Once Again…For Hatred

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No. 9 Ola Hejazi
In the idle situation of smoking a cigarette in the summer sun, memories surface like scenes seen from a scratched and scarred wooden windowpane. The heat radiates from the cement buildings, and from the windowpane the memory of the mountain breeze amplifies my fiery stillness on the flared sidewalk. An army convoy creeps its way across the street, its wheels are steady, a soldier mounts the gun on top of the truck, his eyes scan the panorama in front of the convoy, people indifferent to his presence, beggars following fast maneuvering shoes, cars honking at them from all sides, and in front of him a secret line he knows the convoy must follow stringently even though the gun he rides offers neither solace nor threat.

…But to go back to the mountain where my aunt would take me for indefinite weeks away from the blaze of Beirut; I take another drag from the cigarette and through the mind’s windowpane I see a cloud of dust in the distance approaching me, the pebbled road beneath me shaking. I am strange on this road, my aunt’s house is still unfamiliar to me and it’s just across the street, yet the cloud of dust entraps me within it from far away, and soon it is as if I am the one who is approaching it, even though its inevitable danger, this ominous taupe billow, freezes me in place. In the moment of immanent peril my legs respond again, but it’s too late, already midway on the road, I’m cloaked in a rough taupe mist…

They call me inside to the sound check. It’s midday, the chairs are still neatly arranged, ashtrays are clean and the smell of the detergent still fills the air with its thin sharpness. I pick up my violin as Hazem starts playing, waiting for my queue to start. Hazem’s oud picking syncopates between western rock and eastern melodies, my violin keeps to the eastern, alternating between different maqams depending on Hazem’s use of scale.

I started my violin playing as a child with a private teacher, a friend of my mother. She was a hoarder who lived alone; her house smelled like mold, and dust particles would mushroom after every step. My mother thought of it as a perfect arrangement: I’d learn the violin, and her friend would have someone to talk to, but I came to hate her after I joined the conservatoire. Her left hand had a nervous disorder forcing her to perch up the wrist  of her fretting hand more than usual, a condition I needlessly emulated because it was the only way I was taught to play. As long as my left hand fretted awkwardly, the teachers at the conservatoire separated me from the rest of the students.

“The person who looks at you playing will think this is a circus show,” Hazem says sternly, still giving me shit about my perched up left hand.

“If you were born after me and I before you, it would be you on the violin now”

“Me, unlike you, would have adapted.”

“What can I say, see what only one year of learning can do? Less, eight months. But no matter, I play as if I can’t wave my hand to saw hello in real life, I play for myself. You’d play with your hand extended, for others.”

“So existentially deep, as always. Next thing you’ll tell me is that some people pray with their hands on their sides, other with the right hand over the left.”

“Well, yes, they do. And they play the same game equally as good. The difference is I don’t play God and judge who is better. You do.”

Hazem, my older brother; he is playing football behind the house in the mountains. A stampede of bicycles, young kids, thinking whatever lay in their way on the road is a necessary victim; an unmerciful army sparing no reserves seeing no defeat in site marches to a steady rhythm. They ride together and form the taupe cloud; metal bodies collide with mine, one after the other they trip over me, scrubbing my body on the mountainous pebbles. But I feel nothing, floating, as if this moment is eternity, painless. I’m motionless on the ground, lying like a lie waiting to be found out, the blue sky slowly recovering from the taupe invasion. Then the discovery, hands over me, carrying me frantically, my body almost slipping from their hands, my blood spilling on the ground, and the bolts of pain…I think, the only way out of this is death.

I go back home after a long night of noise, music and smoke. I open the door of the garden full of mint roots that spread as other roots died of neglect. Brown and yellow roots rest wilted on the ground, begging for a modicum of water to remain motionless, but I decide to uproot them all. Mint roots spread crazily wherever you plant them, and uprooting them is as hard as forcibly forgetting what binds you. What’s left of them reforms them, as embers are promises of fire.

I dig in with my hands, insects crawl on me and I feel the tingle of necessary human transgression. Every root is a memory that I pluck for a momentary period of clarity.

rhizome

My aunt sits me on the porch, my elbows patched and a faint red slowly seeping through the most elemental form of a patch. She tells me to show the bikers what they have done to me, as if my lacerations are to be a source of my pride and a wellspring of their shame. I tell her to bring my violin, but my request is refused. This is not a time to flaunt my talent, but my soon-to-be scars. Don’t read. Don’t play. Simply be as if in the hoped-for state of perfect. A charade that I’ve been adopting ever since, even when in play.

One of the basest feelings you can ever feel is hatred for someone or something unknown to you. But to hate them exactly because you don’t know them, because you want to know them, that is to love them, these phantom foes and their phantasmal plans.

A wreath of paranoia adorned my mother’s head ever since, one that translated itself into a mortal hatred of my absence. She’d threaten and curse whenever I gave myself to the umbra of her sight. “Be late once again, and I’m never letting you back in,” she’d say, “I’ll never speak to you again,” she’d say, “I’ll close the door on you and forget you,” she’d say. But she’d never uphold them. Late and negligent, I always found the door open. Her threats functioned more as promises of endless acceptance and forgiveness. And I adopted them. I can no longer uphold a threat, neither as a promise to myself nor as a method of negotiation.

