رسالة إلى العالم الموازي

أولادي الأعزاء

لا، أنا مش مجنونة ولا بدعي معرفة الغيب. ولا بعرف مين إنتوا أصلاً ولا كيف أشكالكم ولا أسماءكم ولا إن كنتوا موجودين في أي عالم موازي. كل ما في الموضوع إنه عندي شوية كلام حابة أحكيلكم إياه، عشان كل واحد يكون عارف اللي إلو واللي عليه

شوفوا، متل كل الناس بحس عندي خبرات ودروس وقصص كتيرة بدي أورثها للجيل القادم. وطبعاً مين أحسن من اولادك تورثله خبراتك، يعني مش رح تجيب ناس من الشارع تحطهم تحكيلهم قصص كل يوم، ما عندكاش سلطة أبوية عالناس اللي بالشارع، ولا بتعطيهم مصروف. اولادك هم جمهورك الأول، خاصة في سن الطفولة لما يكونوا شايفينك إشي كبير وبطل ونجم وكذا، هاي المرحلة لازم كل أب وأم يستغلوها، قبل ما الطفل يكتشف إنك يا دوب نواة ذرة في الغبار الكوني وتروح عليك.

وإنتوا صحيح تأخرتوا، لكن كل تأخيرة وفيها خيرة، مش بس لأنه الواحد بكسب خبرات أكتر وإنما لأني بصراحة غيرت رأيي بكتير أشياء ولو كنت مبرمجيتكم من خمس ست سنين كان هلأ لازمكم غسيل مخ وفورمات من أول وجديد. شوفوا هو أنا بس أرسى على بر وأبطل أفرمت كل سنة بصير خير إن شاء الله، بس حالياً أنا مش مستعجلة ولا أظن إنتوا مستعجلين

وبصراحة أكتر، مش إني مش مستعجلة، أنا على بلاطة مش فارقة معي إجيتوا أو ما إجيتوا. صدقاً. لا تفهموني غلط، أنا متأكدة إذا إجيتوا رح أحبكم أكتر من أي إشي بالدنيا، هذا شيء مفروغ منه رغم أنف كل النظريات النسوية، اسمحولي يعني فش أم بتولد ابنها بعدين بتقرر تحبه أو لأ. ممكن تكتئب وتكره الدنيا كلها بس هذا لا يعني إنها بتكون بتكره ابنها، هي بس مش قادرة توصل للحب اللي عندها لأنها مش شايفة قدامها. أي نعم هي العلاقة بين الأم والطفل بتبدأ علاقة تطفل والجسم في البداية بحاول يتخلص من الجنين، بس هاد كله بطريقة معقدة يقود إلى الحب الغريزي اللاعقلاني نفسه. بمعنى آخر، علاقتي فيكم حالياً زي علاقتي بالمجدرة. ما بعتبرها طبخة، ولا بتيجي على بالي، وبمتعض شوي بس أسمع اسمها، لكن بمجرد ما آكلها بحسها أزكى إشي في العالم

ومش رح أدعي العمق والحس المرهف وأقعد أقول إني ما بدي أجيبكم على هيك عالم قذر وبشع ومن هالحكي. أبداً. يعني هو من ناحية عالم قذر فهو قذر، ورح يكون أقذر بمراحل في الأغلب على وقتكم إذا استمر الوضع هيك. لكن هاي مشكلتكم صراحة، هاي احنا من وقت ما إجينا على هالدنيا من حرب لحرب ومن نكسة لنكسة، ولا كان عنا سبيس تون ولا بوستات تنظيرية وتوجيهية عالفيسبوك بتعلم الأهالي كيف يربوا اولادهم، وهينا عايشين ويا محلانا. أنا عارفة شو بدك تحكي إنت اللي هناك: “يعني من كتر ما إنتوا جيل ذهبي، ما إنتوا كلكم عقد نفسية”. أشوف شو بده يطلع من جيلكم إنتوا يابو نص لسان. فالمهم، عالم قذر مش قذر دبروا حالكم، أنا أكتر إشي بقدر أساعدكم فيه إني أحاول قدر الإمكان ما أساهم في الاحترار العالمي وما أغسل السيارة بالبربيش وإني أعمل إعادة تدوير. أسلمكم البيت نضيف يعني. أما إني ما أجيبكم عشان خايفة عليكم من هذا العالم البشع فلا، إنتوا مش أحسن من غيركم، ولا ع راسكم ريشة، وبالآخر لازم ييجي حدا يستلم الوردية

