2009 according to a tartoussi

2009 is almost over. It started brutally enough with the massacre of 1,400 Palestinians by Israel and it is going to end with the decision makers of the free world still looking the other way. Not a single "democratic" country dares accuse Israel of being as atrocious as Nazi Germany. Statesmen and stateswomen disagree on everything: health care, welfare, the environment, military spending, prayer in school, immigration, same sex marriage, China and global warming but not about Israel. What a bunch of wussies! Ha! This is as far as I am willing to talk dirty politics in a bar or to write on my blog.

Personally, 2009 has been a great year as I have finally came out of my intellectual closet. I had my doubts about religion for as long as I can remember. I have chosen to keep my skepticism under the lid purposely so I do not upset others, many of whom I really care about. But then one day, I stopped being comfortable. I can accept being whatever to anyone but not a hypocrite to myself. To actually believe that we are lucky, chosen, blessed and special because we were born to a certain religion is the biggest lie we can teach our children. I put an end to that once and for all. Whatever I was by virtue of birth I am a secular humanist by virtue of choice.

I also took sides on several issues this year, at least on my blog. Syria, cradle of civilizations and birthplace of human folly and genius, is as colorful as a rainbow. It has always been a land of multiplicity where people of different faiths and cultures coexisted in peace and harmony. It is inimitable in its unique social fabric. The streets of Damascus and every other city contain a human assortment of opposites not to be found anywhere else. From the modestly clad to the sensually provoking, men and women of divergent cultural backgrounds walk side by side. Ours is a secular and pluralistic country where people have historically kept their religious beliefs to the confines of their homes. Generations taught subsequent ones to imitate them, to carry on their values and mores but to accept others for who they are. The new wave of religiosity is as alien to our Levant as the state of Israel is. Over the many centuries of conflict and struggle for political and social control no singular doctrine held power but ephemerally over this land and her people. Any attempt to restrict our diversity and garb us with desert gowns of ignorance, austerity and sameness will fail. I will side with anyone or any group, whether I agree with them or not, in their quest for freedom of choice and expression as long as they do not intend to curb mine. I am equally against men and women wearing burqas in airplanes as I am against them going inside houses of worship naked. The sexual preferences of others are their business and their business alone. Any self righteous hypocrite who denies them this basic right whether by terrorizing them with divine text or through imposing his or her twisted sense of morality cannot be trusted as a potential partner in the democratic process. They are the usurpers to watch. They are as bad, if not worse, than the prevailing variety of psychopaths ruling most totalitarian countries in the world.


I am comfortable with people and happy in my solitude. In 2009 I sought my lonely moments of privacy with unbound relish. Before being a hardworking man, a good neighbor and a law abiding citizen, even before being a husband and a father... I am me. “I came to this world alone and alone I shall leave.” If I do not enjoy the silent sounds of my thoughts or laugh at my own jokes, if I do not smile for her eyes only, if I cannot maintain that space that is utterly mine, how can I ever bring meaning to my life? What kind of person will I be to all the others if I am not myself to me? When I write “out loud” I do not intend to impress. I write mostly to a soul mate who is beyond the grasp of your imagination or my gift for words. For as long as I can remember I considered happiness as a vague and unreachable concept. Only idiots and non-sentient mammals could ever claim such state, I thought. This year has proved me wrong. The moment I realized that happiness is not an end by itself I became happy. No time is more important than today. Nostalgia adds a second dimension to the linear flow of time as memories bring solace and sweet compassion to our burdened minds. But only hope makes our lives worth living and dynamically happy. It is this third dimension that most people are missing and it is exactly what I have found in 2009.

I will continue to write out loud. I appreciate every single reader of this blog, whether she agrees with my choices or not. I am thankful for those who comment and criticize as long as they maintain common courtesy. I am honored by the many friends I have made over the last few years through blogging and who have been nothing less than inspirational. I still have no message to give. I do not blog to change others but to remain me, despite all.


This post took my breath away. As we evolve into who we have always been the path is often riddled with voices not our own.

If 2009 has been this momentous for you dear friend, I hope that 2010 will be even more so. Happy to tag along and read your words and watch your journey.

