: Great idea, great project and highly sustainable, and wonderful presentation.

Speaker Arne Dietrich teaches psychology at the American Univ. of Beirut.  He surfs the “stream of consciousness” and his favorite topics are daydreaming and the “transient hypofrontality” induced state, generated by swimming, biking, and hiking for miles on end… What’s the story?  His “objective” research on what is called “higher level of consciousness” experienced by yogi and … are in fact in the lowest level of consciousness of our primitive brain…

What were limiting Arne? Maybe the case of Arne is a moot one: the biography stated that he was diagnosed with incurable curiosity and spent time in an “educational” institution…and what of going globe-trotting for years?  If Arne was from my hometown, he would be elected “Town certified idiot“. If Arne was from my hometown, I would rank him top in “limitations” among the speakers who managed to “inspire” against all odds! Informative talk, and “inspirational to me”, though many were dozing after lunch…

Group 2: Speakers who fit both the limitation and inspiration criteria:

Katia Saleh is founder of Batoota Films and producer of “Shankaboot”, winner of the 2011 International Emmy Award… Katia produced and directed award-winning documentaries “Beirut: All Flight Cancelled” (2006), “Iraq: Womens’s Stories” (2006), “Return to Basra” (2003), “Inside Saddam’s Iraq” (2003), the documentary “Ashura: Blood and Beauty” (2005)…

What’s the story?  Katia is from Kfarshouba, Lebanon,(on the border with Israel) and the town of her mother is Nabatieh.  She worked as usher in London while pursuing her study. A British asked her where she was from. He had no idea where Palestine was and she said: “Jesus is my neighbor”.  When Israel invaded Lebanon in 1982, an Israeli soldier asked her mother for her ID papers and she replied: “It is up to you to show me your papers”.  This incident was very inspiring to Katia. She received many threats on YouTube.  Any limiting handicaps with Katia? What about chasing danger for shooting documentaries that are worth recounting?

Speaker Yorgui Teyrouz is currently a pharmacy student at Lebanese American Univ. He is founder of “Donner Sang Compter” (Give blood selflessly).  The on-line group on Facebook saved 12,000 lives since 2007.  What’s the story? Yorgui was very young, 19?, when he overrun and killed someone in a car accident.  He was sentenced in Roumieh prison, one of the worst overcrowded prisons in Lebanon.  How a young man surmounted the indignity and humiliation of being incarcerated, and went ahead to coming to the rescue of people in need of blood? Very inspirational.

Najat Rizk is CEO of Firehorse Films and was acclaimed the second most successful CEO in Lebanon by Harvard Univ. Firehorse tagline “Making Television Worth Watching” is a commitment to producing knowledge-base and innovative media that engages audience.  Samples of her documentaries are “The Great Trade-off” on prisoners swapping between Hezbollah and Israel; “From Herat to Baghdad” “The living martyr: Hezbollah unveiled”…

What’s the story.  Najat lived in isolated Ashrafieh section of East Beirut during the civil war; her mother is from the town of Ghosta in Kesruwan.  She decided to make a documentary on Hezbollah.  Najat was so persistent that she got an interview with media director of Hezbollah.  She ended up living an entire year in Dahieh and changing her guard-robe…and was finally adopted as one of them. And her journey started filming the ceremony of Ashoura, going to Jordan and filming a Qaeda base in Salt, meeting the Dalai Lama

Just this guts to taking vile myths by the horns and taking the plunge; it is inspiration enough to breaking taboos instituted by ignorant communities…

Speaker Joanna Choukeir Hojeili is doing her PhD at the University of the Arts London.  She is exploring “how communication design methods and interventions” can contribute to social integration. She is using four design methods. For example, “Exploration” method is an innovative cultural probes toolkit.  “Connection” refers to a new perspective in networking method. “Expression Corner” is designed as a diary room for virtual interviews.  “Imagination Clinic” is intended as co-creation workshop.

The four methods aim to inform the development of communication design interventions for social integration among youth from different social groups and communities in Lebanon. Lebanon is a society heavily segregated along religious, political, geographic, linguistic, and cultural lines. The design package is transferable across other socially segregated communities worldwide.  What’s the story?

Charbel (18 year-old) from the district of Bshare has never visited south Lebanon, and barely stepped out of his restricted district.  Sahar (19 year-old) from Tyr didn’t visit much of tiny Lebanon.  Charbel and Sahar are curious to meet other youth of different religious, cultural, and geographical locations.  Many are plain apathetic in mixing with other people.

On October 1st, the first pilot workshop “Imagination Studio” will be held, inviting 25 of those who participated in the virtual interview so that they agree on a practical program that they will implement as a group.  This pilot workshop is sort of co-creation process: Every member will combine “what he knows” in expertise.  Outside experts will participate to put in shape a feasible program for application.

Joanna got a job pretty quickly: She was first of her class.  Two years later, Joanna realized there was no prospects for fulfilling her life dreams.  Short on money, she applied relentlessly to different overseas universities for scholarship.  Finally, she set her target on University of the Arts London and took the dive, working in London on several jobs and continuing her higher education.

Group 3: Speakers who do not fit the “inspiration” criterion.  For example, they failed to “inspire me” in any shape or form. I will refrain from expanding on this group, at least, not in this post.

Let’s consider a few limitations to inspiration in this modern society.  Do you think not being able to own a computer a serious limitation? How about not getting connected to the internet? What if you cannot afford the expenses of a cellular phone? You have no transportation means, and you have got to walk 2 miles to the nearest library to getting connected to internet in order to publish, rain or shine, hot or cold, and the library has no English books and you have got to translate…

If within 4 years you managed to publish 2,400 articles on wordpress.com in 50 categories…On a scale of one to 10 (highest inspirational case study), how would you rate inspiration within the above limitations? Does the extra piece of intelligence that the person is over 60 years make a difference?  How about this person does not enjoy any family or community support, like someone exhibiting self-autonomous behavior, and is starting to be viewed as one of the idiots of the town with “mild autistic” syndrome?

