The Lottery Ticket

And a moral dilemma in that little brain of mine

Photo by Alejandro Garay on Unsplash

So I wake up on lottery day, with a weird idea wandering in my sleepy mind, as if speaking to me.

“Say you win the lottery today, would you give it all up, all the 154,000,000.00 euros, for no reason whatsoever?”

Silence

“OK, how about giving it up for a cause? What would it be?”

Children. Without a doubt.

The cause

Children are the most precious resource in this universe. They are the only hope this world has, and yet, they are so vulnerable and need so much attention and love, both of which are scarce, both of which are fading away.

So many children are suffering out there, so many children dying alone, hungry, miserable, out in the cold. Children do not have what it takes to fight back. They have their parents of course, but parents can only do so much when they have not eaten in days, when they have lost their job, their roof, their dignity. All they can do is love their children even more, hug them closer in the cold street they now call home, until the reaper comes for one or the other, and that’s about it.

Children are resilient, much more than you’d think. But resilience only comes in handy if the sole enemy they were facing was adversity. Children face more aggressive foes than adversity. They face preying scum who care little about them as poor little human beings, and more about the buck they can make on their backs. They will enslave them, sell them as cheap labor, or body parts, or both, or simply use them as shoot’em up material. It hurts reading this I guess. It sure hurt me writing it.

“So, back to our lottery. Would you give up your winnings for the sake of children?”

Yes! Most of it at least.

“Most of it?”

Yeah, you know, I might keep a little for the mortgage, and a little for retirement, and I would use a portion to set up a foundation to cater for the children in need. And then…

And then it dawned on me. I will never run out of good reasons to keep a stack of money aside, and the children can always have what is left. Which is nothing. And then I understood that this idea wandering in my mind was actually a call. A wake-up call. 

The wake-up call

What it says is that easy money rots you inside out. That you will not have enough wisdom and detachment to keep your head cool and your ethics intact. That every penny you keep to yourself would end up burning your soul, because as long as there are people looking for solace out there, as long as there are children sleeping in the streets, every penny you keep from the lottery winning would be a curse to you and your loved ones.

So no, I will not have it in me to give it away, but I am grateful I have enough brains to realize this much about myself. 

I know this idea might sound outright crazy to many if not most, and I sure know there is nothing wrong or unethical in winning lottery and enjoying it. It was a very personal wake-up call, tailor-made to that little brain of mine, and it made me take a very personal decision, which, of course, might or might not be right for everyone, but it sure feels right to me.

Ever since that day, I vowed to never buy lottery tickets again. I do not want to have to silence that little voice in my head, and I know I will have to if I ever win, even if the odds are extremely small.

A little prayer

Whenever I get tempted, I think of the children. And I say a little prayer. I ask God to grant me enough wisdom to stand by my choices, enough kindness to keep sharing with those in need, enough charity to keep a place in my heart for the children in need, enough gratitude for being alive, having a roof above my head and food on the table, and enough love to raise my children the way He would want me to.

And enough foolishness and liberty to still give up the lottery price should I ever stumble and buy a winning ticket, against all odds. 

And still, dear reader, if you happen to be holding to a lottery ticket right now, I hope it is the winning one. And I wish you all the wisdom and love in the world, regardless.

Let the board sound

Rabih

Les Routes Millénaires — Thousand-Year-Old Roads

Routes levantines ou chemins de l’esprit, nous les sillonnons sans répit au risque de nous y croiser, frères ennemis, mais compagnons d’infortune d’un pays au bord de l’oubli.

This is a story in French about my home country Lebanon. Bon courage et bonne lecture chers amis.

Photo by Dorsa Masghati on Unsplash

Des routes six fois millénaires, chemins du hasard qui mènent vers des destinations improbables. Et sur ces routes nous marchons, pour marcher, sans autre but que celui de partir vers l’avant, pour paraphraser Baudelaire:

Mais les vrais voyageurs sont ceux-là seuls qui partent
Pour partir; cœurs légers, semblables aux ballons,
De leur fatalité jamais ils ne s’écartent,
Et, sans savoir pourquoi, disent toujours: Allons!

