The Locker from a Previous Life

And a walk down memory lane

Photo by freestocks on Unsplash

She opened the locker. Three years had gone by. So much had happened since the last time the locker was locked, so much had changed in the world. In her world too. She did not remember the lock code anymore and had to have it broken. She would come to remember later that it was the birth date of someone dear to her heart. 0804.

You could write a book about the locker and its content. It was a microcosm of her life before the pandemic, before the illness. But first stood out the names. Dozens of names, some old, Germaine, Pierre, Eugénie, some younger, Nicolas, Aurélie, Chloé, and some from elsewhere, Farida, Evgueny, Mauro. They came from all over the world and from all walks of life. They did not share much, except having been really ill, at the doorsteps of the world after.

She would stick their names on the back of the locker, praying for those undergoing surgery, remembering those who did not make it and cheering for those who did. Many of the names were testaments to the miracles that modern medicine and its practitioners were able to achieve, especially when all hope seemed to be lost.

Those she cared for were here on a last chance. They came to undergo the stuff of magic, which are procedures closer to science fiction if you fancy a less irrational description, but all the same if you asked her, because magic is what it really took to save these lives in dire situations.

People on whom medicine would have given up a few years ago, or even a few kilometers away, had a chance here. A reasonable chance. And I like to think her touch contributed greatly. She was the last face they saw before the great ordeal, a great responsibility which she did not take lightly.

She did everything she could to get them smiling and fearless to the stuff of magic which was supposed to mend them, and most made it through because a smile, a pinch of hope and a prayer are powerful spells too, maybe the most powerful of all.

She stood there, in front of the locker, memories rushing through her. She remembered her colleagues, most of whom had retired or moved on to other endeavors. She remembered the pandemic, her illness, and felt the toll that these three years had taken on her.

She remembered the old days, some happy, some sad, and all the hard times that had shaped her into the sharp professional she once was and never stopped to be, even with the past three years weighting on her shoulders.

All she needed to do now was to enter into the cold white light and take her place in the magic procedure of wizards bringing life back to those who had no other alternative than their magic.

She closed the locker, scrubbed up, donned the gown, and with her magic wand in hand, she went on saving lives, in honor of the names in the locker from a previous life.

To my lovely Rita, and to all the wizards, Elie, Stephan, Saïd, Emre, Joy, Olaf, Dominique, Philippe, Julien, Ramzi, Sacha, Régine, Sebastien, Bechara, Iolanda, Pierre, and the many others doing miracles at the edge of science and magic, to save lives which are otherwise doomed.

Let the board sound

Rabih

Satiric Spleen With a Pinch of Smiley Melancholy

Si le ciel et la mer sont noirs comme de l’encre, nos cœurs que tu connais sont remplis de rayons!

Photo by Dan V on Unsplash

Some folks seem to have this rather unique feature of being able to play surgeon on their own soul. They seem to have more awareness of their inner gears and levers, and they write about life as they know it in a very unique style, which I can only describe as Satiric Spleen with a pinch of Smiley Melancholy, if that makes any sense. Like trying to frame the absurdity of life in deadpan humor.

Yes, life can sound like tragedy met with quiet laugh. Life is absurd if you bother to think about it for a couple of minutes. We should not even be here. Life hangs to such tiny probabilities that our very existence is a challenge to the universe. But the real question is mind twisting.

Could the universe even exist if there was no life to witness it? 

Could the universe exist if it was not imagined?

So yeah, Satiric Spleen with a pinch of Smiley Melancholy, until you realize at some point, albeit with a bit of irony, that your life, this miserable and finite comedy, might still underpin the existence of a universe.

And then, standing at the doorstep of this realization, would you not long for something else? Would you not reach further and try to find some kind of hope? Hope that Life itself, with a big L, is at the inception of this universe and that we hold parts of it in us? 

Some would call it God. I know I would. It makes much more sense that way.


If you are wondering about the French subtitle, it is an excerpt of a poem by Charles Baudelaire, which I thought befits the state of ming of a satirist spleener indulging in smiley melancholy. Here is a part of it.

Ô Mort, vieux capitaine, il est temps ! levons l’ancre !
Ce pays nous ennuie, ô Mort ! Appareillons !
Si le ciel et la mer sont noirs comme de l’encre,
Nos cœurs que tu connais sont remplis de rayons !

Verse-nous ton poison pour qu’il nous réconforte !
Nous voulons, tant ce feu nous brûle le cerveau,
Plonger au fond du gouffre, Enfer ou Ciel, qu’importe ?
Au fond de l’Inconnu pour trouver du nouveau !