Like it or not - you do inspire. Your words have a power to them rarely found in the blogosphere. Mostly because you do not preach or stand on a soap box. Because of that, the guard isn't up, the defences are lowered and the words can be heard without a sense of threat. I will admit that before your blog, I did not share a particularly - how shall I say this - positive image of the middle east or north Africa. I was as guilty as any narrow minded views. And although I have not always agreed with what you have said I have always respected your clear ability to bring the issue to the forefront.

Mostly I have laughed, giggled and clapped my hands more times than I can recount. From kamikaze bees to recipes of dishes I have yet to savour. Everything here has been a wonderful turn on my own path. Thank you, and Happy 2010 to you my friend.
Unknown said…
You summed up your year in such a wonderful way. I'm struck by the fact that a person keeps discovering and rediscovering themselves with time. One's personality is highly dynamic and we have to tune in to ourselves to find out who we really are.

Your wise and inspiring posts taught me to focus on the little nuances in life that I often missed. These nuances are what makes a place, a person, or a moment truly special.

Looking forward to another year by your side in this amazing blogging community.
Anonymous said…
I wish I can beleive what you said about Syria, I am afriad that your ideas and the way you have shaped yourself (you are not mainstream), peolpe (also in syria) still walk dawn the religon line, afraid of crossing it or even earasing it at all. I highley admired what you stands for and your honesty.Happey new year to you.
Karin said…
You're a big philosopher, great humanist, through-and-through humanitarian, levelheaded realist, most beautiful soul, fantastic husband and dad ... and one of my (VERY few) very best friends!
Happy 2010 dear friend ... happy 2010!!
Happy New Year 2010.
Gabriela said…
You put it wonderfully, my friend. I think I shall not add any single word, in order to keep the sense you wanted to express.
2009 has not been a good year for me. I really hope, actually, I really feel 2010 will be better. With superb readings like this one, it sure will.
All the best, as always!
KJ said…
And thank you kind Sir for providing this window of release. Through reading your blog over the years I have with your help been able to release parts of my soul in small but significant bursts. As I am still young I tend to lie to myself often, and only because my mind cannot decide on a thing or the other and settle. And from reading your thought and knowing you in person, I have learned that this is perfectly normal, that I am trying to reach the perfect equilibrium - which perhaps could only be reached in the far future with some few grey hairs - today.

And so now I doubt myself less and lie to myself a lot less. You and some other true friends have given me the greatest gift this year, and I thank you for it.
Abufares said…
Thank you for your warm wishes, for your kind words and for the beautiful way you disagree with me (sometimes).

What you said about my blog changing in a little way your views about the region made me very happy. Not because I think I can change the world one person at a time but because in the end this is what part of blogging is about. Bringing people separated by distance and culture closer through writing is a very satisfying outcome.
This year, through you and other very special bloggers, I have learned more about Canada than I had in my entire life. All beautiful things I may add. I assumed that I knew your country although I have never been there in my life. Well, we shouldn't really assume anything.
Again, many thanks for making this space cozier.
Abufares said…
So true... we change every day. just when one would think that i have become old enough to turn into a static lump i end up surprising myself.
i've never felt more involved with the "little nuisances" of life and its real pleasures.
thank you for being my companion this year, the next and hopefully for many more to come.
Abufares said…
In a way, you're right. But if you're old enough you will know that I was mainstream until the last decade or so.

Syria was exactly the way I portrayed her for as far as my living memory goes. The move backward in time is a recent trend. It's not a random event btw, to shape the Levant into something it is not. The cultural center of the Middles East today is the "Gulf"!!!! How much worse can it get, besides the US calling Saudi Arabia moderate for instance?

I really think there's plenty of people like me in Syria for we are the "usually" silent majority. It's important to let the other know that we will not take it lying down.

