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Friday, February 27, 2009

The Meaning of Life

I dreamed of ships in rough seas making it safely to harbor.

It’s my birthday. I can’t claim to be at the halfway point anymore. Considering how I lived my life so far, how I’m living it right now and how I plan to live the rest of it, I have serious doubts that I’ll make it to 98. If you’re searching for regrets between the lines you won’t find any. You won’t descry any deep sense of contentment either. I’ve missed numerous chances and grabbed a few improbable ones out of the blue. I’ve stumbled and stood up, many times. I’ve loved and failed, yet I’m in love again, forever. This post, however, will follow a twist early on. It is about me, about my relationship with the rest of the universe and my true meaning.

A dear friend of mine, very close to my age, often repeats when under the influence: “Only if I knew then what I know now.” I always answer jokingly, more under the influence than he is: “Don’t get drippy on me. If I really knew then half of what I know now I would’ve changed the world in the blink of an eye.” But it was never meant to be that way.

In my quest to understand the meaning of life, and hey I’m claiming to have found the real answer here, I went through the gamut of faith, belief, doubt, skepticism, agnosticism and atheism. As a member of various social groups at subsequent stages in my development I interacted with and absorbed the prevalent social psychology. I befriended the deeply religious and hypnotically canting. I escorted them for a while then abandoned their convoy. I shared much more than bread and salt with their heathen nemeses and accompanied them to unattainable summits and unfathomable abysses. It was when I walked alone that I felt most comfortable, however. Somehow, somewhere the elusive answer existed in between doctrine and anarchy. I think the fatal fallacy of religion, every single one of them, is its claim to hold the absolute truth, to be the quintessence of the word of God. I differed with the nihilists also because of their arrogance, their cocksure mirrored rationale or lack of any to be more precise.

I owe it myself and to no one else to write down my syllogism since it’s my guiding light on the way to the inevitable end. I can’t maintain a gray opinion on certain subjects that are truly contradictory to my own sense of truth in a futile effort to not offend someone. The answer, as far as I’m concerned, is so elegantly simple. It might be difficult to put into words but that doesn’t detract from its inherent simplicity. For instance I need to affirm that Darwin’s On the Origin of Species (1859) not only makes more sense than the monotheist (Judaism, Christianity and Islam) story but actually negates any grain of truth in this agnate account. I can’t reduce my raison d’être to accept that I am a server, a worshiper or a propagator of the species at best.

I am because I am inevitable. There would be no notion of creation if it were not for me. There would be no perception. There would be no religion, there would be no science, there would be no arts, no philosophy, no poetry, not even a word. I have always existed and will forever prevail. In different forms of matter and energy, I am immortal. So is the universe, the timeless and ageless Cosmos, of which I am but an infinitesimal part. The rise of consciousness is ineluctable due to the grace of infinity. Anything can happen in an infinite timeframe, anything, even the emergence of sentient matter. It is very unlikely that the human race is a unique or solitary manifestation of cognizant beings. The cosmos must be teaming with consciousness everywhere and it is. Even the words Live, Alive and Life are too chauvinistic and provincial since biology is one known form to host consciousness but is not necessarily the only one.

When my energy is exhausted, when I physically die it will be difficult for the inert body left behind to regain awareness anytime soon. But as it breaks apart and joins the colossal pool of substance on this planet and the endless affluence of matter in the universe, parts of what was me will regain realization in some form out of the interminable variety on this same planet and eventually beyond. I might never love again as much as I do now but given a few years or a couple of millions I might very well do. With the luxury of infinity on my side, we will meet my sweetheart and me and fall in love all over again.