I pluck as much mint roots as I can in a performance of forgetting, even if only momentarily in the drunken rage of soiled fingers and bonds. But any act of uprooting is also a commemoration of a tragic event, so that one can always sense the last gasp approaching again and again…

…I know, something must happen now, someone must appear, or at least recognized, so that I can cease to hate and continue again in the state of play…

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Sound

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“Too Many Kids Finding Rain in the Dust” 

A broken hand frets on a violin
and violently tells me that it does not aim
for the song of birds.
Intentionally fingers press wrongly on metal strings,
with the disconcerting intensity of the strike of a bow
exposing us as bats in the light of
a pop of a gun or the bang of a bomb.
We scurry upwards and
downwards to
keep close to the Lazarus darkness

As children’s feces smear on each other like paint on a palette.
There’s no innocence in this colored nightmare,
and no remorse in this black death.
There shall be no ringing of bells or screams –
but an announcement to bring out our dead
and die for them once again.

Metempsychosis

A Gob Of Spit

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Origingally Published in Rusted Radishes as A Prolonged Insult

By Youssef Rached Doughan

By Youssef Rached Doughan

“No, this is a prolonged insult, a gob of spit in the face of Art, a kick in the pants to God, Man, Destiny, Time, Love, Beauty … what you will. I am  going to sing for you, a little off key perhaps, but I will sing. I will sing while you croak, I will dance over your dirty corpse…” Herny Miller, Tropic of Cancer

Jamal waited in a café and sucked on his nth cigarette. He didn’t usually smoke more than three cigarettes a day, always after a meal, always systematically. His face was tired and bloated from an excursion down the ruins of a bottle of wine.

In the building across the street, two sisters released a barrage of vitriol from behind closed curtains. The familial screams echoed throughout the café, and the cat waiting on the café door was alarmed. It only took a minute for the gazing eyes to stop searching, for ears to habituate, and for the horny traffic to dilute the shouts.

Jamal lit another cigarette and scanned the surrounding. He was supposed to meet a former student of his, but the little rascal, he thought, was late, as always. The cigarette neared its end and he silently muttered, “I need a death. I need to write.” A small cockroach crawled out of the newly dug sewer; a domestic disturbance.

Last night the lady he took home told him that she wouldn’t sleep with him unless he shaved his beard. “Shave your beard,” she demanded, without even a shred of seduction. As an unadorned man, who grew a beard out of laziness, he indifferently obliged. He now smiled at the event. He looked down and grazed the shiny red and black tie he had worn; any other man, he thought, would have hesitated and deprived himself of the most beautiful moment he could experience. The girl he took home, she was still in his apartment. He kept her there. “I need a death,” he thought, “I need to write.” The cockroach crawled up the table and quickly crept along its surface, settling on the Jamal’s white paper. The cockroach stood still, giving its side to Jamal.

The little rascal finally arrived. Jamal licked his lower lip and grazed the bottom of his teeth with his rough tobacco-tinged tongue. His lips were hued with wine. The little kid sat in front of him, the cockroach still between them on the paper. Jamal did not move. The little kid did not move. Eyeballs were transfixed in a moment of stillness authored by the exoskeleton of the cockroach. A sudden mood overhauled the invading decadence of the city; the universe was reduced to this deuce-ace scene. A teenager, an adult, and a cockroach.

No more cigarettes. Jamal found himself to have crawled to the lowest form of beggary, in search of nothingness. Deepest abjection manifested itself in a still cockroach and a youth he wanted to kill. This youth, a former student, had come to give him praise. Praise the Lord, the encomium encounter was interrupted by an insect.

“Hello,” Jamal said, not allowing his eyes to deviate from the sacred arthropod, making it seem as if he had begun a conversation with the would-be carcass of reason.

The youth too did not allow his eyes to drift. He did not answer. There was no need to. He felt a tinge of shame at the way this event had begun. His spine tingled because of the transfixed gaze; all the different scenarios he had imagined of this encounter ran through his head, echoed through his ears, but he couldn’t close his eyes.

Last night, as Jamal and the lady slept naked next to each other, she’d come near him as if to kiss him, but she would only smell his after-shave. Her inspiration started at his chin and went up to his ear. And he’d felt a need to write, preceded by a need to experience death.

Last night, words did not matter as much as the thoughts that blew like fierce winds between the streets of Hamra, blowing curtains, exposing damp rooms with wet whores and angry sisters. The thoughts blew through Jamal’s head like savage and ferocious winds without enunciation. Or to put it differently: a wave of thoughts trapped him in its undertow; he found himself unable to speak, unable to distinguish his necessity to write from his necessity to break free from the inspiration of the lady next to him. His ear trembled and cold shivers travelled down the side of his body. He lay in paralysis until the morning when the wind calmed; the bottle of wine beckoned in the absence of a rooster; he wore his tie like a tight noose and went out the door to meet his former student.

“Hello,” this time he said it in his mind. And he imagined his student’s reply.

“Hi,” his student would smile, “it’s been a very long time,” his student would say.

“Yes, six years to be exact,” Jamal would say, “You were younger, I was still fresh.” But no, too bleak. “You were younger, we were both younger.” Realism invades the imagination.

“I’m really glad I’m meeting with you today, I have amazing news to tell,” his student would say, and Jamal’s desire to kill him would grow strong with such a gleeful remark of the obvious.

“I figured so, I’ve heard rumours,” Jamal would say, ruining his student’s surprisal, ruining the crescendo his student had engineered, taking into account the random variables of human action.