I say: “What has been done and properly executed is the best at the moment.”  I suggest the next program will have the same slogan to demonstrate the versatility of this powerful slogan.

Note: The sketch or cartoon is from David Habchi who covered the TEDxBeirut conference

Session One: TEDx Ramallah in Beirut (Sunflower theater)

TEDxRamallah was held in Betlehem (Beit Lahm) in the Palestinian occupied West Bank and many participated live from Beirut (Sunflower theater) and Amman (Jordan).  Many speakers were refused visa entry by the Israeli authorities, and most of the speakers had hard time reaching destination, traveling to many airports and cities, waiting in many Israeli check points before reaching Bethlehem.  For example, the US author Alice Walker (The Color Purple) had hard time crossing the Allenby Bridge.

The Israelis submitted her to four hours of silly questioning, just one of Israel harassment tactics.  The Israeli soldier had never heard of Alice or read any of her books or seen the Color Purple.  By the by, the computer search revealed information on Alice; Alice was confronted with one of her pronouncement that she will never visit Israel as long as Palestinians are under occupation.  Alice retorted: “Am I in Israel?  I am invited to Bethlehem among Palestinians.”  Alice recollected that in 1967 she asked one American politician: “Obviously, Israel will withdraw from the recent occupied lands in Sinai and the Golan Heights.” The answer was: “Israel needs all these lands”.  Alice knows that all these check points, barriers, Wall of Shame separating the West Bank from Israel proper, and apartheid policies are not sustainable and will be removed by force of the indignant Palestinians.

I attended the event in Beirut that officially started at 10 am to the end at around 8pm.  In addition to speakers, we watched performances by singles and group singers and musicians.  A large panel was exhibiting constant streams of comments arriving from over 40 cities around the world.  Food were served during the two breaks and at lunchtime around 2pm and the quantities were generous:  The event was well managed and the organizers were dedicated young entrepreneurs.

All the talks are in video on the internet.  My contribution is to extending essential summaries of the speeches so that readers may have opportunity to selecting whom and which video they want to listen to.

The Palestinian organizers are Ramzi Jaber (25 years old) and Jamil Abu Wardeh…; in Lebanon we have Joumana Jabiri and Zena Tahhan…Huwaida Arraf gave a talk and was one of the presenters.

Huwaida Arraf was under great emotional pressures because one of her best friend and activist colleague, the Italian Vittorion Arrigoni, was kidnapped and shot in Gaza the day before.  Vittorio Arrigoni refused to leave the occupied Palestinian lands since 2002 and participated in the demonstrations and peaceful activities everywhere villages needed his presence.  He was ill lately and suffered from kidney stone and was about ready to leave to Italy for health treatments. Huwaida had lost another friend activist a month ago, the assassinated young movie director Juliano Khamis.

Huwaida was born in the US and graduated a lawyer and settled in the West Bank during the first Intifada around 1990 and never left Palestine since then; Huwaida’s mother called her from Ohio asking her to return home.  Huwaidda replied: “But mother I am at home”.  Huwaida’s husband Adam Shapiro is denied entry to Israel and is living in Lebanon.

Huwaida started International Solidarity with the Palestinians and over 4,000 foreign activists have joined her peaceful struggle against Israel ignominies such as building the Wall of Shame, demolishing Palestinian private houses, rooting out ancient olive trees for colony expansions, opening newer highways to circumventing Palestinian villages, and overrunning Palestinian camps in Jenine, Jabaliya…Huwaida Arraf is currently the Chairperson of the Free Gaza Movement and has led 5 successful sea voyages to the Gaza Strip: She was on the flotilla that was savagely attacked by Israeli troops that killed a dozen peaceful Turkish activists.

In the first session we lacked focus on the speakers, but things improved after the first break.  The first session hosted Raja Shehadeh, Gisel Kordestani, Mohammad Khatib, Fadi Ghandour, and Huwaida Arraf.

The second session hosted Amal Shehabi. Sam Bahour, Steve Sosebee, Mohammad al Dahshan, the Palestinian singer Rim Al Banna, Julia Basha (Director of the award winning movie Budrus), and Munir Fasheh.

The third session welcomed  Abdelrahman Katanany (the zinko artworks), the Lebanese-based Palestinian rap group Katibe 5,  Alessandro Petti, Saleh Jawad, Sheerin Al Araj, and the blind psychologist Laila Atshan.

The fourth session hosted Wael Attili (the Kharabeesh enterprise based in Amman), Khaled Sab3awi, the Mexican/US rap singer Mark Gonzales, Alice Walker, Suad Amiry, and the group of bagpipe players of Guirab.  The session ended with the Fayha group of 40 young singers singing three beautiful songs and led by maestro Barkev Taslakian.

Part two of this series will cover in some details the content of the talks.  See you soon.

William and Hanane gave me ride to the event.  We were supposed to leave at 8:15 but we started off at 9:30.  By 9 am I thought that William had forgotten to go.  As I arrived, my name was not listed as my application was approved.  It didn’t matter, the beautiful girl with blue eyes stamped a red X on my right hand.

During the first break, I had no idea the small breakfast buffet was served outside.  I had a small mankoush and a small cup of milk, five minutes before the second session.  At lunch, I used to sneak out one sandwich at a time, while people were waiting in line to fill their plastic plate.  I was very surprised that another buffet was waiting for us at the second break, and we had sweet “maacroun”.

When the official TEDx event was over around 7pm, we had a surprise.  While listening to a speaker, a large bunch of young people sneaked in.  I thought student s from around the corner came in by order of a dedicated teacher.  This group of about 40 began a song while sitting among us; they ended up on stage and sang two other songs.

I waited for William outside, knowing that he had to hurry in order to cover the launching of a CD at a restaurant.  I waited for 20 minutes and wondered whether William left without me.  I returned and looked for William or Hanane and could not locate them anywhere.  I waited another 15 minutes thinking that pretty soon they will miss their silent passenger and make a U turn to retrieve me.  Patricia was going out and she confirmed that William is still here, meeting with someone in a corner downstairs.

