Thou shalt dump daily excrements

Quantity is enough. Follow the quick buck.

Photo by Bakhrom Tursunov on Unsplash

Brothers.
Sisters.
Fellow souls in this valley of tears we call Writing.
I read to you from an apocryphal gospel according to the self-proclaimed prophets of the Ancient and Accepted Rite of Writing.

Thou shalt dump daily excrements on the flock of readers for they are not worth the time you could be spending to produce quality articles. Quantity is enough. Follow the quick buck.

According to these false prophets, writers are in essence business hunters who must produce as many low quality articles as humanly possible, as fast as possible, hunting for more reading time and more dollars.

Now here’s the truth, according to the gospel of your inner guts, because yes, you already know what I am about to tell you.

You don’t write because you have something to say. Everyone has something to say, anyone can dump excrements. It takes more than that to write stories which can speak, which can sing.

Writing stems from an incurable itch, an unquenchable thirst, a void impossible to fill. You write because the itch is unbearable, the thirst is too potent. Because the void is too terrifying to contemplate.

As for the readers, well, they read for the same reasons compelling you to write: to quench the thirst, to fill the void. If your writing does not quench thirst, it is worthless at best, or rather smelly vomit more often than not.

The false prophets dumping worthless stuff on the masses and measuring success by the buck can only amount to what they write. They are not writers. They are dumpsters. They only know how to dump off the shelf fertilizer.

Mind you, dear reader, dumping can indeed generate quick bucks.

Only writing remains though.

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

The Irish Riddle

Or how a cryptic song from the eighties can take us places

I have always been intrigued by Nik Kershaw’s The Riddle. I first heard it when I was ten or eleven years old. My ears were still completely deaf to English back then but the words (as far as I could tell), the groove and the music were interlocking perfectly.

I would get to know more about it years later, and the more I knew, the less it made sense. Its lyrics were, and still are cryptic beyond redemption. Nik called it The Riddle for a good reason. Here, listen :

I got two strong arms
Blessings of Babylon time
To carry on and try
For sins and false alarms
So to America the brave
Wise men says

Near a tree by a river
There’s a hole in the ground
Where an old man of Aran
Goes around and around
And his mind is a beacon
In the veil of the night
For a strange kind of fashion
There’s a wrong and a right

Kershaw would explain later that the lyrics were randomly put together to match the music but had no hidden meaning, or any meaning at all for that matters.

But what if they did?

First trial at solving the riddle

I bet the key to this riddle would be lost somewhere in the Old Man of Aran’s mind. Let us focus on the lyrics again… An old man or Aran… Ah! The Aran Islands, off the west coast of Ireland! Nick would deny it of course, but again, what if? Why not?

So now we have a place. We still need an old man, and I think I have a decent candidate: Saint Enda of Aran, a warrior king turned to monastic life an founder of the first Irish monastery, on the island of Inishmore, the largest of the three Aran islands. He is even linked to an old well near Galway, St Edna’s well, which seems a good enough candidate for the hole in the ground where the old man of Aran goes around and around. The trail however seems to end there. No trace of a river. And the beacon seems quite dim from the distance. As for the fashion, I see none, that is unless the monastic life counts as fashion.

Wrong path? Unless…

Let us call a friend

Seamus Heaney. Irish Poet who was awarded the 1995 Nobel prize for literature, for Death of a Naturalist, a collection of thirty four short poems, one of which happens to be called Lovers on Aran.

The timeless waves, bright, sifting, broken glass,
Came dazzling around, into the rocks,
Came glinting, sifting from the Americas

To possess Aran. Or did Aran rush
to throw wide arms of rock around a tide
That yielded with an ebb, with a soft crash?

Did sea define the land or land the sea?
Each drew new meaning from the waves’ collision.
Sea broke on land to full identity.

I can see a link with the two strong arms and America the brave in Kershaw’s The Riddle. The link to the Aran Islands is obvious, and the beacon would be the poet himself, or his mind actually, to match the lyrics. Or would he. You see, there is another poem in Heaney’s collection which qualifies, one called Synge on AranSynge, as John Millington Synge, another Irish poet and writer who would spend time in the Arans and write The Aran Islands, among other works. He would stay in the Arans in the first place at the advice of Yeats, yet another Irish poet, writer and Nobel prize laureate, for the few who have not heard of him yet.

As for the key to decipher Nik’s cryptic song, well, would anyone care to take over solving the riddle? I need to rush, I have some Irish literature to attend to.