السبب الحقيقي إني ممكن ما أجيبكم هو قول الشاعر “إنما أولادنا بيننا أكبادنا تمشي على الأرض”. يعني ليش بدي آخد شقفة من كبدي وأخليها تسرح وتمرح على كيفها وأضل قلقانة فيها؟ وخدلك عاد على الكبدة نزلت عالحارة، الكبدة راحت عالمدرسة، الكبدة راكبة بسكليت بالشارع، الكبدة عملت سناب تشات. وأنا عمري ما ربيت سمكة زينة حتى، ولا نبتة صبار، بحسهم مسؤولية، فما بالك بكبدي؟ هو الواحد لاقي كلاويه بالشارع؟ ولاحظوا إنه الشاعر قال أكبادنا مش قلوبنا مثلاً. احنا العرب أكتر ناس ردينا للكبد اعتباره -أو اعتبارها كونه الكبد مؤنثة على فكرة (هاشتاغ لغتنا الجميلة). حتى بالمسلسلات الكويتية، يا بعد تشبدي ويا بعد تشبدي. برافو علينا صراحة، عملنا إشي صح، ما هو الكبد لا يقل أهمية عن القلب. إذا القلب مضخة البنزين فالكبد هو مصفاة البترول نفسها.الخلاصة إنه عشان تخلف اولاد بدك إيمان قوي كتير عشان ما تضل خايف عليهم، أو سبب قوي عشان تخاطر إنك تفقد صوابك وتربط حياتك بمعلاق ماشي على الأرض.

من ناحية أخرى، مش هاين علي أموت بدون ما أترك جيناتي على الأرض وتطلع في أجيال جديدة، القيمة الرمزية عالية جداً. هلأ نظرية الاختيار الطبيعي ممكن يكون إلها رأي تاني، بس هاد موضوع طويل بده رسالة لحاله. على كل حال، عزائي هو إنه لما الإنسان يموت جسمه بتحلل وجزيئاته بتدخل السلسلة الغذائية وبتتوزع عالكائنات الحية، نباتات وحيوانات وبشر، يعني احتمال يكون فيك جزيء من شكسبير أو ام كلثوم. وهاد بذكرني لما بنت أختي سألتني بحزن ليش بناكل البقر، فقلتلها إنه احنا لما نموت أجسامنا بتتحلل والنباتات بتتغذى عليها والبقر بياكل النباتات، يعني البقر بياكلنا بالآخر وهيك بتكتمل دائرة الحياة. طبعاً أختي بهدلتني كيف أحكي لبنتها هيك كلام، بس برجع بقولكم إذا بصير نصيب وبتيجوا على هذا العالم فاستعدوا تسمعوا كتير من هاد الحكي

بس أحلى إشي بالموضوع إنه إنتوا مالكمش رأي فيه. لكن أنا رح أقولكم من هلأ: إذا جايين متوقعين أمّ من جماعة أبنائي حبي وحياتي وغرامي وانتقامي واقتباسات مع قلوب حب عالفيسبوك، أو جماعة بطعميش اولادي إلا أورجانيك وبعمللهم مهروس اللوز بعصيدة الذرة بالبيت، أو جماعة اللي بتخيط لاولادها ملابس تنكرية عشان مسرحية المدرسة وبتكون رئيسة مجلس الأمهات، إذا كانت هاي توقعاتكم فبقولكم من هلأ روحوا شوفولكم أم غيري. هيكم قاعدين في عالم الأرواح، روحوا دوروا على أبوكم، ممكن يكون في مكتبة، في مسجد، في مظاهرة، في اجتماع مجلس إدارة، أو في مجلس النواب (ما هي يمكن تكون وقعة سودا، حدا عارف شو بستناه؟). روحوا نقوله الأم اللي بتعجبكم، عشان ما تيجو يوم تحكولي: يا ريتك مش أمنا يا ريت فلانة أمنا. لأنه ورب الكعبة إذا كنت متذكرة هاي الرسالة وقدرت أطولها رح أورجيكم إياها وأحطها على عينكم، حتى لو بدكم ترفعوا علي قضية حجر. أساساً على شو بدكم تحجروا؟ هو أنا ما قلتلكم إني مش ناوية أتركلكم أملاك، لا بيوت ولا مصاري بالبنك، برجع بقولكم دبروا حالكم، أنا لسا بدي أقلق فيكم شو بدكم تعملوا بعد ما أموت وتصير عضامي مكاحل؟