This essay was inspired to me by the stories of Mike Knittel, great surgeon of the human soul and inner gear specialist before the eternal. Oh and a masterful satirist spleener who takes you to introspective depths with few words, a pinch of Satire, and a tea spoon of irony.

Let the board sound

Rabih

The Broken Blonde

And her path to a warm home and a friend

Photo by Viktor Vasicsek on Unsplash

I met her on a cold winter evening. She was laying on the sidewalk, in the pouring rain, abandoned there by her last abuser. She was visibly broken by years of hardship. The old scars were still visible. The more recent ones were alarming.

I was in my car rushing somewhere when I saw her. I picked her up before the reaper did. She had many broken bones and a dislocated hip, which seemed to have been treated by less than qualified surgeons. Battle wounds really.

I took her in and cared for her. She started to open up when the fog and doziness of homelessness lifted, but more so when she realized she could stay for as long as she wanted. She was safe here.

We would share stories over a cup of coffee with an orange peel every evening for the next week or two. I would tell her the tales of a small country on the verge of oblivion, and bit by bit, she would tell me her story, or at least the parts she could speak about without putting to jeopardy whatever sanity she had left. I had to figure out the rest.

She was born in East Germany, during the cold war. Blonde, feminine, not as tall as you would expect, which suits me fine. And one could guess she once had a warm alto voice. The thing is, by the time I met her, she had not sung anything meaningful in years and her voice was only the shadow of what it used to be.

She had probably been an artist in a previous life, or longed to be one. She could have had to leave the totalitarian state where he was born, her art having become too heavy to bear behind the Iron Curtain. Or could she have been given up for adoption at birth, moving in and out of foster care until coming of age? Whatever it might have been, the life she was made to live took quite an expensive toll on her.

I tried to bring back the shine she had lost over years of sorrow and abuse, and I think I did a pretty decent job. I cleaned her up, put her back to shape, oiled her fretboard, refurbished her tuning mechanism, set her up with new strings and gradually tuned her to pitch. I left the scars though, as a tribute to her survival on a more than dodgy path, and they make her beauty stand out. She has been my go-to guitar ever since.

I do not know who played her before me or what was her repertoire back in the days. She never told me and probably never will. I just hope that she finds my music interesting enough, and I think she does. Otherwise, she would not bless me with this warm alto voice of hers when I play her.

Here she is, as if waiting for me to fix her a drink. Enough with coffee, even with an orange peel. She likes Bourbon. Fair enough. So do I.

The Broken Blonde — Photo belongs to the author

Let the board sound

Rabih

The Fourth Day of August

And why October 6th is as good a day as any to write about August 4th

Photo by Charbel Karam on Unsplash

April 4th saw the coming of age of Senegal from its infancy as a French colony.
May 4th saw the rebirth of Latvia after a (rather long) stint as a Soviet puppet.
June 4th is Tonga’s Emancipation date.
July 4th saw the birth of the United States of America.

August 4th though, was a sentencing hearing for the citizens of a small country on the verge of oblivion. 218 people were found guilty of belonging to this poor country and obliterated immediately. 7000 others were found guilty of being ordinary citizens minding their own business, and were put to the Question. Some lost a limb or two. Or three. Some lost their minds.

Some lost a child.

The remaining 300,000 suspects were found guilty of various offences and misdemeanors, and were stripped of their homes and possessions. Many were stripped of loved ones. A daughter. A sister. An uncle. Alexandra. Christelle. Tony.

And we, the Lebanese diaspora, stood and watched helpless, as the sixth largest artificial non-nuclear explosion destroyed the capital of our home country and whatever illusions of hope we still had by then.

Justice was not served, in case you are wondering.

I should have written this post on August 4th. Obviously, I did not. August 4th sounds to me like a perfect date to put candles as a profile picture on your social media, and write something like “On est tous Beyrouth” or “Never forget, never forgive” to feel good about yourself for a day and then move on, until the next year.

Some will stand by the motto they wrote on their facebook profiles. Many others, who will never forget and never forgive on August 4th, will have forgotten and forgiven by May 15th, right on time to elect the same scum we had been served over and over for the past decades, give or take.

If you’ve been reading me for a while, you have probably guessed the setting. It is past midnight and I am sipping an espresso with an orange peel, as usual, when I am invoking this small country on the verge of oblivion.

October 6th is as good a day as any to write about August 4th. October 6th is as good a day as any to remember.