“Oh,” the surprise would turn on his student, but the smile would not vanish, it would only lessen. “Then I guess you know, this will be my last summer here,” the student would say with sudden recalcitrance.

Jamal would nod and force a smile.

“I want to express my infinite debt to you,” the student would academically exclaim, but Jamal’s face would shrivel as if faced with a sublimely appalling nightmare. And Jamal would wonder, What happened to him? How did it ever come to this?

“Please don’t say this,” Jamal’s face would metamorphose into that of a therapist threatened with a knife by his patient. The student’s face would also turn rough, waiting for his mentor to continue speaking, perhaps another lesson? But when do we ever learn?

“Don’t look up to me,” fear into the eyes of the therapist. “Just do not. You did not reach where you are by looking up to me, but by doing the complete opposite.” A lesson would formulate: “The problem with our generation was that we looked up to people, and after the people left us or betrayed us, we still followed with still-born idealisms. Don’t be inspired by people. Be inspired by events, by happenings, by acts and performances. Do not follow, participate. Do not stand on the corner and wait. That’s all they do here. They stand still in anticipation, waiting to be given, never giving, never initiating, always following. They wait and then—

Bang.

A waiter smashed the arthropod on the page; its limbs squashed resembling a gob of spit. It became formless on the page and its potential now became multiple: a spider, a cockroach, a caterpillar, a worm, goo…the mixture of all creation from which the universe takes its shape.

Jamal looked at his former student looking at him, realizing just now that they have not yet said a word to each other. He had lost track of time only to realize that now there was no time to lose. He saw the defilement he needed; the waiter granted him his desired death. He grabbed the white paper on which the formless death-rattle held the potential of a new idea, the mark of a painful birth, and went to the see the lady he left sleeping.

With trembling fingers his student turned the page.

by Alia Al Wahab

by Alia Al Wahab

 

Some Thoughts on Remembering the Lebanese Civil War, Literature, and History

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  • The Civil War 

Fifteen years ravaged Lebanon under the unwitting clouds of a mindless civil war fueled by sectarian violence and geopolitical struggles which found their perfect battleground in the small patch of land on the eastern edge of the Mediterranean. From 1975 to 1990, “144,000 killed; 184,000 injured; 130,000 kidnapped; and at least 17,000 missing…175 towns were partially or completely destroyed” (Ghosen & Khoury 382). Fifteen years and it ended in a hasty reconciliatory settlement named after the Saudi city in which it was agreed upon: the Ta’if accord. The consequences, however, of the Ta’if accord would include an amnesty law forgiving all (war) crimes committed before its date; and consequently, all the war lords, with large powers and larger egos now in their grip—they did not “lose” the war after all— constituted the political spectrum after the war, controlling the tripartite division of power. All will be well, it was thought. In other words, all shall be forgotten. This aim to forget shall not be read in any way other than an attempt to erase debt in an economy of guilt. If Nietzsche taught us anything, it is precisely that the interplay between debt and guilt are preserved through a strict mnemonic strategy for remembering.

The attempt to wipe out the restricted economy of debt failed. Residues—waste matter—were discarded and only came to sting back in the inevitable recoil of a general economy that subsumes exactly that which we wish to exclude. The assassinations and killings have since come back sporadically, like spasms of a revisiting trauma; simultaneously, a waste-garbage problem grew in the city in the form of large mountains of garbage along its seacoasts; if the nation could be read psychoanalytically, then calling-cards would’ve been an apt description of this phenomenon. In all cases, something was owed; something was forgotten, or better yet, repressed. (Is this not also the excessive charge which returns with Nada Sehnaoui‘s 2008 installation: “Haven’t 15 Years of Hiding in the Toilets Been Enough?)

Nada Sahnaoui

However, while politicians favored the suppression of the civil war, a budding civil society including artists and writers were challenging the forceful impression of collective amnesia supported by the unchanging political landscape. Experimental media and writing have emerged to challenge the status quo and present the subject of the civil war in strategic ways so as recuperate and fill the gap in Lebanon’s recent history: “This body of experimental media provides a critical historiography of Lebanon’s recent past, particularly in regards to the country’s fifteen-year civil war” (Westmoreland 176). These new ways battle the general status quo of Lebanon’s history as a land based on erasure and reconstruction:

Beirut-based journalist Robert Fisk notes, the mythology of Lebanon’s history is premised on a recurrent destiny of destruction and revival. North of Beirut at Nahr al-Kelb (“Dog River”), “inscriptions, steles, cuniform reliefs and plaques” commemorate 2500 years of conquesting armies, from Nebuchadnezzar II to the British army in 1941 (53). The Lebanese spirit of rejuvenation that is quick to say “Beirut will rise again” fails to mention that by the same premise it will likely fall again, too. (Westmoreland 177)

This new trend of art readjusts the switchboard so as to disable an erasure and enable a re-memberance of the events of the civil war, a remembrance which disallows another famous dictum in Lebanon from happening: “history repeats itself.”