Thank you for your kind wishes.
Abufares said…
Ohhh how you always make me feel. You put a huge smile on my face :-)

Happy New Year to YOU MY VERY DEAR FRIEND!!!
Abufares said…
@ abebedorespgondufo.blogs.sapo.pt
Happy New Year to you too.
Abufares said…
One of the reasons I like 2009 so much is because I met you :-)
I wish 2010 would be a very happy one indeed for all of us, but especially for you...
Abufares said…
Only if I knew when I was your age what you already know...
You're one of my smartest and (youngest) friends KJ and I'm very happy to have met you in person in 2009.
Happy 2010 to you
Joseph said…
What a gentleman you are Abufares. One needs not to dig deep in your posts to realize what an exceptional blogger and the secular humanist you are.
Humorous, and straight to the point... and you take no shit from anyone. lol.
In my opinion your blog is a rock, a land mark for inspiration...
Abufares said…
@Joseph my friend
Your comments make me laugh from the heart, I swear.
I thank you for always being here, for taking the time to read my blog and for caring enough to comment. Your support means the world to me and it's people like you (who are more real than many I meet everyday) who are my rock and inspiration.
Happy New year Jo!
Happy new decade abufares! if I may borrow from Neil Young: keep on blogging in the free world!
Joseph said…
Thank you Abufares, I get tremendous pleasure when I learn that I have put a smile on your face, or caused your heart to rave with laughter, and especially when you call me your friend.

Happy New Year to you and your family my friend and to all readers of your blog. All the best in 2010.
Abufares said…
@The Cilician Dragoman

thank you for your wishes, same to you :-)
Anonymous said…
the native INKAS, of south america were more advanced than the spanish, they were fantastic agriculters, astronomers, mathematics, master builders ,but the spanish had blowing powder (barood)

i reed the haaretz.com every day,once i was called traitor, but i learned with my guru that when you learn the language of other people you can avoid their cruelty,

two thing are important, to have power, and to see the enemy,

2009 was an ordinary year,
as an atheist i celebrate natural and material happenings, any time

i celebrate when it is raining, when it is sunny , when it is dark, when the tied is up when it is doun, when i colect some wild ZAHTAR, when i eat DEEK BALADY,

i celebrate whem i have orgasm,
i´m alive

my gods of nature iluminate humans to understand that life is beatiful and simple and we can take our share of it , if but only if we know the real value of things

onece you said an important theing i repeet it to every one i meet,

Isobel said…
Dearest Abufares, this post so elegantly summarizes why I love to read your blog. You are one of the finest, most thoughtful, and intellectual writers I have come across. I think your voice is influential whether you intend it to be or not. Perhaps you won't change anyone's mind but you definitely invite discussion which helps to stir the stagnant waters. :) I sincerely hope that your 2010 brings you as much happiness, if not more, than you found this past year. All the best to you now and always. Happy New Year.
Abufares said…
Your words are very sobering indeed and I happen to agree with you. We must know our own strengths and weaknesses and that of "the" enemy.

Your best celebration is when you have an orgasm, lolllll, this is so true though :-)

Happy New year, wishing you good hunting and plenty of fish in the river
Abufares said…
@Dearest Isobel
Your comment is nothing short of humbling. Your opinion means "more than" the world to me.
That I can stir a discussion is something I truly enjoy. All I care about is that new generations, here, there and everywhere get out of this senseless closed mindset and reach out to discover how wonderful those who are different can be.
Your blog, although you have not been writing as much as you should, is my first visit of the day. I've never read a more silky flow of words with minimalist beauty such as yours, but you already know that :-)
My wishes for you in the new year are very simple. May your heart laugh from deep within... always.
The Syrian Brit said…
My friend,
Yours are the words of someone who is entirely at peace with himself.. someone who is totally comfortable being who he is..
What a state to be in!...
I admire your honestly, forthrightness, and confiedence..
I so wish I have the strength to make such a stance..
Regrettably, I guess I am too much of a coward to do it!..
Abufares said…
@Syrian Brit
It's been such a long time my dear friend. You've been greatly missed.
Thank you for your kind words. I do think "more considerate to others" is a better word in your case. It's not about courage really. It's more of a balancing act between the personal and those who share our life with us. In my case, I got tired and couldn't keep the facade any longer. It didn't take courage it was to seek relief.
Happy New Year to you and yours!!!
أنا سوري said…
Happy new year Abu Fares. Despite any differences, you are, and always will be, most special and wonderful friend.
Abufares said…
@ana sourie
The best of happy years to you my friend.
May most, if not all, of your dreams come true.
Dubai Jazz said…
Happy new year Abu Fares!
Great epilogue of a year that had walked by with all its ups and downs. I wholeheartedly agree with every word you said here. Also agree on the magic of solitude; sometimes, a man just needs to reflect inward, for most of the answers lie there.