Is it a good day to forgive though? Is there a day to forgive? Nothing is less sure.

Let the board sound

Rabih

The Shiny Guy

And a ray of contagious light, travelling the universe

Photo by Josh Boot on Unsplash

So, there was this guy. He was shining. A ray of bright light. All who bumped into him were touched by his light and for a while, became alight themselves, and this light was contagious.

When his time came and he left for a better place, they uncovered a diary he seemed to have been keeping. Not really a diary, more like bits and pieces of inner thoughts intertwined with some lament.

It turned out the guy had no light inside whatsoever. He had been walking in darkness the whole time. A deep well of despair and loneliness, a constant yet unfruitful search for an ever-elusive ray of sunshine. His writings left no doubt about it.

So where did the light come from? 

It came from every wrong turn he took because those who knew better never gave him the right advise.

It came from every piece of bread he would be denied when starving at the side of the road.

It came from every border he could not cross, every job he could not get, every opportunity he would lose because of who he was and where he came from.

It came from every failure, every broken dream, every sleepless night, it came from the indifference he had faced when most in need of human warmth.

You see, this guy was carrying the curse that others, more worthy of it, did not wish to carry. He was burdened with crying all the tears they would not cry anymore. 

A burden chosen with care, a curse embraced with full prior knowledge, for he had already been there before, took the wrong turn, cried the bitter tear, begged for a piece of bread, a job, an opportunity. He had been left outside in the cold when others were boarding first class. 

Broken dreams had been daily bread for as long as he could remember, and from the rumbles of his dreams and the ashes covering his days and nights, he found the strength to shine, not on others, but for others, to make their lives a little bit warmer. 

This constant shining got the best of him. He died of exhaustion on a sidewalk on a cold November evening.

Those who knew him quickly forgot hit legacy, if they ever knew it, and save for his writings, nothing remains of him today. 

Except, maybe, a ray of contagious light, still travelling the universe. 

Let the board sound

Rabih

The Flaws Which Make Us Perfect

Apart from the fact that they do not exist, perfect humans would still have one real flaw, that of being perfect.

Photo by Levi Meir Clancy on Unsplash

A parallel with music

Chances are you have heard of musical notes. Of course you have! You might have even heard them too if you listen to music. They’re called C, D, E, F, G, A, B, or more poetically, Do, Ré, Mi, Fa, Sol, La and Si, in French.

Now here comes the interesting part. Every note can be associated to a major chord, by simultaneously playing the root note, C for example, the major third which happens to be the E for this example, and the perfect fifth, the G. 

The root. The third. The perfect fifth. And this is why the major chord sounds, well, perfect to the ear. Maybe a little bit too perfect. 

Some flavors

What if we tried to play something a bit more flawed, just to see how it would sound? Something with a seventh, rather than a perfect fifth? Or even a ninth? What if we tried to play a C major 7 instead of a C major? How about a Bm7? A Cadd9?

There are many flavors to a given chord actually, and if you take the time to listen to some of them or try to play them on a piano or a guitar, you will come to realize that a perfect major chord sounds quite dull next to most of these flavors. The “flaws” make them way more interesting. 

A C major is just happy. Lame happy. 

A C minor is sad. Lame sad, but still an improvement over perfection: sadness is a more interesting feeling to explore than lame happiness.

A Bm7 would trigger a mix of optimist melancholy and hopeful nostalgia I would say. 

A Cmaj7 would send you surfing in the clouds, comfortably numb, with a very distant afterthought to the vicissitudes of your human condition.

I can only speculate on the feelings a C7sus4 would trigger.

The flaws which make us perfect

Same goes for us mere mortals. You see, apart from the fact that they do not exist, perfect humans, like major chords, would still have one real flaw: they are perfect. They are boring. This is why people displaying their perfect faces, hair, bodies, homes, and lives on social media are annoying at best.

It is partly through our flaws and idiosyncrasies that we become interesting to our fellow humans. A scar. A birthmark. A weird hobby. A strange name. A one-off characteristic which hooks people for reasons they do not consciously realize. 

Some of these actually define who you are. Cyrano’s nose and his irreverent poetry. Django Reinhart’s fingers. Rick Allen’s left arm, the one Def Leppard’s current drummer lost in 1984. Hellen Keller’s eyes, her ears too. 

If a large nose, a missing arm, missing fingers or blind eyes and deaf ears are flaws in the eyes of the world, then God knows how perfect and flawless they have made Cyrano’s poetry, Django’s music, Rick’s drumming or Hellen’s speech.