  • Architecture, Writing and Memory

“Both the novelist and the architect,” says Khoury in “The Memory of the City”, “sculpt the relationship between a space and its living memory” (142). This relationship is based on the Arabic literary tradition which etymologically links the word bayt—Arabic for house—with the verse of a poem. Accordingly, the rebuilding of the city is linked directly to writing. In other words, writing after the war in itself becomes a bildungsroman. However, the direction of architecture and that of the writer do not necessarily parallel each other, for as Khoury remarks, the reconstruction of Beirut involved an erasure of the past and a look to the future which forsake the present. Consequently, architecture effects a kind of cultural amnesia. On the other hand, writing emerges after the war as the only viable way of survival during as well as after the war. Therefore, even though there’s a relationship between architecture and writing in Arabic literary tradition, this relationship is an antagonistic one:

Where an architect works to establish differences, organize relationships, and define limits, a writer works to tear down these limits, to transcend definitions, to open spaces onto one another. As literature tries to carve doorways between the declared and the undeclared, architecture seeks to hang the doors which come between them. (Khoury, “The Memory” 139).

If architecture needs to destroy the ruins of the past in order to rebuild a future and/or a simulacrum of the past, writing, in a mythic sense, becomes the harbor for the memory of the past: “In this city systematically ravaged by civil war, the only space left for memory is literature” (Khoury, “The Memory” 139). In this distinction between architecture as the space for the future-to-be or the past-that-never-was and literature as the space for memory, Khoury is presenting his own critique of the reconstruction project of the post-war years: Given the polemics of reconstruction and deconstruction that the city’s architects and urban designers have introduced, Beirut may return, not as a city, but as a jail” (Khoury, “The Memory” 140). Architectural re-building becomes associated with a prison system to which writing stands in opposition. His argument is pivoted on this difference which subtly argues that the re-building of the city regenerates a myth which disregards the present and the recent past, namely the civil war and its remembrance. Faced with such an effacement of a traumatic period, the writer emerges as a survivor of and for memory. In other words, whereas architecture re-builds, literature re-members.  The very act of writing, however, should be done in a mythic discourse in order to allow the “civil war and its remembrance” to play a “role in the regenerated myth” (Khoury, “The Memory” 142).

  • Survival and Memory

In Politics of Friendship, Derrida posits: “Surviving – that is the other name of mourning whose possibility is never to be awaited. Nor does one survive without mourning” (Derrida 13). Perhaps, one can better understand this sentence if we refer to another book of Derrida, Demeure, in which he explains that “Death is not impossible but necessary, nor is death impossible and necessary, no, the impossible and the necessary are neither connected by an ‘and’ nor disconnected by a “but.” Death is, in a single stroke, the ‘impossible necessary’” (Derrida 47). Speaking on Blanchot, Derrida goes on to connect this impossible necessary death to Blanchot’s “unexperienced experience”. Connecting these two passages from Derrida, surviving, as living on after the possibility of death (and in its triggering of the possibility of mourning) becomes implicated in a temporal order which fuses past and future. Surviving, then, becomes exactly the living-on after the unexperienced experience in both cases: the survival of the experience of the unexperienced as well as the survival of the unexperienced in the experience. In other words, survival emerges as a co-lapsing of the immediate experienced past with the possibility of the unexperienced future: the co-lapsing of mourning with the possibility of your own death. As such, survival is distancing and keeping away from death while at the same time keeping it in sight. Freud writes on this relationship between survival and death in “Thoughts For Times On War and Death”:

“Man could no longer keep death at a distance, for he had tasted it in his pain about the dead; but he was nevertheless unwilling to acknowledge it, for he could not conceive of himself as dead. So he devised a compromise: he conceded the fact of his own death as well, but denied it the significance of annihilation…His persisting memory of the dead became the basis for assuming other forms of existence and gave him the conception of a life continuing after apparent death.” (Freud)

Through this Freudian intervention, we notice that death and its survival (or mourning) traverse both directions of the temporal arrow: the dead and the re-membering of the dead forces a future projection of one’s own survival after one’s inevitable unpexerienced experience of death. In Blanchotian terms, it can be said that this unexperienced experience occurs in the space between the living and the dead. The witnesses of the war, the fighters and the citizens don’t merely become post-war survivors, but wanderers between the living and the dead: undead people with broken subjectivities.

  • The Subjective Break and Fictional Histories

The subject is dialectically fluctuating between the symbolic that forces him to repress—not accept—and the Real—the events of History which the subject cannot grasp. However, the dialectical produces the subjective break that Deleuze and Guattari describe: “Like all other breaks, the subjective break is not at all an indication of a lack or need (manque), but on the contrary a share that falls to the subject as a part of the whole, income that comes its way as something left over…That is because breaks or interruptions are not the result of an analysis; rather, in and of themselves, they are syntheses. Syntheses produce divisions” (Deleuze and Guattari 44).  The syntheses of the dialectical relationship which constitute the subject, produces a disjointed subject, an inevitable multiplicity. Moreover, this multiplicity is indicative of a residue, of “something left over”; in other words, the unaccounted for waste of memory, history—the waste of the city. However, if “In this city systematically ravaged by civil war,” as Elias Khoury claims, “the only space left for memory is literature” (Khoury, “The Memory 139), then this literature is a schizophrenic one (in which syntheses are Deleuzian divisions) and traumatic (in which the memories are those of a Blanchotian unexperienced experience). A literature as a result of the dialectic between the Real and the Symbolic—History and the Law. The only way to historicize becomes through the writing of fiction. A history that is no longer straightly referential also requires a novel which is not straightforwardly referential—the historical novel becomes replaced by the traumatic novels such as Yalo. The only way to historicize and re-member is to do so immanently: in a time of lost referentiality, it is the return of the unexperienced, the repressed which indexes history, however fictional this representation of history may be.