We were the last persons leaving the theater and I met Joumana Jabiri and Zeina Tahhane.  Zeina claimed that she ate nothing for the day:  I have to check on Zeina reliable claim on her eating habit. I also met with Joumana parents who are originally from Aleppo.  It was way after 10:30 when we arrived home.  I felt tired even though I didn’t work in the garden today:  Most probably, I missed my nap but I focused pretty well during the entire event.

Note 1:  A TEDx Lebanon is in the planning for this September 2011.  Among the organizers are Patricia Zogheib and William Choukeir…

Note 2:  Palvoices.wordpress.com of DevlnetMedia/Hibr.me worked with a group of 10 Palestinian young media students to covering the event in Beirut.

It appears that old terms for social organization are considered exotic enough to be used in order to effectively disseminate new concepts; as if languages are too poor to creating new words for an evolving civilization, or maybe it is a sarcastic metaphor to mean that our social organization and social behaviors did not improve after hundred of centuries.  One of these most commonly adopted words is “tribe” to describing a collection of people with same shared passions and interests, intellectually or professionally.

We know that there are syndicates, associations, organizations (profit and for non-profit), collectivity, cooperative, community, gang, cartel, commission, political parties, “circle of friends”, sects, cult, castes, clans, classes of people (privileged, poor, elite…), club, strata, close-knit group, regiment, brigade, division, army, squadron, brotherhood, sisterhood… But why selecting “tribe” among all these social terminologies for gathering in organized units? 

Is nomadic life-style back in favor?  Sort of back to nature and retaliations and vendetta customs?  Why chose a term that carries heavy bad connotation of violence and prehistoric traditions?  Such as raiding another tribe, massacring all male members and saving only the virgin girls so that to secure no retribution in kind will happen in forms of vendetta, decades later, or even centuries later!  Obviously, before ransaking all their chattels and domesticated animals for the survival of the famished and unfit mentally.

For example, what is common among Meg Ryan, Debbie Allen, Brian Ray, Hellen Pilcher, Don Lipski, Matt Groening, Ewa Laurance, and Black Ice?  Ken Robinson in his “Element” would like us to believe that they all found their own tribes:  Each one of them, finally, felt part in their new career domain “tribal members in the field” and hit it well with the “field” colleagues.  They discovered that the tribe members validated their passions, passions they share in the tribe, they talked shop, bounced ideas around, shared and compared techniques, indulging enthusiasms or hostilities for the same things.  They were finally convinced that what they were doing mattered and was worth doing.

Is that how tribe members behaved in prehistory?

Working with your tribe, you receive inspiration and provocations to raising the bar on achievements.  For example, William Choukeir borrowed the term “tribe” in his blog notesby.me to refer to “high-energy” gathering of people who join in demanding physical activities and converse on topic of  high quality intellectual level (no argumentations permitted for degrading the discussions).  This process within the tribe is targeted to recharging in energy.

Many professionals in math, sciences…poets, painters, athletes… might prefer to work alone; fact is, they are interacting frequently within their close-knit associations:  They publish and interchange ideas and comments:  They stand on the shoulders of previous giants in the profession.  Otherwise, no challenging problems are resolved.  Freeman Dyson says: “Up to a point, you welcome being interrupted because it is only by interchanging ideas with other people who you get anything of interest done.  When I write I close the door; but when I’m doing science I leave the door open.”

Why using this cute term “tribe”?  Tribes were constituted of population over 150 members; consequently, tribes were split naturally to smaller units or clans for adequate communication among the members and remembering names and the family history of each member.  If the name “team” is too common or unit is inapropriate then, how about Tfield, meaning Terrific members (in a particular field of specialty), or Punit for pulsating unit, or RKeam for reversed karma team?

I like to post articles and notes published by people who reassess what they are practicing.  This is on karma having a new opponent, written by William Choukeir.

“you’ve heard of the law of karma. if you haven’t, it’s simple. what you do to others will ultimately happen to you. there’s more, but that’s all you need for this note.

I think there’s either another law that runs parallel to the law of karma. or replaces it. that’s not the important part. I’ll get to the important soon.

each day I’m getting more experiences that this newly realized law is this: what others do to you, you will ultimately do to others. and it’s the “ultimately” part that I’m watching very closely. I’m trying to figure out whether we have a choice in the matter or not. of course you’d love to have a choice, and jump to that conclusion. I’m not so sure.

A customer of ours calls me and ‘pressures’ me into delivering a print job. I call the printer and put him under the same unpleasant pressure. I almost even use the same words. this is a simple example where the 2 situations are obviously related. and I chose it for that reason. I’ve experienced many other not so obviously related situations, where I put non-related people under the same situation that I was put in. pleasant and unpleasant. and so much that I can’t ignore it anymore.

ok. so the important part is this: knowing that it is possible for you to have to treat others the way you are treated then, when you are mistreated, try consciously not to mistreat someone else. it’ll make you and them a better person, and everyone else down the chain — since they will not in turn mistreat someone else, and so on. so the benefit is humongous. break the chain.

and do let me know in a comment if it works out or not. or you could just have this awareness in the back of your head, and watch for any situations that abide by this newly realized potential law. and please come back with a comment so we can all validate this.

if you choose to help out, thank you so much. if not, at least try to break the chain. yours, will

twitter: @williamchoukeir

p.s. by william:  discover the destructive power of stealing energy, and what to do about it? (part 1 of 2) — ENE102a

Note by me:   This new comprehension of karma reverses the law so that it is your responsibility to control how you should react when put under pressure.  You can no longer lay it on a karma that must inevitably function negatively when acted upon negatively. Change perspective so that you position yourself to re-capture being in control of your actions and many concepts change to a positive meaning. This post was published in notesby.me under karma has a new opponent. and she might be worst

William Choukeir published notes on “solving communication conflict” on http://notesby.me and it inspired this post in reply.

I will reply on two issues:  the “Ramallah’s discussion” and “discussion with his brother on relativism”.  The first part was related to a “TEDxRamallah community” talks on solving the middle-eastern conflict.

