Month: March 2015

Can You Read Existentialism Upside Down?

In response to the daily prompt “Which question do you hate to being asked?”, I would answer: there is no question – absolutely no question to which I wouldn’t be disposed to answer. On only one condition: that the question springs from a desire for knowledge and meaning, therefore elicited by a somehow intelligent being.

Sometimes adults tend to ask thoughtlessly, like little children when they just love to practice their newly acquired sense of manipulating words:

“Why do I need to go to sleep?” “Because you need to rest and grow”, you would say.”Why do I need to rest and grow?”, they’d ask. “Because you feel great and happy when you are rested; because you just said you wanted to be a ‘big boy’, like your brother Sam”, you say. ”Why is Sam a big boy?”, he would answer.

As much as you can find it cute (with some effort, I know, not that easy after having spent the last drop of energy on the never-ending tasks that you have to take home and finish at the end of a ten-hour-long working day, after a long commuting time, bad traffic, bad day, etc,etc), it is not that easy to make the same effort for an adult. Because some of them, by force of being lazy at using their God-given neurons, become obnoxious.

I once had a neighbor. She was all-knowledgeable, of course, like all neighbors are – no matter how qualified, how many degrees you happen to have, it so occurs that you always fall quite short of some knowledge relative to your neighbors (or some relatives, why not?).

I was enjoying the early spring sun, with my little baby-daughter in her trolley. Life was good, the sun was warm,the baby was peaceful, I was enjoying reading some Sartre. But the baby didn’t want to be peaceful for more than she had set her mind to, so she made me put down my book and tend to her needs. Then, heaven happened once more ….  I grabbed my book again to continue my reading, but the atmosphere was such, that reading existentialism felt more like a loss than a gain – so I just re-placed the book on my knees and got lost in thought.

My afore-mentioned neighbor happened to pass by; we exchanged greetings, she complimented me on the baby, then, with an expression of horror, she looked at my book: “Oh, my God, that’s how you read?” And, as she must have seen in my eyes that I didn’t make any sense of her aghast expression, she explained it to me: “It’s not this way that you hold it: your book is upside down!” And, very dutifully, she even helped me to correct my mistake: she set it back on my knees, the way any literate being should keep his/her book if he/she wanted to read any.

I agree, this was not a question in full-right – it’d better be called an exclamatory question: more of an exclamation than questioning, looking for an answer. But it’s all the same:  I chose it because it makes a good example of how insulting and thoughtless, without any consideration, or rightly stupid some people can be; she  asked me only a couple of weeks ago if I could tutor her kids with their French.

I chose this example to illustrate how people can be unmindful and insensitive at times, addressing others with thoughtless, hurtful questions – just for the sake of making noise. “Do you have watches in your country?” someone asked my husband when he was a training doctor (“that” country was supposed to be Lebanon, where Europe was abducted by Zeus disguised as a bull, where the oldest attested city in the word, Byblos – Jbail, is still alive and going, where the first Law university in the world was founded, where the origins of the alphabet we are currently using are – the Phoenician alphabet, etc, etc). Has it ever happened to you too??

The Myth of Eternal Return – 3 – Why The Chaos?

I would rather throw a look around me and try to make an objective, logical analysis of what I can see. When I’m in the middle of the turbulence zone, I tend to believe that adversity surprises mostly me, like persecuted by a blind destiny.

But this is only my subjective view; when I step back, take a deep breath detach myself a little, I see that the phenomenon of turbulent zones regards way more people than my own precious person – sometimes even in more disruptive ways. Disasters, plane crashes, natural calamities, bloody wars and terrorism, and the list could not be ended in one single page if I wanted to, make, sadly, almost daily headlines.

But humanity has seen undoing and met with debacle and chaos many a time before. It happened all along history (incidentally, debacle comes from French debacle, meaning to unbar, to clear ), and, guess what, after every major calamity and war, humanity, as if it purged of its negativity, reached deep into the reconstructive forces of creation and  cooperation and helped advance culture and civilization more than it was never imaginable before.

Behind us is a trail full of bloody wars and revolutions, of chaos and then of reconstruction, and the cycle repeats itself, invariably, every time: from chaos and disasters, we seem to have built all this culture and civilization of ours in an ascending curve of waves and troughs.  As if the humanity in us could never reach and access those strings and gears that make us good and beautiful, creative and generous unless after it saw the beast coming out and showing its teeth in a mighty roar; only then we would fight tooth and claws for ideals like love, growth, order and peace.  Chaos represents the confusion or disorder brought to us by events and changes that surprise us and over which we have no power of prediction or control.