Lebanese criminals order Dan Mcullun to leave or die when he saw the body of a young Palestinian Girl.

  • Sources:
  1. Deleuze, Gilles, and Felix Guattari. Anti-Oedipus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia. 1st ed. Minnesota: University of Minnesota Press, 1987. Print.
  2. Derrida, Jacques, and Elizabeth Rottenberg. Demeure: Fiction and Testimony. Stanford, CA: Stanford UP, 2000. Print.
  3. ————. The Politics of Friendship. 1st ed. London: Verso, 2005. Print.
  4. Freud, Sigmund, and James Strachey. The Standard edition of the complete psychological works of Sigmund Freud . 1st ed. 14. London: Hogarth Press, 1966. Print.
  5. Ghosn, Faten, and Amal Khoury. “Lebanon after the Civil War: Peace or the Illusion of Peace?” Middle East Journal. 65.3 (2011): 381-397. Print.
  6. Khoury, Elias. “The Memory of the City.” Grand Street. 54.Autumn (1995): 137-142. Web. 25 Dec. 2012. <http://www.jstor.org/stable/25007930&gt;.
  7. Westmoreland, Mark. “Catastrophic Subjectivity: Representing Lebanon’s Undead.” Alif: Journal of Comparative Poetics. 30 (2010): 176-2010. Print.

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Against the Cynical Whoring of Lebanon – Protest Today (Feb. 19) at 6 PM

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Tuesday, February 19, 2013 at 6:00 PM. [Click on the image to for more details.]

Even if no vital change is obtained in the immediacy of this protest, the fact remains that any possibility of another world is only viewed from the establishment of difference. A different politics. A different truth. Difference inherently becomes change.

https://www.facebook.com/events/335347499899947/

Divagations and Ravings

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I understand the temptation of rotting at home.

***

Narcissus and Echo – their story can be summed up in the two words of their name. Narcissus can do nothing but fold on himself, in a primacy which nevertheless attracts; Echo can do nothing but repeat this folding, inflected in the end of every utterance by Narcissus. A double folding. A double bind. It collapses them both, and so the story goes because they’re condemned to their name.

To the same extent, as much as “In the beginning the Word already existed. The Word was with God, and the Word was God” then God can only function sovereignly as Narcissus and Echo. In other words, this only shows His anthropocentrism.

***

Compromise is merely a word to disguise gross utilitarianism.

***

Rien, cette écume, vierge vers
A ne désigner que la coupe;
Telle loin se noie une troupe
De sirènes mainte à l’envers.

(Nothing, this foam, this virgin verse
designating the cup, no more;
so plunges far away a corps
of sirens, many in reverse.) [Mallarme.Salut]

***

Our quest for knowledge is curiously insatiable. Our quest for self-knowledge is insane.

***

In cities by the water, the humidity of strangeness glaze your skin. Beirut and New York share this affinity to strangeness. The difference lies in how the former city forbids you from shedding your skin and how the latter makes of it an obligation. Beirut is a city of stagnation and paralysis. New York allows for the willful return of the new. Beirut is an echo of its own strangeness. New York’s echo is only heard outside of it.

***

Longing and ambition promise nothing. Neither do beginnings. If any location is witness to that, it is Beirut, where beginnings are only a means to an end.

Longing and ambition promise nothing. Neither do beginnings. If any location is witness to that it is New York, yet in New York, beginnings are an end in themselves.

***

De-lirium is praiseworthy.

On Snowflakes

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Snowflake

“Occurrence itself – or origin – is ‘communication’, sperm and egg slide into each other in the heart of the sexual storm.” [Bataille. “Games of Chance” – Guilty]

Descartes, in 1635, sketched snowflakes. He observed the Amsterdam snowflakes, sketched them and took notes; to use a pun, he waxed, meditatively. He observes:

These were little plates of ice, very flat, very polished, very transparent, about the thickness of a sheet of rather thick paper…but so perfectly formed in hexagons, and of which the six sides were so straight, and the six angles so equal, that it is impossible for men to make anything so exact.
I only had difficulty to imagine what could have formed and made so exactly symmetrical these six teeth around each grain in the midst of free air and during the agitation of a very strong wind, until I finally considered that this wind had easily been able to carry some of these grains to the bottom or to the top of some cloud, and hold them there, because they were rather small; and that there they were obliged to arrange themselves in such a way that each was surrounded by six others in the same plane, following the ordinary order of nature.

Six years later, Descartes would go on a meditative journey through the inferno of scepticism, questioning that very same order of nature, the perfect form, and the obligation he perceived in the snowflakes. Descartes’ encounter with the snowflakes, however—most probably due to the limited knowledge of the time—, is a missed encounter. Perhaps (and I only say this to compel you to read on) his whole philosophy, his scepticism and his dualism would have been altered if he had noticed the disorder inherent in the formation of every snowflake, the aleotary pregnancy of clouds at freezing points. Perhaps if Descartes “saw” this, he would have renounced God as the soul mediator between him and his fellow man and never penned an ideology of radical doubt. And it is no secret that in secular terms radical doubt becomes hope.

No two snowflakes are alike—Descartes missed this. Humanity’s dire need for explanation often projects purpose on symmetry, an order to disorder, and identity to difference. No two snowflakes are alike, and not because there is a unique order to each one, but precisely the opposite, there is a unique disorder: the temperate disorder of that multiple Mother we call Nature.