William wrote: ( “We are sitting in a chaotic circle, we watch a TEDtalk courtesy of TEDxSKE, and a discussion starts. I’m confused; it sounds like it revolves around solving the middle-eastern conflict. I sit back. I don’t interfere. I’m aware of the energies in the room. I’m aware of the emotions. I’m aware of the uncontrolled reactions. I say nothing. I observe with a birds-eye’s view; completely disconnected from the conversation, yet completely immersed in the chemistry of the group. A few try to put the discussion back on track, with little success. there are too much emotions involved.  Suddenly, a realization starts to seep into my awareness.  It’s only when the gathering ends, that this realization is complete: all arguments start before anyone begins talking.

This is what was happening: most of us believe that there can only be one truth around a specific topic.  Thus, whenever anyone in the circle starts talking, the rest expect to hear a truth. Then, they took this truth and compared it with the truth stored in their archive.  If the expected pronouncement was a match, green light, they nodded; if it was a mis-match, red light, emotions rose, and they reacted uncontrollably: the truth they expected to hear turned out to be a lie, or even a personal insult.

This cycle of arguments was happening so often that there was no communication taking place.  There they were, a group of people, all passionate about solving the middle-eastern conflict, yet unable to perform the most basic requirement in solving any type of conflict: they couldn’t communicate.  Why? very simply, because every time anyone talked, they expected to hear a ‘truth’. What’s the cure?

People don’t share truths: people share experiences, feelings, emotions, perceptions, thoughts, etc. and we can all agree that two people can have different experiences around the same topic (even if there can only be one truth). This is what you can do: when someone talks to you, never expect to hear a truth, expect to hear an experience. In his way, what you hear will never clash with your archive of information, because you genuinely believe that both experiences can co-exist. your mind would still be receptive and open, your emotions would still be contained, and communication would still be possible.

This discussion would surely not solve the middle-eastern conflict;  it can definitely help in solving the communication conflict, middle-eastern or not.”)  End of quote.

I realized that William failed to note what specific topics were discussed in the conversation of a highly important conflict in the Middle East. He failed to note what he got from this conversation and understood from the topics.  What he focused on was a diagnostic on the dynamics of the discussion and how he formed a system for resolving conversations that are fraught with “arguments”. A golden opportunity was offered to William for asking pertinent questions in order to understand the subject matter that concerns us all; and he failed in that endeavor since he didn’t provide any clues to what generated all that heated discussion.

Fact is, William does not live in China:  he is from Lebanon and lives in Lebanon; a small country that was invaded six times by Israel for various excuses related to the Palestinian/Zionist conflict and inflicted on our citizens thousands of death, injuries, handicapped, humiliation, destruction of infrastructure, destabilization of our society, mass  evacuations, and programmed a civil war that lasted 13 years. Fact is, this conflict in the Middle East has already spanned over a century with its trails of suffering, pains, hate, and destruction:  It is not a temporary conflict but a matter of survival.  This is not a conflict for “just being curious”, playing the neutral role, sitting tightly and watching from a “bird’s-eye” the heated and emotional “arguments” flying every which way in the room.  Playing the role of a wise man staying above the fray from this incoherent, and dishevelled talkers does not cut it. Playing lax in comprehending a conflict of survival will ultimately affect the “comfort-zone” of people not taking seriously national problems.

This is not a case of “solving a communication conflict with a private party or a business negotiation”, unless William means to considering communication problems among Lebanese and people in general for unimportant matters or spiritual issues or subjective concerns.  Fact is, heated arguments have been labelled as signs of negative connotation communications by uninterested communities in our long dragging troubles.  As if you must refrain from any clear-cut positions so that you please the neutral minded and the apathetic culture of the assistants.  This new forced consensus of appeasing vehement argumentation (meant for business negotiations) has been disseminated by vested interest organizations in “training the trainers” in the last two decades (of quiet communication environments) in order to “softly” propagating their ideologies and policies.

Asking pertinent questions that demonstrate our sincere ignorance on a subject matter is far more rewarding and honorable than avoiding arguments and working around semantics.  Note that you should not admit your ignorance if not prompted:  Otherwise, you will be ignored. Displaying your ignorance out of the questioning context backfire:  I experienced this situation several times and failed miserably every time.

William’s notes are fine for diagnosing a conversation where many people care less or are ignorant of the subject matter and need more information to joining in the discussion.  Fact is, avoiding arguments does not necessarily make us more knowledgeable, even if the conversation is managed properly.

In part two, William stated:

(“Someone said:”[…] What you have said above [in the pre-requisite note], is quite difficult to do when you’re faced with people who would NOT reciprocate it back. As in…I could see their view as what they FEEL to be true, but they would always believe their truth to be the ONE and ONLY truth. Makes it hard for me to be understanding. […] but I guess that’s pretty selfish of me isn’t it? I should be the understanding party to BE understanding….it shouldn’t be a bargain ‘I’ll be understanding if you are too’ […]“   So what do you do if you understand that people share experiences, not truths, but the other people don’t? they start the argument, they attack, and they refuse to listen? they shut you out.

For example, my brother and I were discussing relativism and that’s such a relative topic by itself, that disagreement is inevitable, except if you approach it this way.  My brother said “relativism is this…”

I replied “I think you’re right, because I believe that different people understand realism differently depending on what they know about the subject, which definition they read, from which education and cultural background they come from, etc. what I read and know about relativism gave me my own understanding of it. I feel relativism could be a label, understood differently by different people. I would usually try not to use labels, as they could lead to misunderstandings.  Instead, I prefer to explain the way i see things; to explain my own experience of things; just to prevent these labels from creating misinterpretations.  I believe that sometimes, a big percentage of the population can explain a label in the same way. and for that group, they would have reached a common understanding; and i feel each should explain his understanding of the label, so that they can all agree that they understand it similarly, and also share it with those who have experienced it differently.  The way I understand relativism, which I’m sure is different from the way other people understand it, is this…” (I doubt that William has read any philosophical or articles pertaining to relativism in order to sustain an argument in that topic.  It does not matter: the point is how to turn a discussion around with pertinent questions in order to comprehending the other’s view and acquire an understanding of the topic for a friendly communication.)