Let the board sound

Rabih

On a gem hunt in a sea of nonsense

Photo by Conscious Design on Unsplash

I have been dragged to a “writing” platform by a colleague who recently uncovered one of my quirks: I write stuff. The platform also catered for another quirk: I read stuff. And boy were there stories to read on it.

Here’s an excerpt:

10 Things I Wish I knew Before Starting my Writing Journey
7 Habits That Will Make Your Writing Better
3 Writing Tricks for Viral Stories

That’s half of the stock. The other half is made of rants on Better-Writing-to-Make-Bucks stories and berating members who write on such topics.

A couple of days into the adventure had me convinced I would not be missing out on much if I left at that point. Then, I happened to come by an article which did not belong. An orphan whose parents were neither prophets of the New and Enlightened Writing Order nor reactionaries of the Ancient and Accepted Ritual of Writing.

It was a relatively short poem about the Tonga eruption. Words and rhymes in-between homage and praise, through sadness and hope. It was moving to say the least, and it sent me on a gem hunt, since gems seemed to exist on this platform after all. I would find many of them, written by wonderful people…

A poet who likes things that shine
An author who writes short random thoughts and stories
A retired long-haul trucker who exchanged his rig for pen, paper, and keyboard
A guy who writes to silence them voices in his head
An avid beekeeper

… As they would put it. And many more master gem cutters, too many to list in this story without it becoming a list.

So, dear lapidaries, if you happen to be reading this story and recognize yourselves, let me know if I can link back to your stories. I know you are not the safe and coffer types. Your colorful gems must be shared.

As for you dear reader, if I may, try to look for real gems in this sea of advice on squeezing bucks out of your creativity. Only the gems can feed our imagination and help us write better stories. Marketing fad cannot yield beauty, only promises of elusive followers and the quick buck. Or the lack thereof.

Let the board sound

Rabih

The original version of this story can be found here.

Make a difference

You’re searching in the dark, you’re wandering for light
A blaze to which you’d walk, of which you’d feel the might
You’re writing in the shade, you barely see the mark
Of words through which you write a candle in the dark


These words which have laid there before the dawn of time
While waiting for a soul to pull them into rhyme
To keep from oblivion these tales of fireflies
And out of nothingness, to gift them to the skies


A craft many embrace but only few can tame
A true craftsman of words in this fine art has aim
He writes to heal the world, he writes to end the stray
With a handful of words, he’s got this much to say:


“Create, you will be blessed if your word people liked
Create, you will be whole even if you’re disliked
The curse? There’s only one, it’s called indifference
The cure? There’s hardly one, to make a difference.”


Let the board sound

Rabih

On a portal to the city of light

I heard it for the first time eleven years ago, on a Wednesday evening in Abu Dhabi. It felt like a call. More than a call, an invitation. A portal to end-of-19th-century Paris. Don’t ask, it just took me there.

To a place and an epoch close enough to our time to make the French Terror and the Napoleonic wars become knowledge which people of that place and time learnt, rather than memories they recollected. Close enough in time for Paris to have already been transformed by the works of Haussmann and his contemporaries into a very viable first version of the lovely city it is today.

Close enough in the mist of time to keep shining this specific Parisian touch which spanned from the end of the 19th century up until the great war. La Belle Époque, as it came to be known in retrospect.

Victor Gabriel Gilbert, Le Bal

La Belle Époque can hardly be framed in words to try to explain what it was or how it felt. Two world wars and a cold one right after, two major economic depressions, many global scale pandemics and the rise of terrorism, among other horrors since that time, made sure it would not be possible. Words hardly have any meaning after that.

We could try to imagine it though, with the help of some music, or a painting, or a book maybe… It might have felt like being in one of the adventures of Arsène Lupin, not one revisited by Netflix with a 21st century twist but rather one crafted by Maurice Leblanc, the father of this peculiar gentleman burglar.

But back to Abu Dhabi. It was 2010, on a Wednesday evening, and I had just heard Gabriel Fauré’s Pavane in F sharp minor for the first time.

Composed as a piano and chorus piece in 1880, then re-arranged as an orchestral version in 1887, it was a perfect fit for the time and place it stood for: 19th century, Paris. Coordinates to which this time machine would hook me up ever since.

It would also put a pen in my fingers and some thoughts in my head. This is how it all started, in French of course, on a moleskine notebook, on a Wednesday evening in Arabia, leading years later to the post I am wrapping up today, in English, on a Friday evening in France.

Let the board sound

Rabih

PS: If you like Paris and words which take you places, meet an author doing just that. The posts are not always about Paris, but they always take you places… Try this one for instance.