Chuck Palahniuk’s Tyler Durden also evades this in Fight Club: “You are not a beautiful or unique snowflake. You’re the same decaying organic matter as everything else.” Palahniuk a la Durden is committed to an adolescent reading of Nietzsche (Nietzsche as the philosopher of angst and teenage nihilism), and his renouncing of the uniqueness of snowflakes-as-identity is only true as a fascist-breeding argument against consumerism (does not Tylder Durden typify the heterogeneous sovereign head of fascism par excellence, commanding a homogeneous army which, through David Fincher’s lens, is follow the neo-Nazi archetype?)

Both René and Chuck miss the point of the snowflake, the former in his assertion that it’s ordered (or intelligently designed), the latter in his belittling of its uniqueness—as if it’s ordered and programmed by the consumer apparatus of late capitalism. “You’re the same decaying organic matter as everything else” (star dust?); yet there’s an aleotary element. A snowflake is only a snowflake due its chaotic journey between cold and colder temperatures, between different levels of pressure, between different wind speeds as it falls and between the different surfaces it lands on. Temperate mother, change me with a gust of wind.

…And how different Noor can be the next time, as I am, as you are…we journey from chance to necessity everyday. The condition of existence are contingent – coexistent.

***

The subway opens its doors.

Noor sits on my lap, he wears a pink wig. The artificial hair reaches his shoulders, his fingers are still stained with paint.

“How do you like my eccentricity, mother?” He laughs. I ignore him. “You wanted me to change didn’t you? Or does this change bother you, father?” He continues.

“How did you art exhibition in Beirut go?” I ask him.

“Well I’m in New York now, so Beirut loved it! They loved me!” He hangs like a monkey on the subways car’s ceiling railing.

“I’m glad to hear that, I’m proud of you.” I have never seen any of his paintings.

“Well of course you are, you created me,” he chuckles, “but Beirut, the people she loves and makes famous, she shits out. We’re the excrement of its society. All our poetry and paintings – we’re the world’s best sewage system. If you’re loved, you’re left. Right out to the Mediterranean…we are not the window, we are the anus and the mouth.”

“Tell me more,” I want to discover.

“About the anus and mouth? Or about my screaming and shitting?”

“About your painting Noor. Try to describe it to me.”

“You always ask for the impossible.”

“And that’s why you should answer!”

“All right then, here’s one I call “Embroiled in Fate””

We reached our destination, and out of the subway station, skidding icy streets, we went. Noor started to speak.

To be continued.
Coming Soon: Embroiled in Fate

“[…] that one necessarily ends up speaking of communication by grasping that communication pulls the rug out from under the object as well as from under the subject (this is what becomes clear at the summit of communication, when there is communication between subject and object of the same type, between two cells, between two individuals).”

“Communication still is, like anguish, to live and to know. The extreme limit of the ‘possible’ assumes laughter, ecstasy, terrified approach towards death; assumes error, nausea, unceasing agitation of the ‘possible’ and the impossible and, to conclude – broken, nevertheless, by degrees, slowly desired – the state of supplication, its absorption into despair. Nothing of what man can know, to this end, could be evaded without degradation, without sin (I think, by taking a more negative view of the situation, the stakes being ultimate, of the worst of disgraces, of desertion: for one who has felt himself to be called once, there is no further reason, further excuse; he can only remain where he is)” (Bataille – “The Torment” from Inner Experience]

800px-Sketch_of_snow_crystal_by_René_Descartes

Sketch of Snow Crystal by Rene Descartes

Preliminary Expressions

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Beirut:

by Youssef Doughan

In the beginning was the word, and the word was with the rhizome and the word was multiplicity.

I have been thinking of Noor for a long period of time. He’d only appear fragmented, as if whatever material created him held the intensive potential of forming only bits and pieces of his body; was my imagination just another abortion? A paternal imagination lacks the maternal components needed for perfection, or at least, completion. It wasn’t until chance whispered the ruinous lyrics that a muse came to my assistance, and Noor presented himself to me completely. I fell to level zero, to a place with no differentiation between a phallic one—author, authority, father —weighed down by the immanence of his pathetic image. He looked old; few strands of grey hair sprung below his bowler hat. His eyes didn’t seem to move together symmetrically. His clean-shaven face revealed the wrinkles a life of toil and work would provide. But his fingers were smudged with an array of colours mixed together; his fingernails were dark as if he had touched the end of the rainbow and caused the collapse and merging of the seven colours. His hand reached out to his glasses and he took them off as if he didn’t need them, as if my imagination was at fault to put them on his face. He threw the glasses away and looked at me with a sense of disbelief and murderous horror. His sharp eyes made it seem as if I’d illegally nailed him to a reality he didn’t wish to be part of, and with a quick sudden movement, he kicked me to the ground and stomped on my body with successive superhuman stamps. But the floor was also a wall.

Noor took me underground and I saw the rhizome.

In the 1970s the power of words exhibited itself like a Shakespearean fool. But like every performance which dares to open up a space for change, its reception was violent.