Note that my brother started with ‘relativism IS…’ which was my cue.  It means (for me) that he believes he’s sharing a truth, not his understanding of the label, and that he’s also expecting to hear a truth in return. I could have very simply said: “no! that’s not relativism…” or “yes, but that’s not what it is…”

This kind of reply would have instantly created a clash in the mind of my brother:  he expects to hear a truth.  By taking the approach of the ‘yes-but’ or ‘no’ options, I would have also supported his unhealthy expectations, and made him believe that he is wrong, that I am right, and that I’m going to lie to him by telling him something that isn’t THE truth. This instantly stops him from listening; this causes his brain to think of ways to fight back and attack, regardless of what I’m going to say next. even if I say ‘yes, but…’ and I just repeat exactly what his definition, he will answer back with ‘you’re wrong…’ and add something meaningless to his own definition.”

So let me dissect my first reply to my brother, and explain why I believe it works:  it has proven to really work in 100% of the times I engaged in such situations so far. I also have to mention that in most cases, only steps 1 through 5 are required. I’ve included 6 through 9 to cover some extreme cases of truth expect-ors, or when you have no idea how the other person will react. Use them as you see fit; and never change the order.  That’s how I’ve experienced the mind to work, and this is the order that the mind generally responds to.  Here’s the dissection:”)  and then, William delivered 9 step by step propositions for avoiding “argumentative discussions”.

In the discussion with his brother William failed to learn “What is relativism” and focused on applying his “argument avoidance” techniques that he developed a couple of days ago.  A quick background is necessary.  The brother was reading the book published by World Youth Alliance WYA (Track a Training) for applicants to their training semester in New York.  This document included articles on Relativism written by William Gairdner who lambasted cultures and philosophical views that promoted a relative view of nature and mankind’s morality and ethical conducts; in a sense the WYA wanted to disseminate a particular ideology camouflaged under  training sessions for training trainers for their ideology. Applicants were to write articles based on the suggested pieces in the handbook and sending them to the center by email.  It happened that I read this essay on relativism a week ago, and I was a witness to the last 10 minutes of the discussion in the kitchen.  The irony is that the brother had sent one of his articles that was counter to the ideological expectation of the WYA and was denied acceptance to the program after initially being encouraged to participate.

First, I doubt that William had read essays on relativism (not relativity of Einstein that Gairdner does not like either) and it was an opportunity to asking pertinent questions to his brother on what he understands as relativism before engaging in a useless “argument avoidance techniques” that left all parties in the discussion no better off in knowledge as they started.  I guess William was in a hurry and didn’t feel like prolonging the discussion for learning things he was not interested in.  I have this impression that the brother did not later demonstrate any inkling on resuming his study on relativism; and might avoid discussing other philosophical topics with William.

Second, William drew the conclusion (after his discussion with his brother) that his “argument avoidance discussion” technique works 100% of the times, based on this single case, a case that I don’t think was a success in the first place.  I have this impression that William will find it difficult to review and fine-tune his technique based on his overconfidence in extrapolating prematurely.

Note:  William replied with an extensive and detailed post.  It appears that he listened patiently to the “lucubrations” of his brother and asked a few questions on relativism, a topic he is not interested in.  As for the 9 steps for avoiding arguments in conversation, William spent two years formulating them, although the last paragraph in the “Ramallah discussion” implies that it all got clear to him after the session and not that he was engaged in the formulation for a couple of year.  My apology again.  My critics of his disengagement on the Near East conflict still stand and with more insistence and vehemence as he declared that he is not interested in understanding this conflict!  If William does not mind publishing his reply I will gladly do it with further notes: His reply is constructive.

Solving the communication conflict in the Middle-Eastern, or not. Part 1

The conversation is taking place at Zicco house, Beirut (Dec. 16, 2010. very late into the night).

Note: sections in parentheses are mine

A few had left the premises after a heart-warming dinner for the TEDxRamallah community.  We are sitting in a chaotic circle, we watch a TEDtalk courtesy of TEDxSKE, and a discussion starts. I’m confused; it sounds like it revolves around solving the middle-eastern conflict.

I sit back. I don’t interfere. I’m aware of the energies in the room. I’m aware of the emotions. I’m aware of the uncontrolled reactions. I say nothing.

I observe with a birds-eye’s view; completely disconnected from the conversation, yet completely immersed in the chemistry of the group.

A few try to put the discussion back on track, with little success. There are too much emotions involved.  Suddenly, a realization starts to seep into my awareness.

It’s only when the gathering ends, that this realization is complete: all arguments start before anyone begins talking.

This is what was happening: most of us believe that there can only be one truth around a specific topic.  Thus, whenever anyone in the circle starts talking, the rest expect to hear a truth.

Then, they took this truth and compared it with the truth stored in their archive.  If the expected pronouncement was a match, green light, they nodded; if it was a mis-match, red light, emotions rose, and they reacted uncontrollably: the truth they expected to hear turned out to be a lie, or even a personal insult.

This cycle of arguments was happening so often that there was no communication taking place. There they were, a group of people, all passionate about solving the middle-eastern conflict, yet unable to perform the most basic requirement in solving any type of conflict: they couldn’t communicate.  Why?

Very simply, because every time anyone talked, they expected to hear a ‘truth’. What’s the cure?

People don’t share truths: people share experiences, feelings, emotions, perceptions, thoughts, etc. and we can all agree that two people can have different experiences around the same topic (even if there can only be one truth).

This is what you can do: when someone talks to you, never expect to hear a truth, expect to hear an experience. In his way, what you hear will never clash with your archive of information, because you genuinely believe that both experiences can co-exist. your mind would still be receptive and open, your emotions would still be contained, and communication would still be possible.

This discussion would surely not solve the middle-eastern conflict, but it can definitely help in solving the communication conflict, middle-eastern or not.