The three monotheist religions have already exhausted their purpose in the service of the human race. At their respective times they were revolutionary in their far reaching results and evolutionary in their old tried and tested approach to reason. But they have also caused agony and mayhem. They have raped liberties and further deepened the schism between the sexes. Humans, fauna and flora have been sacrificed in the name of an unforgiving god who only created us to worship him. Religion can’t replace science anymore as the notion is plainly absurd. It cannot befriend the accumulated and evolving knowledge of the human race either unless it admits that alongside its good nature it had always fostered the seeds of hypocrisy as well. Its only chance at credibility is to admit its human pedigree. For over forty years, ever since I received my early indoctrination of Islam, through the period I learned everything I needed to learn about Judaism and Christianity followed by my curiosity about all the better known human religions, their bodies of knowledge did not change. They have remained stagnant. I have been hearing the same sermons every week. I have been reading the same arguments over and over again; religion has completely lost its capacity to enchant me, to stir me, to scare me or to make me feel safe. I wake up in the morning and switch the TV on and discover a much more interesting feat of science. Everyday! Every single day… religion tries to fit in, to find a place, to make its absurd claim that it had told us so before. It had told us many stories most of which had been proven wrong. It certainly contains some truth hidden within the folds of its wide robes but not the absolute truth.

The birds’ song outside my window is inevitable, the rain drops, the smile of my beloved, the awaited sunshine, fear and comfort, sickness and health, the rich and poor, right and wrong, life and death. I am inevitable and I am celebrating my birthday in this shape, in this place, in this time. I've had billions and billions of birthdays before and I shall continue my celebration... forever.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Fijleet: Kingdom of Heaven

After a full week of wind and rain, Friday morning broke out clear and warm at last. The thermometer on the balcony by the kitchen showed 19ºC. The sky was pristine, with plumes of rare clouds splashed sparingly around its turquoise canvas. I didn’t want to miss this singular February opportunity and I hurriedly showered but did not shave. I put on a fresh pair of jeans, a comfortable sweatshirt and an old familiar baseball cap. Within minutes I was looking at the cityscape through my rearview mirror.

Ghassan Massoud

was still asleep on this brilliant day. I was heading due east on the quaint road to Dreikish. I swiftly eyeballed the rudimentary map and estimated the distance to my final destination at 45, 46 km perhaps, significantly less than the 65 km indicated on one of the websites I’ve earlier browsed.

On the road to Dreikish - A mosque in the woods

When I finally got a chance to watch Kingdom of Heaven by Ridley Scott on DVD and in addition to enjoying this historically accurate movie tremendously, I became fascinated with the actor who played Salah El-Din, our own Tartoussi, Ghassan Massoud. I only knew by chance that he was born and that he grew up in a small village by the name of Fijleet. Among my springtime motorcycle jaunts I must’ve ridden through Fijleet at least once in the past but I couldn’t quite remember when. Reading the affectionate words Ghassan used to describe his village made me itch to go there.

The southern horizon - The Lebanese Cedar Mountains

Upon reaching Dreikish (elev. 500 m) and near the first intersection in town I stopped and asked a bystander for instructions. “You should go to the left there”, he pointed, “I’m going to Jnaynet Reslan and it’s on the way to Fijleet. I can ride along with you and show you the way if you don’t mind.” Of course I didn’t. The man was young, in his mid twenties perhaps. He taught at the local elementary school and thought that he would most certainly die if he ever left this country and moved anywhere else. “On Fridays, I trek these hills between the olive trees. I walked to Dreikish early this morning, bought a few things and was waiting for a microbus to get back to the Jnaynet until you showed up”, he confessed. “But tell me. Whom do you want to see in Fijleet?”, he asked.

The road climbed and winded

I told him that I was driving by and taking pictures and didn’t know anyone from around this area. He volunteered to take my picture with some beautiful scenery in the background and I gladly accepted. Once we reached his village he offered his natural hospitality and begged me to have lunch with him and his mother. I apologized reluctantly although I would’ve loved to take him up on his offer. When I left home earlier everyone was still in bed. I wanted to return on time to have a light lunch then go to the football game at the municipal stadium with Fares. Our local team Al-Sahel (The Coast) was playing at home against Ariha. They are doing very well in the 2nd division and might, just might, make it to the top level next season. Samir finally accepted my excuse as I promised to visit him on my next trip to his village.