The Rhizome is the hidden content of every plant. It lies underground and survives fires and fungus and parasitic insects. It connects to everything around it, to the rock and soil, to the roots of vegetation, to the bases of buildings and the ruins of ancient civilizations. It is like a vine, but it does not climb; it simply spreads like the heat of the black sun. One cannot demarcate neither beginning nor end. All of it seems like a massive middle-part, different plateaus connecting to each other like a neural network. It has no centre, and no organization. It is a multitude of labyrinths stringed together; each entrance is an exit, and each exit an entrance. On each gate, Ariadne’s thread becomes a part of Penelope’s web. The Rhizome network flows like the movement of nomads across vast deserts; the mapping of their movement spells out multiplicity; and the multiplicity excludes any possible trace of a victorious one over another.

In the 1970s multiplicity was misunderstood for the dividing line of a bipolar separation. Multiplicity became the opposite of unity. Blood was shed in excess, and the war had the quality of excessive consumption and not of conquest, as if the sun would cease to blaze if the bombs had stopped; the sun, they thought, was the fruit of their bloody madness.

“The sun is black!” Stray dogs howled as they scampered through the rubble of the continuously destroyed city. When rubble had covered the earth like the veil of Maya and nothing was left to destroy, the bombs headed elsewhere. The streets, resting after a period of explosive exhaustion, slowly witnessed a rite of spring in the form of greenery, and the deathly Green Line sprouted; the rhizome expressed itself through the green shrubbery. It grew along the long horizontal street, not longing for the sun or the stars.

Beirut/New York:

Van Gogh would be ever more frustrated today; neither his brush strokes nor his cypress trees would or could satisfy this city. He’d cut off both ears, and all in vain. While arbour forests reach out vertically towards a sky, and the city of yesterday mirrored such growth, the city of today deceives. Don’t be mistaken by the façade of tall buildings: this city is the tain of the mirror; it identifies with difference and expands virulently in all directions like a rhizome. At each point, larval, embryonic, with the potential to trap within it all kinds of manifestations. But the manifest image remains voluptuous like Andres Serrano’s lower lip swelling like the reception of Piss Christ and Tarantino’s hackneyed brilliance: the space of previous products displayed in homage of a past still expanding and mushrooming like a drop of ink in water. The murderers of Guy Ritchie’s London crime sagas infuse it with a comic charm that seduces every observer. And every observer necessarily becomes an actor; and actors sustain the part. Of course, all of us actors know that we would not be seduced if we did not allow it. There is beauty in the hospitality we see in the tain of the mirror, the hospitality of no-reflection. “Be what you want to be,” the city tells me, “on condition that you don’t try to represent me.” So Van Gogh cuts off both of his ears when he looks at the tain of the mirror. 

New York:

The subway station is humid; putrid smell, disgust enters nostrils and fills the pores of the skin. Rats on the tracks squeak, I await the train, thinking of Noor, a link to Beirut I forge out of necessity, but not in any dutiful or obligatory manner. Noor, my being-there without being-there, I supplicate through him, joy and answers to host of unanswerable questions.

My snow boots weigh heavy on my ankles and there’s yet a rime to see. The pouring is liquid still. An accordion starts playing, stray notes, as if experimenting, but only building up. Black coloured nails touch the keyboard on the right, wine coloured nails press the buttons on the left. The sound is slowly congealing, solidifying – outside, there is silence, no passing cars; hail is formulating – and the song gathers itself around these discordant notes.

Recognition. The body behind the accordion moves, dances, swivels. Lux Aeterna causes shivers as it sounds from the accordion, punched by black and wine nails. This experience, the end of all possibility—and at once, solidification, falling snow, ecstasy and communication—and there is nothing; there is no one.

To be continued.
Coming Soon: On Snowflakes

Changes

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There are changes that are bound to happen. To me and to this blog. In light of recent events, I say good morning to the night. There is no time for sleep. To this blog, the name is changing from Non Serviam (I will not serve) to Walk Between This. The tagline is changing from The Ominous Sanctity to Liminal Speech. The Ominous Sanctity is a text I started writing when I was sixteen years of age. Sixteen pages demarcated by wars, burnt tires and a never-stomping heart. A highly personal text; in it I constantly wrote down, deleted and made changes to what I took to be my ‘code’ to life. Except it wasn’t a strict code because I was always willing to change it. It was part of a booklet I distributed (illegally) around that time called The Art of Keeping Cool. How to keep cool in a sectarian and highly religious environment such as the one I lived in back in Beirut. Tareek El Jdeedeh, for those of you who’ve been there or know it.

Now that I’m in New York, and even though I feel a great umbilical connection to Beirut, the change of name is indicative of my change of space and the change I want to see in Beirut. Besides that, personal ‘updates’ and unfortunate events have radically changed a course of my life I was highly committed to (and a part of me still is). This change, abrupt and forced (and to an extent coming out of a necessity I can’t control) comes as a great disappointment. A thin noose of hope still wraps itself around my neck, but I’ve learned not to commit suicide through hope. So now, I walk between this, this change and this hope which I willingly cling to. This is a declaration of sort. A twisted commitment to something which no longer exists; yet at the same time it’s a voyage through new landscapes, and a discovery. Beaten down to the ground with ill-fated news, I make of the ground a door.

I share these words of Bataille; his words are mine, and he is, like Nietzsche, all the names in history:

I’m ashamed of myself. There’s something soft about me, easily swayed…I’m not young anymore.

A few years ago I was tough, filled with bravado, with a take-charge attitude. It seems that’s over with and was shallow, perhaps. Back then there wasn’t that much risk in action and affirmation!