Part 2: Solving the communication conflict, middle-eastern or not.

Myfutileblabs said:”[…] What you have said above, is quite difficult to do when you’re faced with people who would NOT reciprocate it. As in…I could see their view as what they FEEL to be true, but they would always believe their truth to be the ONE and ONLY truth. Makes it hard for me to be understanding. […] but I guess that’s pretty selfish of me isn’t it? I should be the understanding party to BE understanding….it shouldn’t be a bargain ‘I’ll be understanding if you are too’ […]”

So what do you do if you understand that people share experiences, not truths, but the other people don’t? They start the argument, they attack, and they refuse to listen? they shut you out.

For example, my brother and I were discussing relativism and that’s such a relative topic by itself, that disagreement is inevitable, except if you approach it this way:

My brother said “relativism is this…”

(Note: The brother was reading the book published by World Youth Alliance WYA, Track a Training for applicants to their training semester in New York.  This document included articles on Relativism written by William Gairdner who lambasted cultures and philosophical views that promoted a relative view of nature and mankind’s morality and ethical conducts; in a sense the WYA wanted to disseminate a particular ideology camouflaged under training sessions for training trainers for their ideology.  Applicants were to write articles based on the suggested pieces in the handbook and sending them to the center by email.  It happened that Cedric sent one of his articles that was counter to the ideological expectation of the WYA and was denied acceptance to the program after initially encouraging him.  I was present during the discussion of William and his younger brother and participated in the final few minutes)

I replied “I think you’re right, because I believe that different people understand realism differently depending on what they know about the subject, which definition they read, from which education and cultural background they come from, etc.  What I read and know about relativism gave me my own understanding of it. I feel relativism could be a label, understood differently by different people. I would usually try not to use labels, as they could lead to misunderstandings.

Instead, I prefer to explain the way I see things; to explain my own experience of things; just to prevent these labels from creating misinterpretations.  I believe that sometimes, a big percentage of the population can explain a label in the same way.  And for that group, they would have reached a common understanding. And i feel each should explain his understanding of the label, so that they can all agree that they understand it similarly, and also share it with those who have experienced it differently.

The way I understand relativism, which I’m sure is different from the way other people understand it, is this…” (I doubt that William has read any philosophical or articles pertaining to relativism in order to sustain an argument in that topic.  It does not matter: the point is how to turn a discussion around with pertinent questions in order to comprehend the other’s view and acquire an understanding of the topic for a friendly communication.)

Note that my brother started with ‘relativism IS…’ which was my cue.  It means (for me) that he believes he’s sharing a truth, not his understanding of the label, and that he’s also expecting to hear a truth in return. I could have very simply said: “no! that’s not relativism…” or “yes, but that’s not what it is…”

This kind of reply would have instantly created a clash in the mind of my brother:  he expects to hear a truth.

By taking the approach of the ‘yes-but’ or ‘no’ options, I would have also supported his unhealthy expectations, and made him believe that he is wrong, that I am right, and that I’m going to lie to him by telling him something that isn’t THE truth.

This instantly stops him from listening; this causes his brain to think of ways to fight back and attack, regardless of what I’m going to say next. even if I say ‘yes, but…’ and I just repeat exactly what his definition, he will answer back with ‘you’re wrong…’ and add something meaningless to his own definition.

So let me dissect my first reply to my brother, and explain why I believe it works:  it has proven to really work in 100% of the times I engaged in such situations so far.

I also have to mention that in most cases, only steps 1 through 5 are required. I’ve included 6 through 9 to cover some extreme cases of truth expectation, or when you have no idea how the other person will react. Use them as you see fit and never change the order.

That’s how I’ve experienced the mind to work, and this is the order that the mind generally responds to.  Here’s the dissection:

  1. ‘i think you’re right…’ this drops his defenses, and he’s ready to listen now, because he expects to hear a truth, and you just approved that what you will say will match his archive of truths; he can relax and listen now. notice I didn’t use the word ‘but’. because as a general rule, the way the word ‘but’ is perceived, is that it automatically deletes or negates everything before it. if I say ‘yes, but’, I just cancelled the yes. meaning that I just told my brother that he lied to me, because he told me the WRONG truth.
    _
  2. ‘[…], because…’ after I told my brother that he’s right, the word ‘because’ creates curiosity. people love to know the ‘why’. they love to understand, and hear someone telling them ‘why’ they are right. this makes them 100% receptive to what you’re going to say next.
    _
  3. ‘I believe that…’ now that my brother is 100% receptive, I switch his expectations from: ‘he’s going to tell me the REAL reason to why I’m right’ to: ‘he’s going to tell me why HE believes I’m right, which might or might not the true’. and since people love to be right, and I’m telling him why I believe he’s right, his mind will find ways to justify what I’m saying, and convince itself that what I’m saying is true.
    _
  4. ‘different people understand things differently…’ here I give him the reason why he’s right. I’ve prepared his mind to convince itself that what I’m going to say is true. and this makes him accept that the way he presented relativism might be different from the way I will present it, AND it will not clash with his presentation, because each of us can understand it differently. this also justifies why he’s right. he’s entitled to his own explanation, and for him to remain ‘right’ he was to also allow me to be ‘right’.
    _
  5. ‘I feel relativism is…’ this goes hand in hand with the expectation I planted in my brother, he expects my interpretation, I gave him something even better: ‘a feeling’. which is something more personal than ‘I think’, and it’s even more justifiable in his head that 2 people can completely feel 2 different things about the same topic.
    _
  6. ‘[…] i would usually try not to use labels, as they could lead to misunderstandings, and instead…’ after setting up the stage to explain my experience of relativism, there’s one last vital thing I did before I actually shared my experience. I gently diffused his belief that a word has only one definition, and i de-associated the word ‘relativism’ from his definition of the word. I also called it a label. people generally agree that the same object can have many labels, and many objects can have one label. now he’s ready to listen to how ‘i’ label relativism, and he’s totally ok and even expecting it to be different from his label.
    _
  7. ‘[…] my own experience of things, just to prevent these labels from creating misinterpretations, I believe that…’ here I’ve explicitly told him that I will share an experience, prepared him for one, and explained the consequences to expecting a truth. now it’s also important to keep reminding him that I’m sharing an experience. you can see the keywords that I used throughout my reply to do just that.
    _
  8. ‘i believe […] a big percentage of the population can explain a label in the same way […] and reach a common understanding; and i feel each should explain his understanding […] so that they can all agree […] and also share it with those who have experienced it differently…’ here, I gave the mind of my brother a justification to this objection that he had: ‘but there are facts, truths, and these have nothing to do with how people perceive them!’ and since he still wants to be right, he will use the explanation that I just fed him to self-diffuse his own objection.
    _
  9. ‘ […] the way I understand relativism, which I’m sure is different from the way other people understand it, is this…’ finally, I share my experience of the subject. without forgetting to remind him first, that I’m still sharing an experience. and that this experience might be different for every person.