Some others become a tag, a moniker. The Edge’s beanie or Bono’s sunglasses. Freddie’s moustache. Brian May’s PhD in astrophysics. Churchill’s cigars. But also your dad’s 1965 Chevy Impala he’s been driving around the block everyday for the past 57 years.

And some are just pleasant traits, rays of sunshine in a dull day, like your neighbor’s French accent or your colleague’s infatuation with Sidsel Endresen, and the many more interesting features of the many more illustrious unknowns you have yet to meet. All weird chords, all m7, add9, sus4 and the likes.

A word of caution though, you can only find the major chords on Instagram. 

All the others you can hear playing through the lives of real people. Flawed people. Beautifully flawed. 

A perfect melody.

Let the board sound

Rabih

What Will Remain

When the world has taken its final bow

Photo by Ian Wetherill on Unsplash

In the end only memories will remain. Oh, not even the greatest or the most vivid ones.

The most brilliant victories? The blatant failures? Frozen in a past watered down by a failing memory, they shall not remain. They will fly away like particles of dust, carried away by the breeze of oblivion, for time, you see, always ends up leveling the victories by their fair measure of failures and failures by their fair number of victories.

Will remain only the memories worth reliving, the sweetest, the most beautiful ones.

The warmth of the fire which, from its hearth, lit up the winter nights of your childhood in the Levant. The breeze of a summer afternoon by the sea. The sun of the village where you grew up, its fields, its meadows, its stones on which you scratched your knees. The bitterness of departure, yes, because even bitterness is softened through memories, and the joy of fleeting reunions, as well as the bitter-sweet nostalgia of a poor country lost forever…

Will also remain the golden and copper leaves of Parisian autumns, the delicious bitterness of an orange peel in a coffee on a terrace in Montmartre, and books of course. Do not underestimate their power, they will have left you with impressions as lasting as the most beautiful memories.

But first and foremost, the softness of a hand, the warmth of a lip, the reassuring routine of a day like any other, but still somewhat different through the little pleasures you share daily, hugs, sorrows, sun, showers, melodies that enchant the days and lull the nights.

And the warmth of love, the love of your life, the one which will remain when everything else will have disappeared in the meanders of oblivion, the love which even death cannot take away.

To Rita, for these 9 years that will have passed like a dream, and to all those years just waiting to be lived.

Let the board sound

Rabih

Ce Qui Restera

Quand le monde aura tiré sa révérence

Photo by Ian Wetherill on Unsplash

Il ne restera en fin de compte que les souvenirs. Oh, même pas tous, sans doute pas les plus grandioses ni les plus marquants. 

Tes victoires les plus éclatantes? Tes échecs les plus cuisants? Figés dans un passé édulcoré par une mémoire trop imparfaite, ils ne resteront finalement pas. Ils s’envoleront, poussières portées par les brises de l’oubli car, vois-tu, le temps finit toujours par les niveler, victoires à l’aune des échecs, échecs à la mesure des victoires.

Des souvenirs, il ne restera finalement que les plus beaux, les plus doux, ceux qui valent la peine d’être revécus.

La chaleur du feu qui, de son âtre, éclairait les nuits d’hiver de ton enfance au Levant. La brise d’un après-midi d’été au bord de la mer. Le soleil du village où tu as grandi, ses champs, ses près, ses pierres sur lesquelles tu t’es écorché les genoux. L’amertume du départ, oui, car même l’amertume s’adoucit à travers les souvenirs, et la joie des retrouvailles éphémères, ainsi que la douce nostalgie d’un pauvre pays perdu à jamais…

Resteront aussi les feuilles d’or et de cuivre des automnes parisiens, la délicieuse amertume d’une écorce d’orange dans un café bien serré sur une terrasse de Montmartre, et les livres bien sûr. Ne sous-estime pas leur puissance, ils t’auront laissé des impressions aussi durables que les souvenirs les plus beaux.

Mais surtout, la douceur d’une main, la chaleur d’une lèvre, la routine rassurante d’une journée comme les autres, mais quand-même différente par les mille petits bonheurs partagés au quotidien, câlins, chagrins, soleils, averses, mélodies qui enchantent les journées et bercent les nuits.

Et la douceur d’un amour, de l’amour de ta vie, celui qui restera quand tout le reste aura disparu dans les méandres de l’oubli, celui que même la mort ne te prendra. 

A Rita, pour ces 9 ans qui seront passés comme un rêve, et à toutes ces années qui n’attendent que d’être vécues.

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

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.