My ability to bounce back seems gone for good: war crushes my hopes (nothing functions outside the political system);

illness is wasting me away;

unrelenting anguish ends up playing havoc with my nerves (I can’t regard this development as weakness);

at a moral level I feel reduced to silence (the summit can’t be asserted–no one can speak in its name).

What counters this is a conscousness that’s sure of itself. If any chance of action exists, I’ll risk it–not as an ancillary risk, but as a risk of my life. Even if I’m older,  sick, and feverish, it’s not in my nature ti simply sit by and do nothing. I can’t keep endlessly accepting this infinitely monstrous sterility which fatigue brings to my life.

(Under the present conditions, the slightest lapse of awareness brings on giddiness. At. 5 A.M. I’m cold, my heart sinks, what is there to do but sleep?)

As for the subeject of life and death: sometimes I bitterly eye the worst, I stake my bet, helplessly slip into horror. I know all is lost. And I know that daw, a potential illuminator, will cast its light on a dead man.

Inside me everything laughs blindly at life. Buoyant like a child: walking through life, carrying it.

I hear the rain falling.

My depressed state, the threats of death, some kind of destructive fear that also shows the way to the summit–all these whirl in me, haunting and choking me…But I am–we are–going to go on.

Bataille.On Nietzsche

B’s words are mine. I consume them with admiration. A cannibalistic necrophiliac. I am saddened. I am ashamed. “But I am–we are–going to go on”.

All texts are warnings as well as declarations. For those awaiting my arrival in Beirut, and for those few that wish I never come back; the reality is that I’m coming, and not silently. I shall come to claim. I shall come defy. I shall come to sway. There is music in my footsteps that I constantly hear, there is a rhythm that spurs from my eyes like lesbian sighs. This agonistic inertia fuels me. I am coming back. I hold myself up high, never as an icon, but as a bull to be slaughtered. Bloody entertainment. Some should be glad. Others should be afraid of my unrelenting presence and my willingness to be stabbed, in the neck, on the back, in the chest. This shall be entertaining. Beirut, I’m coming back to make your pulse run.

Liminal Speech. It is fated that I walk constantly between New York’s grids and Beirut’s rebuilt graveyards. This change is a tribute to this fate which is difficult.

I invite you to search through the previous posts, and in the future, to stay updated.

No Frontiers Gazette – Fall 2012

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No Frontiers Gazette – Fall 2012.

This is the Editorial for the No Frontiers Gazette – Fall 2012. For more articles in the Gazette, follow the link above.

I joined AUB almost four years ago, Obama was getting elected and Lebanon was witnessing sporadic acts of civil unrest. Yet, my first three years at AUB unfolded with no bumps or fuss, they were okay, normal, unexceptional. And for this I think they had an exemplary error embedded in them: the lack of political action, in and out of campus. I was part of a system and glad to be just that, a bystander—as they say— hesitant, and perhaps unwilling to perform a role which now comes naturally to me. In the fourth year, a process of interpellation occurred for which I could not remain passive. I could not allow my identity as an AUB student and as a Lebanese citizen be mimetically associated with the social, cultural and political status quo (and I stress from now that everything is political). Aside from the impersonal history that I know, aside from the impersonal tales I hear, when the presumed-protective law becomes not only tangential, but overlapped with and an extension of corruption over all its circumference, the need arises to cast yourself under the limelight of political action and away from the darkness of abjection. The fourth year at AUB proved vital if for the mere fact of joining No Frontiers, an active AUB-student group whose name will be one of the names of history.

Now I come from a relatively active family, both on the left and on the right. Yet above and beyond that blurry dichotomy, this familial activism rendered me a conscious subject early on, conscious of class, of hypocrisy, of genocide, of discrimination. For a long time, this consciousness drew out a pessimistic notion which convinced me that between dust and dust and ash and ash, only the above mentioned terms exist. Time will not heal a wounded heart, and it will not mend the rift caused by class-difference, rend the human legion of hypocrisy, nor wend humanity’s course away from genocide and discrimination. For a long time, being deaf to the stomping of negative terror, kept their harm at bay. But with age comes the wilderness, and in the wilderness dwell the scarring dust of history. The landscape of dust equates silence with violence, and in the wilderness emerges an ethic to terror, a wild materialism.

No Frontiers is wild materialism in-the-making in a world of terror, you should not only fight fire with fire, but also create concepts which will lead you forward. We fight fire with fire and ice, we fight terror with an ethic of terror and radical democracy – we are diverse and our views are only mimetic of the active members; we heed no outside calls blindly; as a collective, we vote and decide together on what is spoken in our name and written with our signature. I realized through them that everything ought to be a process of becoming (praxis in this case was more influential than philosophical speculation). The sun is getting larger, the moon is drifting further away into outer space and the continents are constantly floating across the globe, yet in the microcosm of Lebanon, we are anchored, immobile, cosmo-illogicaly, fatally, fanatically in place. Your critical insight might sense a utopic element, but in my defense, at least it’s not nostalgia. I realize the no-place of a promised land utopia, yet as Mathew Arnold writes in “The Function of Criticism in the Present Time”: “That promised land it will not be ours to enter, and we shall die in the wilderness: but to have saluted it from afar, is already, perhaps, the best distinction among contemporaries; it will certainly be the best title to esteem with posterity.” I ask of you to consider this chance to salute this ‘promised land’, the prospect of a growing and progressive Lebanon.