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

The Anvil and The Hammer of Self-Righteousness

Last thoughts of a rotten soul

Photo by Immo Wegmann on Unsplash

Remember the inner compass? The one pointing you to the right direction and which you are supposed to follow?

Well sometimes, it is a bloody Anvil!

Can you swim through the meanders of life with one tied to your ankles? I thought I could. I tried. I drowned…

Salvation dawned on me while on my way to the abysmal depths of an ocean of despair, dragged down by the sacred anvil of Conscience.

All I needed was a hammer.

A hammer for those who dare to rise against the evens and the odds. Those who challenge the events and the gods. A hammer to pummel the wicked against the Anvil, this sacred compass of the soul.

The Anvil of the Righteous I already had, tied to my ankles, dragging me to my destiny. The Hammer of Righteousness I needed to wield.

And for the hammer I went. And to the wicked I took the hammer. And boy did I pummel through the scum of the earth.

The Others came first. Those who spoke a different language. Who followed a different faith. Who were born in a different place, or had a different skin color. The scum steeling our food, our jobs, defiling our way of life.

Then came those who were no longer productive but still feeding on the live forces. The elderly, the sick, the disabled. The parasites.

Then came the poor, reveling in their poverty, the rich, exploiting the poor. The tyrant, crushing the people. The people, rebelling against order. The men, all but rapists of mothers and daughters. The women, all but temptresses of fathers and husbands. As for the children, well, they had had their turn earlier, with the parasites.

I then took the hammer to people of faith, all but bigots, sons of bigotry. And then to the atheists and unbelievers, for reveling in their ungodly beliefs. I went after the sinners, and then after the saints, I trampled those who stood on my way and chased those hiding to their graves.

They all had to die, and I hammered them all. I hammered them down to nothingness, drunken by the scent of blood and the taste of righteousness. I was invincible.

I was so full of my righteousness that I did not see it coming. A blinding flash of cold blue steel, cutting right through me. My conscience slowly slips into the void, as the sword of justice rips my flesh apart. The souls I hammered are coming back at me. Their curse is too heavy. Their curse is the real Anvil…

I was adamant I would be welcomed in Valhalla, the resting place of the righteous warriors, but all I can see is the pitch black hole in my rotten soul.

And the Anvil is still dragging me down to abysmal depth, this incorruptible compass still pointing down below, to nothingness.

Let the board sound

Rabih

Keep Living Keep Writing

And indulge into this deadly condition called Life

Photo by Helena Lopes on Unsplash

Being alive is a very serious condition. Yes, dear reader, living is lethal. The more you indulge in it, the closer you get to your grave. Worse than smoking. The living condition carries a 100% mortality rate.

Pardon me for this ironic introduction, it’s been a hard week. A hard month actually. A hard couple of years come to think of it. Still, I would like to make a point: life is worthy to be lived.

For the beers around a fire in a clear summer night, the chords played on a folk guitar in the night, rendering songs from a long forgotten time, songs like Moon River, or Blowin’ in the Wind, or even لبيروت if you happen to live in this special place I write about all the time. For winter stories around the fireplace, a kiss under the mistletoe, or your kids hugging you like nothing and no one else matters to them.

For every smile that warmed your heart, every hand that held your hand, every hug which was not the last. And for every hug which was. For all the good memories in a cold sea of setbacks. Especially for the memories, because in the end, everyone and everything become memories, and good memories are worth living for.

They are worth writing about, they are worth reading about.

So, keep writing my friend, as if your life depended on it, because it does. Keep writing to keep the memories alive, to carry your loved ones into the light, and the wounds, yours, theirs, ours, into oblivion.

Keep writing your heart, soul, and memories into stories so we can keep reading, for reading and writing are two sides of a sacred symmetry, that of Words.

And indulge into this deadly condition called Life.

Let the board sound

Rabih

Addiction

The tale of a firefly consumed by the light

Photo by Chris Rhoads on Unsplash

Awakening to a light so intense it consumes my heart and soul in a blaze that can no longer be put out.

Everything becomes dull and dead. Everything but the light, everything but the blaze.

It is consuming me inside out. It eclipses the sun, it blinds my eyes to all the other dim candles.

And the light becomes too bright, it becomes unbearable, it becomes darkness after taking away the light. A light taking away the light…

My life starts to unravel, thread by thread, in bright flashes consuming the memories, one after the other, until only remains darkness, a pitch-black veil before my eyes, a pitch-black spot in my head.

Only then do I realize I should settle for the dim candles, the simple pleasures. Alas, the blaze is too appealing, the light too strong, I find myself drawn to them like a firefly.

And to the blaze I run, faithful and eager, longing for obliteration, now that all hope is lost, now that the blaze has broken my body and consumed my soul.

“Obliterate me!” shall I cry to the powers to be,

“Obliterate him …” would I hear in return, my own words carried like an omen by the echoes of the wind.