Routes levantines ou chemins de l’esprit, bitumes poussiéreux ou expériences de pensée, nous les sillonnons sans répit, au risque de nous y croiser, frères ennemis, compagnons de route néanmoins, d’infortune sûrement, d’un pays au bord de l’oubli.

Et je te poserai ces deux questions qui reviennent invariablement dans les conversations qui naissent entre deux inconnus qui se croisent sur ces routes.

من بيت مين؟
من وين؟

D’où viens-tu?
Quel est ton nom?

Ta fierté dépassera ta méfiance, tu me diras tout: ton nom de famille, ton village d’origine, me livrant par là-même ta religion, ta confession, ces identifiants sociaux et mêmes politiques sur lesquels repose le cœur de nos identité meurtrières, si bien décrites par Amine Maalouf.

Et alors, je me souviendrai. Je me souviendrai que vous nous avez pourchassés comme des chiens, que vous avez occupé nos maisons, brulé nos sanctuaires, massacré nos pères, assassiné nos femmes et nos enfants, que vous vous êtes tournés vers l’Extérieur pour mieux nous trahir et détruire Notre Pays pour le remplacer par le Vôtre.

Sur le point de me fermer à la conversation pour mieux te haïr, je me souviendrai aussi que nous vous avons fait de même.

Je me souviendrai que ce qui nous sépare n’est qu’un miroir dans lequel ce que nous portons en nous de ressentiment stérile et de noirceur se reflète pour mieux nous aveugler.

Je me souviendrai que vous avez pleuré vos morts durant quarante jours de deuil, ceux-là mêmes durant lesquels nous avons pleuré les nôtres, quarante jours de deuil qui transcendent les religions, quarante jours où les nôtres et les vôtres auront été Un dans la douleur et les larmes qui les séparent de leurs morts.

Je me souviendrai, et te dévisageant, je devinerai tes souvenirs. Je verrai dans tes yeux ce que tu vois dans les miens, ce reflet de méfiance, de souffrance, de deuil et d’incompréhension, et au delà, un soupçon d’espoir, celui d’avoir une conversation agréable avec un compatriote.

Alors, nous nous essaierons sans doute à ce jeu immémorial qui consiste à nous trouver des amis, des connaissances communes, des parentés supposées lointaines mais O plus proches que soupçonné, voire, des lieux dont nos mémoires se souviennent de la même manière, des plats qui nous rappellent ce qui reste de beau dans ce pays au bord de l’oubli. Nous nous raconterons nos vies, nos souvenirs peut-être, nos exils surement, nos échecs aussi, nos enfances et celles de nos enfants.

Et jusqu’au prochain carrefour, nous nous raconterons nos aspirations pour ce pauvre pays auquel nous croyons toujours, et nous nous quitterons à la croisée des chemins, meilleurs amis du monde, ou simples connaissances de passage, mais nous aurons laissé un Liban un peu plus beau à la fin de ce périple commun.

Let the board sound

Rabih

The Most Dangerous Roads

Take a leap of faith and buckle your seatbelts

Photo by Robin Pierre on Unsplash

Driving on the most dangerous roads in the world.

Not because of the road itself, but because of the people. My people, who have lost all hope in life and do not expect much from their small country on the verge of oblivion, save for more trouble and even less hope.

They are not driving, they are wandering. They are not steering, they are sleepwalking. They do not follow directions, they have nowhere to go. And even if they had a place to look forward to, there are no directions to follow.

The folks around here are not living. They are just busy surviving. They are on the road, whether in a car on in their head, racing from one hassle to the next, waiting for luck, or fate, betting on the wrong horses, the wrong colors, the wrong hands more often than not, as always.

They just drive to escape the unescapable. They would drive until the tank is empty and they would keep on driving if they could. Alas, gas is out of reach now. You see, in this country, you need to keep moving, you do not have the luxury to stop on the side of the road and rest. You only stop to fade away…

The lines above were inspired to me a couple of days ago, while driving on the roads of my home country, Lebanon. It still is a beautiful country, despite its shortcomings, and people on the road are beautiful as always and crazier than ever. You just have to ride the wave, swim with the flock, cross your fingers and trust that you will make it home somehow.