Expect to hear an experience and prepare the other to hear an experience every time you engage in a discussion.

Now you can understand the mind; learn the steps, and you’ll be armed with one of the more powerful tools to deal with people who believe their truth is the only truth.

Now you can help solve the communication conflict, middle-eastern or not.

let’s all get together on April 16th, 2011 and really communicate and share. that’s when TEDxRamallah is happening in Ramallah, in Amman, and in Beirut.  (End of quote).

Note 1:  This post was extracted from articles published by my nephew William Choukeir as notes in two parts, related to conversations on solving the communication conflict.  You may read the notes integrally on http://notesby.me.

Since I am writing this post to add my comments and inputs then, I will take the liberty of editing and abridging sections for convenience and for the flow of my thoughts. Paragraphs in parentheses are mine.

Note 2:  You may read my full reply and comments on https://adonis49.wordpress.com/2011/01/02/notes-on-notes-solving-the-communication-conflict/

 

Julia or Julie (May 1, 2009)

I happened to know Julia intimately: I was forced to observe her behaviors and sometimes succumb to her will.

Julia is the type of women who are always on alert; she is ultra prude and claims that she has never been on a beach or wore any kinds of swimming trunks.

Julie cannot sit down, relax, or let anyone relax.  She has to worry about everyone and everything.

Julia loves money but never handled money wrote a check or had a bank account: She is thrilled when she sees construction and buildings going up and sounds envious.

Yes, Julia has never set foot in a bank or wrote a check or withdrew money, I think.

Julia is an excellent cook, a talented dress designer (currently you say a fashion designer), and sew clothes to all her sisters, daughters… for every major event.

And loves to remodel the house when she can afford it, a gene that my sister inherited.

She wants her family members (especially the girls and ladies) to look as well dressed and as coquettish as she used to be; a tendency that forces her grandchildren and children to avoid passing by her when they have “sinned” against dignified fashion (like looking pretty nude).

Julia has humongous pride and she would not visit a patient or go to any anniversary when she cannot afford gifts (her unique daughter is taking after her in many ways).

If she receives a gift (and if she cannot afford offering a gift) then she has to rummage through her secret “depot” in one of the closets for a suitable counter gift.

Lately, cooking something for the returned dish is what she could offer. Julia believes that she knows something and has to offer her recommendations and guidance to people of professions, even if they are over sixty.

In 1939, Julia’s mother Eugenia left Lebanon to West Africa in order to join her husband Tanios in Segou (current State of Mali). The four sisters were left alone and joined a boarding school in Beit Chabab.

And the WWII started and they had to skip school for the duration.  The sisters did not attend school for 3 years during the war because all schools closed, although Lebanon was not directly affected.

The eldest sister Josephine was 13 and Julia 11 years old at the time.

Julia’s aunt and her extended family lived across the street. When Josephine eloped (got married “khatifeh“) at the age of 20 the other three sisters were re-interned in a school of Beit Chabab for two years.

The summer before the non-married daughters had to join their parents in Segou, they lived alone a mile away from Beit-Chabab (to what is now called Konetra) so that they don’t emulate their eldest sister in eloping.  In the meanwhile, Eugenia gave birth to many other children and at least three died in child-birth.

Julia once believed that she had scabies “jarab” when she was in a girl school in Beirut and aged 18 years.  Scabies was pretty common and when her between hand fingers  were itching she tried to cure herself secretly.

Julia told me said that “jarab” was very contagious; she secretly spent a whole week in an upper room at her sister Josephine’s who got married recently.  Julia said that nobody in the village knew about her ailment, a convenient assumption for this dreaded disease at the period, and she washed her clothes and bedding almost everyday.

This story came about when an overseas grand daughter called saying that her physician was uncertain about his diagnosis of her catching “jarab”; the diagnosis turned out to be wrong but it generated a secret story that Julia told me.

I really have no idea what Julia learned in school except cutting patrons and learning sewing and fashioning clothes. She always said that she got dizzy when reading.

Julia joined her parents in Africa by sea. The captain of the ship heading toward the port of Marseilles never believed that she’ll make it alive: Julia spent a month in her cabin unable to eat, drink or move because she suffered sea sickness.

Julia was as thin as a stick with a tough will for survival.

Any moving object makes Julia dizzy; heights make Julia dizzy; tree climbing is out of the picture.  Hell for Julia must be a rotating platform; worst, a wobbly, jerky, and seesaw habitat.

In fact, Julia never played games in school or anywhere else.

Physical games, especially for girls, are not dignified. Reading is extremely dizzying to Julia; watching someone reading intently must be giving Julia grounds to believing that the reader is “dizzy” in the head.

Julia married in Africa a handsome, loyal, over generous and devoted husband whom she fell in love in the same town in Lebanon before she travelled to Africa.

George must have sensed that he is marrying a handful of expectations and constraints.  Youth always turns a blind eye to potential troubles because youth can handle anything and never ages.