Let the boars sound

Rabih

Farewell Dance

And the matching season — Remembering those who left

Photo by Kyle Larivee on Unsplash

Farewell dance of rust and wind ushering the blight
Whirling down gold and copper threads, disrobing trees
Precious beads washed ashore in waves of paling light
Autumn leaves swirling in a cold November breeze

Amber leaves and golden seeds in a final quest
Welcome sweet melancholy in eternal rest
Paved in vermilion frost, ephemeral delight
Secret place and ancient maze, laying out of sight

Rest in peace oh immortal souls who came before
Soon enough, Summer will be knocking at the door

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

Life and Death of a Fine Blade

The supreme instant before nothingness

Photo by Daniele Levis Pelusi on Unsplash

A blinding flash faster than sight
A deadly blade of cold blue steel
For a moment beholds the might
Of what a cut can make you feel

For but a breath you’re more alive
Than ever you had been before
As in the gloom you slowly dive
Your soul is gone, you are no more

Let the board sound

Rabih

Rêve éveillé

Bleu. Rouge. Bleu. Rouge… Un bruit continu, une modulation assourdissante… Des cris, indistincts, paniqués… Le noir, le silence, puis, un plafond blanc qui s’enfuit… des visages qui lui courent après, et du noir, encore…

Je me réveille. 4 heures du matin. Encore un cauchemar me dis-je. J’en ai la gorge sèche. Trop engourdi pour aller à la cuisine, je cherche des yeux quelque chose pour oublier ma soif. Un puzzle m’attire irrésistiblement, la création d’Adam, chapelle Sixtine. 206 pièces.

Pas trop compliqué, ça me prendra une petite heure, le temps de me rappeler au souvenir de ce brave morphée. Je commence par les coins comme tout passionné de puzzle qui se respecte, je m’applique, mais ça n’avance pas. Une horloge tinte dans le lointain, 4h30.

“Résous-le!”

Une voix intérieure résonne dans ma tête, comme une explosion. “Résous ce puzzle!” Un sentiment d’urgence m’envahit soudain. Où avais-je la tête? Il faut conclure au plus vite! Il va où le cubitus? Aurais-je interverti les tibias? Et cette rotule qui ne s’imbrique pas sur ce genou?
Morphée finit par se manifester alors que je pose la dernière pièce du puzzle, celle où l’index du bon Dieu rencontre celui de sa fragile créature. Mes yeux se ferment juste à temps…

Je saurai plus tard à ma sortie du coma que le chirurgien orthopédiste aura fait des miracles sur une grande partie de mes 206 os et que je lui dois de pouvoir me tenir à peu près debout aujourd’hui malgré la gravité de mon accident. Je fais deux bons centimètres de moins à cause de mes tibias passés au moulin et je ne serai jamais champion de course à pied, mais je marche encore et je peux même courir dans mes bons jours grâce à lui également. La rotule est toujours aux abonnés absents, mais heureusement, les cubitus tiennent encore la route. Des miracles je vous dis. Ma moto quant à elle n’est plus qu’un lointain et douloureux souvenir, cédée avec hargne à l’épaviste au poids de ferraille par ma mère, qui depuis garde un cierge allumé à l’intention de son grand garçon à Saint-Sulpice, que Dieu me la garde.

Depuis ce jour, une pensée me hante, celle de la dernière pièce de puzzle où se rejoignent l’humain et le Divin, le mortel et l’Eternel, à travers leurs indexes qui se frôlent. Voyez-vous, de tout mon corps, les os de mes membres supérieurs ont le plus souffert et à un moment de ma jeunesse, j’avais arrêté de compter les opérations qui m’ont finalement permis de pouvoir tenir une fourchette à peu près correctement. Les seuls os à en avoir réchappé sont ceux de mon index gauche, celui-là même que le bon Dieu semble toucher dans la fresque de la chapelle Sixtine. Et j’y ai vu un signe, un appel à utiliser ce rescapé de l’hécatombe pour transmettre le don de vie qui aurait dû m’être refusé.

J’ai donc repris mes études de médecine, abandonnées dans une vie antérieure pour l’amour d’une créature à deux roues et me suis spécialisé dans les greffes, pour redonner la vie à ceux qui allaient en être privés par la faute d’un cœur trop fatigué ou d’un poumon trop faiblard, vie qui leur est involontairement donnée en cadeau par des têtes brulées qui ne réalisent pas la chance qu’elles ont d’être jeunes, en bonne santé et de pouvoir croquer la vie à belles dents, et qui décident un beau jour d’aplatir leur électroencéphalogramme pour une dose d’adrénaline dans un bolide à 8 cylindres.

J’ai eu la chance d’en réchapper, d’autres ne l’auront pas. Alors de grâce mes amis, prenez soin de ces cadeaux que sont votre jeunesse et votre santé, d’autres n’ont pas eu ces privilèges …

Un ex-jeune rescapé des kilomètres/heure

Let the board sound

Rabih

PS: cette histoire est purement fictive, toute ressemblance avec des personnes ou situations réelles est fortuite.