This post is in honor of George Kheir, my departed young brother, a wonderfully warm, humorous, bursting with life and generous man who left a kind and beautiful family behind. May his soul rest in peace and go to where it was destined to be.
They come and they go, the are born, they grow, they get old, they die, some say they are reborn, to live again, to age again and to die again. This begs the most obvious and age old question: “why are we here?”
River salmon has a very strange life pattern. It hatches upstream, swims downstream towards the ocean, matures downstream and then swims back upstream against all odds and strong currents, struggling and even jumping up waterfalls to make it back to the place where its life originated and eventually die there. I wonder if that’s the amount of superhuman effort needed for us to live our lives as they were meant to be lived, against all what tries to drag us downstream towards the oceans of mediocracy. To live a life aligned to human purpose would mean going against so much in order to escape being just another one amongst the lost.
Sometimes the now, the moment, the present, must take precedence over the old, the past, the gone…
We were at the valley of the Nobles, an area of stone cut tombs dedicated to the nobles and high officials of ancient Egypt on the west bank of the Nile, and near the entrance to the tombs, my attention was caught by wave of color and giggles. A group of children in bright colored clothing were trying to get my attention to sell me rag dolls that they fashion in their image. I saw their faces, began to speak to them in Arabic and I was suddenly utterly charmed by their effervescence and the tombs were forgotten. Life was calling and it demanded my attention. They took my hand and led me to their tiny one room houses, one house after the other, introducing me to their parents, laughing and running around me and the whole time singing a song that they made up on the spot about my name. It was a precious happening for me and one that I will carry with me forever. At that moment, I followed my heart and decided that playtime with the living is way more important than seeing the old tombs of the dead.
I have been writing in this series about the wonderful history, the enchanting memories, the great mysteries that live in my home country, but it would be an incomplete story if I were to skip the part of history that has printed itself on my soul the most, the life changing part.
I will start the story at the end of it. I remember moving to New York after I finished my university studies and after arriving in the buzzing metropolis that I was unable to sleep, not because it was too noisy, but because it was too quiet. The last years I spent in my beautiful Lebanon were filled with noises of war, with the shrill cries of bullets, of bombs, and with the ugly smell of death. Experiences like these print deep in you, they do not just fade away, the are always there under the surface threatening to haunt you. My reaction to those memories and experiences is the same as all Lebanese people, you run away from it if you can (which I did), and you love life even more. I do love life more after living the long years of war, I value it so much more and every morning is a new burst of inspiration and a phoenix of a new and fresh start.
The Lebanese recent war started in 1975 and only ended in 1991.
At the end of summer so many little funerals are held in the great church that is nature. Flowers die, leaves wear their ceremonial dress of color as they sway gently to face their inevitable end, grains are harvested and their stems left to dry and return to the earth. So yes, “everything returns to the source of its arising” and so will each one of us one day. But there is a glory in this cycle of life and death, of flowering and withering, of fulfilling a purpose and then gracefully passing the baton to another. Flowers blossom again, trees grow new leaves, all is renewed and if we are lucky and if we have done well then perhaps so are we.
Dwelling on the mysteries of life that never cease to flirt with my mind and my soul.
Someone once said: “you are born alone, and you die alone”
True words that cannot be argued. We arrive here alone, fragile, bewildered. We depend on our parents our caregivers to help us get through the first years, we search for companions along the journey to take away our loneliness and in the very end we face the unknown completely alone. No one can hold our hand then after the departure gate. Knowing that makes me value the people who have a place in my life so much more…
photo: a lone flower at castle Gibralfaro, Malaga, Spain