Road Sign - Fijleet

The road ahead climbed and winded, knifing the endless hills with love and care. Off in the distance to the south the Lebanese Cedar Mountains shaped the jagged horizon. Up in front evergreen summits loomed closer and closer until I finally reached Fijleet (estimated elev 750 m). I parked my car by the side of the road and descended to see, smell, hear, touch, feel and breathe her timeless and regnant beauty.

Fijleet- Looking from the West

I cruised slowly through the narrow roads of the village, shot a few photos and basked in the sunshine. I contemplated the connection between Fijleet and Hollywood. Ghassan Massoud rose to stardom and international fame through his roles in Kingdom of Heaven (2005) and Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End (2007). He gained my respect and admiration for the heartfelt words of reverence and affection he bestowed on his native land.

A house in Fijleet

There’s no adobe like home wherever that might be. It is indeed a state of mind to call a place home and some of us might be fortunate enough to have more than one. As long as there’s a locus for us where we can walk in the pitch black of darkness and not stumble, we’re going to be fine. We can do that in our own backyard or somewhere, in the company of someone, whom we can fully trust to take our hand and show us the way.

Fijleet as seen from the East

Driving Instructions: From Tartous take the road to Dreikish, 30 km. Once in Dreikish and at the first roundabout, go left (North) then continue to Jnaynet Reslan 10 km ahead. Maintain the main road for 6 km to Fijleet. There are signs in Arabic along the way and you can always ask.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Love Tag

Mariyah appeared in the middle of the night. "Don't be alarmed", she said, "it's just a tag. Tell me in 3 words, no more, no less. What would you like to receive on Valentine's day".
Before I even mused my answer, she disappeared in the dark.

Cliodna's perpetual emanation

Fabulous sirens chanted within, luring me to forgo any struggle and drown. As I surrendered my senses I realized there was no way on earth I could've said it all in 3 words except the way I did.

From Drop Box

I tag no one... Happy Valentine's

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Until You Came Along

I have been running away from myself, eluding a personal confrontation in the midst of crowds or when perfectly alone. Even in the moribund moments between the vitality of cognizance and the languor before sleep I am hesitant to bethink my desperation. Time fleets by unwary eyes whilst dreadful little is changing over the years. Finite grains in a sand clock glide down uninterrupted… interminably. No divine hand shall intervene to flip the contrivance upside down when all the jots of my life are heaped at the bottom. I will go like those before me. No chance for an honorary encore. My legacy trivial once I lose my grip on consciousness for the very last time.

From Monet Woman with a Parasol

Until you came along.
You filled all the desolate places, the forgotten corners, the inaccessible paths, the neglected memories and the forsaken dreams. I am a man who had trekked by the halfway marker before you egressed from the dense fog, who had crossed the point of no return while he waited for someone like you to give him the kiss of life… to rain precious water over his barren desert. I count the seconds for my time with you. I sip it leisurely like a consummate cognac… watch it cleave to the transparent walls of the glass, feel it permeate my skin… cherish it imbue my core then impregnate the marrow of my bones with you… ravishing you.

You are my untold past and my days to come.
The sparrows that abandoned the hills with the advent of fall. The stunning women who had made love to me on white satin sheets or in the back of parked automobiles. You are the children I played with. The friends I have lost along the way. The broken journey. The resolves never taken. You are the embrace I remember. My salad days sweetheart, my hopes, my inspiration, the purpose behind me, the warmth within, the light ahead. I lean on you blindfolded as you show me the way. I follow you to the end of earth, to the end of time.

You are my careworn present.
I long for your perfume. My lips hover over the nook of your neck. My nose snuggles beneath your ear as I explore the whole of you with the hands of my mind. I inhale your avalanche of bouvardia, carnations, freesias and lilacs. I suffocate without you in my arms, I go blind. I have to take you all in me as much as I need to be inside you. I pull back to gape at your enchanting face and lose myself in the turquoise lakes of your eyes. I miss you and scurry the few inches back like a fish gasping for water.

We hold hands and walk the sea, combing the crests of incensed waves, smoothing the wrinkles of time with relish and affection.
I long for you my darling. Come along.

Until You Came Along, a link to a beautiful song by Jeremy Allard