May your 2010 be filled with happiness, health and prosperity..:)
Neetu said…
very happy new year abufares. with a lot of best wishes.
Maureen Thomas said…
Dear Abu Fares,
Do you think your discovery ‘that only hope makes our lives worth living and dynamically happy’ will work for me too? I hope that 2010will be the year in which I am granted a visa to come to the country I have learned to love and allowed to meet my dear Syrian friends. In the meantime, thank you for making me feel as though I am learning more about your country and its admirable people every time you post a new blog. If and when I do get to Syria, perhaps I shall be able to take that car ride round Tartous in reality?
Whatever happens, I wish health to you and your family in 2010 and success in all you attempt.
Warmest wishes,
Abufares said…
@Dubai Jazz
Happy New Year to you!
Ahhh, solitude, when by choice, can be so fulfilling.
Abufares said…
Same to you too, all the best my dear.
Abufares said…
I do wish that this and all your other dreams come true in 2010.
I'll be delighted to meet you once you get here. So it's not just a "perhaps" but a must visit to Tartous :-)
Many thanks and Happy New Year.
Anonymous said…
Reading your bloggs is like having you near, and it warmth my heart. Happy new year to you, your family and friends!

w.b. yeats
Katia said…
Dear Abufares,

I'm happy you found peace of mind in 2009. May you continue your ride on the road of happiness in 2010.

Also, you listened to me and that I cannot thank you enough for.

Abufares said…
@w.b. yeats
Many, many thanks... my best wishes to you and your family too :-)
Abufares said…
I'm always here to listen to you. I hope that you only have good news to tell me.
Happy New Year!
BIL said…
First and foremost..Happy New Year to you and your entire family:-)) “Civilization” seems to bring out both the best and worst of human interaction. On one hand we preach peace to be had throughout this world and on the other we just keep blasting away without remorse those whom we think that do not fit in to the greater scheme of things as we want them to be. Be it with bullets or words one can be just as mean as the other. Oppression remains oppression no matter what form it is delivered in. To your point, Wussies are Wussies no matter who they might be or where they come from. I just happen to be watching news and the USA is tightening security for travelers from 14 “countries” go figure. It all comes back to action begets reaction no matter how lopsided it may be.
I too can say that 2009 has been a fine year but one filled with many challenges and personal changes. The year 2009 also brought a new world and culture to my doorstep, one with intrigue and one with open fascination that I continue to relish to this day:-)) I have also been introduced to you and your blog which I read with anticipation, reading about your insights seeing the world from a most different prism. All I can say it is very enjoyable reading your take on things. I hope you continue to release those thoughts even if they may be out of the comfort zone. One needs to be stimulated with both positive and negative experiences this is what I call the molding process. So I will say keep those hopes flowing, the ones that keep giving you the energy, and those posts coming – I will continue to enjoy the read. Again Thanks for the insight and say Hello to all. BIL
Abufares said…
I appreciate how much thought you put into your comments. You know may be you should start bloggging yourself :-)
Happy New Year to you and yours and I happen to agree with your entire discourse. What I find sad most is the lack of constructive effort (on all sides) to alleviate the accumulated problems and misunderstandings.
Getting along is so simple if we tear down the barriers. And we should!!!
Shannon said…
I wish there were more people like you, Abu Fares, in the world, willing to write out loud. Thank you!
Abufares said…
It's been so long, welcome back and I hope you've been away because you've been having too much fun:-)

Happy New Year to you and yours!!!
Shirley Sunman said…
what a relief it is to be honest to oneself, may it long continue, as well as the great writing on your blog. Happy New Year 2010 and many thanks for your thoughts, ideas and inspirations.
Abufares said…
@Shirley Dockerill

And thank you Shirley for being here and taking the time to comment on this post of mine.
Happy new year to you and yours and my best wishes for a wonderful time ahead.
Anonymous said…
It certainly took you long enough to grasp the obvious. You decided at fifty to become a secular humanist? What were you thinking for the last thirty eight years? A great magician poofed the world into existence and later confided into some camel herder? Love your blog but this piece you wrote is long overdue.

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