Oh, and buckle your seatbelt of course!

Let the board sound

Rabih

There Are No Bad Choices

Your choices are as good as what you make of them

Photo by William Krause on Unsplash

The non-choices

First, let me set things straight with the title: some choices are obviously wrong. You can tell right away. You would be ashamed to even consider them. In this sense, they are not exactly choices.

Some others are a bit less obvious to figure out. For those, God, or the cosmic dice, or evolution, whatever you believe in, has provided us with an infallible compass. It is the inner voice telling you not to buy the Porsche. The one compelling you to study for the mid-terms instead of going out for drinks.

You can choose to ignore it, but you know you should not. Still you do sometimes and you hide behind rubbish like “You Only Live Once”. I know I have, many times over.

I’d like to argue these are not choices either. With a bit of inner listening, you can figure out what to do, and you end up realizing there was only one path to walk, and it did not involve a Porsche. Early enough or too late, that is the real question.

A sea of hesitation

Apart from the non-choices above, remains an ocean of hesitations. These are the real choices, the ones which have no true or false answer in general. Which job offer should I take? Who should I vote for? Do we go for a third child or do we stop at two? Medium or Vocal?

Standing on the crossroad, who’s to tell if left is better than right, especially not knowing where the roads lead? In many if not most situations, the road itself does not know where it leads. So, which is better?

Left or right?

Black or white?

Leave or stay?

In my opinion, adjectives like goodbadright or wrong and their superlatives do not apply to such choices. Good and bad are outcomes in this instance. They depend not on the choice itself, but on the course of actions one takes after the choice is made.

One has also to keep in mind that there are many dependencies to the choice which are out of one’s control. You take left. It is raining. Your car skids and ends up in a tree. Had you taken right, you could have avoided the accident. Or could you have? Whose to say? The road was slippery in both cases, and you might have ended up in an even worse situation. The fact is, you just do not know.

Warning, geek stuff ahead!

You see, the universe is governed by laws which simply prevent us from figuring out precisely what the future holds.

Here comes the geek part, brace yourselves!

Classical physics teach us that we can model the behavior of a system with a set of differential equations, which, given the right initial conditions, should allow us to predict the state of a system at any point in time. However, the devil is in the details. You need to figure out precise enough initial conditions, if you want your predictions to be accurate, for instance, the exact position and initial speed of the system you are trying to model.

Practically speaking, you could predict the exact position of an oscillating pendulum at future times for long enough. You would not be able to predict the path of a ball in a flowing river beyond a few seconds, and that is assuming tremendous calculation power to solve the differential equations behind the prediction.

It gets even more complicated when we move to less classical physics. Quantum mechanics teach us that it is not possible to know with arbitrary high certainty the position and speed of a particle at the same time. If you figure out its exact speed, you lose its position. This is Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle.

Even weirder, the double-slit experiment, if you care to read about it, which shows the “fundamental limitation of the ability of the observer to predict experimental results”.

The choice

In a nutshell, no one can predict the precise outcome of a choice. The laws of the known universe will stand against such a prediction.

So how to make a choice? Well, if your inner voice is silent and you do not feel inclined towards one of the alternatives, heads or tails should be a good enough method. You cannot be wrong. Not when making a choice.

Not yet.

Your choice is as good as what you make of it.

Let the board sound

Rabih

Against the Tide

Hidden as the destination may be, your inner compass is constantly pointing to it

Photo by Cherise Evertz on Unsplash

The inner compass

North. South. East. West. Uptown. Downtown. Left. Right. Center. Liberal. Conservative. Socialist. Republican. Democrat.

It seems however you do not belong to any of the above. Your path is not solely defined by your belonging to a neighborhood, a party or a philosophy.

The thing is, your inner compass […]

You can read the full story on my medium page here.