going inwards to find it~ Jade Buddha Temple~ Shanghai
We might declare our allegiance to a religion or to a non-religion, but either way, there will be moments in our lives when we just feel the need to close our eyes, turn inwards and try desperately to connect to something bigger, greater and more knowing than we are. No matter how amazing and above it all we feel and think we are, the fragility of our very mortality will at some point in our lives humble us to the greatness of what caused us to be in the first place, regardless of what we may call it.
Symbols of the two major religions stand side by side in downtown Beirut
Part of working on a current project about Lebanon, I was caused to rediscover my home country. So during a period of 4 weeks, I travelled the small country from North to South and East to West and I managed to fall passionately in love with it all over again.
Passion lives in Lebanon, it lives in its people, in its rich history, in its food, its music, its villages, its cities and even in its politics.
I call Lebanon an enigma because it absolutely makes no sense. Why would you love a country that is always on the verge of war, where the politicians are mostly corrupt, where electricity is still a part time luxury, where the citizens litter on a daily basis, where people think me first, me last, me, me, me…
I love it because there is something else there that is much deeper than all of the shortcomings that plague Lebanon.
Lebanon is breathtaking landscape. Lebanon is passionate people. Lebanon is deep religious beliefs. Lebanon is unparalleled generosity and hospitality. Lebanon is strong family values despite the recent breakdowns in family structure. Lebanon is so special that I know no one who visited it and did not fall in love with it and dream of going back.
I was sometimes standing in random places, on a shop counter, a fishing boat, a street at night, with an old man selling gardenias, with a child in an alley; and I felt this strong sense of bliss and was surprised to feel a very wide smile on my face that spread happiness down to my very core. And then to look over to the person in front of me each time and see that same smile on their face right there, for no special reason, just the peace that comes with existing, with living, with feeling passion.
I will be dedicating my blog to Lebanon for the next few weeks. It deserves no less.
Statue of the martyrs in downtown Beirut, still filled with bullet holes from recent clashes
Huge smile always on the ready, willingness, brightness, intelligence are a few of the qualities that emanate from Chab Chamreoun, also know as “James Brown” around the Cambodian Children’s Painting Project.
He was studying for 8 years at a wat (Cambodian Temple) near Sihanoukville. There he studied and received a degree in social work. Despite coming from a very poor background, he has hopes to continue and do his masters. ” My dream was to become an engineer, he told me, but I ended up only becoming a teacher”. He obviously loves what he does despite not becoming an engineer.
He was hired by the CCPP and is a figure of inspiration for the 160 children registered there.
I was so lucky to be able to visit some children’s homes today on the back of the motorcycle of Chamereoun. There we were on his motorbike with 10 year old Syvaren squeezed between us as we went to visit his family.
You are so lucky to meet one or two inspiring people in your life, but on this adventure “by art we live” I am meeting so many.
So many more stories to tell…
First photo is of Chamreoun, second photo is on the bike ride and the last photo is with Syvaren, his sisters and grandmother.
After going through the wide range of emotions that places like the killing fields and S1 genocide museum cause, it was so delightful to see the other side of Cambodia’s history.
The royal palace and the national museum, so much peace, so much beauty, so much spirituality, so much yellow and gold, so much silver and gold and so much hope in the good things that human can do.
There is such a strong sense of seeking the divine, of utter reverence to the higher unseen forces that manifests itself in the marvelous architecture, the utter care in the colors, numerology, and esoteric masonry.
These are the things that make you fall in love with Cambodia and the Khmers and make you always want to come back.