This valiant couple worked hard in harsh conditions as the sole white people in remote African villages.  They were robbed of every dime several times; once, in the town of Koutiala (Republic of Mali) and what they had saved was gone overnight; Julia was on her last week of pregnancy (of me) and George suffered kidneys problems out of grief.

Right now, when any neighboring house or shop is stolen Julia plays the investigator; everyone is suspect until the culprit is discovered: she does roam her house after every robbery story, checking exits and entrances; mouse and cats should no longer be susceptible to be entering the house.

Those 15 years in Africa must have been the best and most glorious years for this couple. They were the first to purchase an electric generators in the town of Sikasso.

This undaunted couple resumed their joint adventure to above average fortune.

Julia knew how to combine business with charity; she would offer every poor pregnant woman a “trousseau” for the new-born for free. Thus, she retained life-long customers and the competitors could not match her business acumen.

Julia sewed and altered dresses that she ordered by catalog from Paris.

When Julia returned definitely to Lebanon, her unique daughter among the other 2 boys, (well spaced them out in age, an advanced serious family planning), was never seen wearing the same dress twice in any ceremony.

Since two identical dresses take as much time to sew as one, then her niece Joelle was observed as a replicate twin, regardless of whether Joelle liked the dress or the color.

This couple was the first to install a generator for electricity in this remote town.  They transferred their three kids to boarding schools in Lebanon for fear of African diseases  because the eldest son barely survived Typhoid. And the couple would visit them one summer every two years.

Julia spent a month in Paris in 1980 to care for her first grandson William who had an open heart surgery at the age of 16 months.  William had a hole that mixed the blue and red blood in the heart and an artery that was twisted. The hospital offered a makeshift bed for Julia to sleep on for 23 days in William’s emergency room.

Julia also cared for Joanna, her favorite grandchild, for over 6 months when Joanna’s parents were in the USA on military training mission in 1985.

Joanna likes to return the favor and she volunteers to driving Julia to shrines such as Mar Charbel, Mar Rafka, and Harissa of the Virgin Mary; these are occasions for Julia to confess her grave sins for caring too much and doubting occasionally.

Julia spent 6 months in the USA in 1990 when I lived with my sister Raymonde’s family; Victor was then appointed Military Attaché to Lebanon for two years and Julia enjoyed that reprieve from war torn Lebanon and the constant blackmailing of the militias for more money when there was nothing to pay. She had to pawn her few gold rings or necklaces to appease the frightened husband.

Julia recalls that it was the hardest trip ever when she visited in the US: Victor had a terrible backache and she had to carry Victor’s bags which were packed with heavy gifts.

Julia is suffering from arthritis and a whole gamut of blood problems but she forces herself to work hard everyday as means to letting pain forget her.

She has excellent memory of ancient events.  Currently, she barely can recall names and I barely can come to the recall rescue.

Julia is currently prone to letting two casseroles burns and barely save the third: she cannot waste time and has to do several tasks simultaneously.

Julia cannot believe that she aged and has a wrinkled face. All mirrors must be destroyed but Julia would never break anything consciously.

George neither cannot believe that he aged; he just want to be left alone and not be immersed in problems that should not be of his concerns, especially that he is no longer a provider and almost destitute; but to whom are you chanting your psalms George?

George is happy to realize that his hearing is not that sharp and gets terribly frustrated when he has to repeat muted answers to Julia’s unending queries and requests.

Julia barely sleeps at night because in the solitude of the night her brain is working full-time inventing all kind of catastrophic events that might befall on any one of her extended family.

Her dreams are of the cataclysmic kinds, though one individual at a time, one dead person after another parading in succession in her dream.  Apparently, nights are more exhausting for Julia than charged days’ work.

When Julia walks out now she is constantly observing changes in her environment; such as the progress in the construction of the villa next door, the new design for neighbors gardens…

There was a time when Julia walked straight ahead and never deigning to turn her head:  She must have been convinced that she was the center of attention; she stepped out in utter elegance and vigorous gait.

Julia’s nemesis is death: when she gets upset from any member of the family she tends to ward off this fatal enemy by threatening: “This winter would be my last and you all would be delivered from my trouble making”. She has a white fancy gown stowed away for that occasion.  I hope that Julia has let someone on the proper location of the dress.

Julia is the strong type of women. Julia cannot be circumvented.

Julia is every bit on alert, the “mustanfara“, even at 83 years of age.  She is totally broke financially but that would not constitute a valid reason to let down her purpose in life: Keeping everyone on his toes.  Julia is my mother.

Note: Four years after writing this article Julia is unchanged: She is in much pain, more forgetful, and taking all kinds of medication, but Julia is undaunted. I realized that Julia is chatting far more than usual: She is thinking aloud, kind of her thinking keeps the right track if accompanied by words.

Julia wakes up at 6:30 am and begin her day, working non-stop till after 1 pm as her back aches and her fingers are crippled. Her husband, only 3 years older, doesn’t take any medication but his health is deteriorating fast and George is almost bed-ridden.

George is in  care and recovering. Julia refuses to go home to rest even for a couple of hours: She has to stay and sleep in the hospital room of her husband. The nurses tell Julia not to feed George what the hospital does not bring to eat, and I tell Julia not to feed George, and Julia believes she knows George better and what is good for George…

I tell Julia that George enjoys loneliness and would not recover as long as she never leaves his side and keeps chattering. Maybe I am wrong: I was showing George how to ring the nurses for emergencies and George chuckled softly and replied: “Why would I ring anyone when Julia is around?”

Julia is saying: “It was a good tradition to marry a husband at least 5 years older than you: So that the wife can care for him in old age...”. Joanna flew from London for a weekend just to give Julia  a boost. The moment Julia receives a boost, it sounds trouble for the extended family.

Note 2: Julia passed away at age of 92 on January 31, 2020 at 2 pm at the hospital of Beit-Chabab. Except for her heart, her vital organs started to fail. She endured unthinkable pains for an entire week, every minutes of it. She was Not feeling good before she fell in the bathroom trying to undress: there was no one at the time and I found her lying on the floor in great pain.


adonis49

adonis49

adonis49

May 2021
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