وبالآخر هاد كله حكي فاضي طبعاً، فش إشي اسمه تختاروا أم تانية لأنه في هديك الحالة بتصيروا أشخاص تانيين، فهي كتبة، ما في مفر، على افتراض إنكم موجودين في أي عالم موازي طبعاً. فمش رح أخوفكم أكتر من هيك، يعني هو صحيح أنا مش مشروع أم مثالية بس أنا كمان ما بتوقعكم تكونوا أبناء مثاليين، ولا بدي تكونوا مشاريع صغيرة تعوضني عن الأشياء اللي كان نفسي أعملها بحياتي (بس إذا حدا فيكم حابب يصير دكتور مش رح أقول لأ)، ولا بطمح تكونوا جهابذ وشخصيات وطنية عظيمة، أساساً أريحلي تكونوا من الأغبية الصامتة اللي بتمشي من الحيط للحيط. لكن إذا طلعتوا غير هيك مش رح أمنعكم برضه. وصحيح مش ناوية أتركلكم ذهب تحت البلاطة بس ممكن أقدملكم تجارب حياتية قيمة، وعندي قصص كتير. لا تعتبروها دعوة، بس في حال صار وتحولتوا لحقيقة واقعة، بوعدكم ألاقي طريقة أتعايش معكم

A Moment of Joy

There are certain moments that send ripples of joy through your heart, almost  literally. Something so small that it could even go by unnoticed, makes you feel like time has frozen at this very moment, and it’s carved in your mind forever.

One of those moments came dancing at me two days ago.

My sister had gone out with her husband and dropped off her two-and-a-half-month-old baby at our house so Mom – mainly- would take care of her. Mostly, Mom takes care of the vital processes, so to speak, while I get to play with the baby when she’s full and content with a light, clean diaper, and doesn’t feel like sleeping.

Since she hasn’t even turned 3 months old yet, the baby still doesn’t seem to recognize those around her, other than her mother and father probably, and my mother as I noticed once since she’s very involved with her, but for the rest of us we’re those strange creatures who make weird faces and sounds at her whenever they see her. Apparently we’ve grown on her that she has recently started to smile and even give a mute laugh from time to time.

So, I was sitting in my room and I heard her whimper from the living room. I knew she was just bored since she has just gulped down a bottle of milk, so I thought it was time for some baby songs and aunt-niece quality time. So as I walked into the living room,  I started talking to her before she could see me as I was coming from behind her, and the moment she heard the voice she was startled, and when my came into view she gave that look and smile that completely melted my heart: she has recognized me.

I don’t think I’ve ever experienced this with any of my nieces before, the moment of the first recognition, it always just happened over time, and if I ever become a mother I don’t think I’m likely to experience that either. We spent over an hour playing and dancing to baby songs (More like swaying her from right to left to baby songs), and I don’t think I have ever had the patience to spend that amount of time with a baby. I already told my sister I’m adopting her, she already has another two of them, she needs to share.

But let’s go back to the smile.  I was thinking how Qamar, the baby I’ve been rambling about passionately for the past 5 or so paragraphs, smiles right after she wakes up and sees someone looking her. I realized, that’s the purest of all smiles. She’s a baby, she can’t be doing it consciously out of courtesy, she’s doing it because her mind sends her signals that she’s happy, so she smiles to tell you that she’s genuinely happy to see you.

They say that an aunt’s love is still nothing compared to a mother’s love, but I have my doubts about that. I can’t imagine loving anyone more than I love my nieces. I’m even at peace with the idea that I might never have children of my own because, well, I have 3 gorgeous nieces who I’ve held in my arms, fed, burped, clothed, took out for pizza, watched movies with, rode horses with, who drove me crazy at public places, who I shouted at and reproached then felt guilty about it, and whose smiles are the best antidote for a bad mood.

What else could one want?

A New Birth

It’s amazing the things the occasion of birth can make you think about. Hardly able to contain my excitement yesterday, waiting for the birth of my third niece, with everyone in the family in alert mode getting ready for the big arrival, it occurred to me that this is the best birthday one could possibly have, the birthday you weren’t in the least aware of. Everyone so thrilled to see you, to give you a name, to finally see how you look like, rushing around making preparations to welcome you into this world. Up to that point you’ve been a mystery, and on that day you’re the main act, the biggest thing no matter how tiny you are.

Indeed, I can’t imagine a happier occasion than the birth of a new baby. Think about it this way, we consider death the ultimate cause for grief, and funerals the gravest of events. Hence, naturally, welcoming a new life into this world must be the ultimate reason for celebration.

And the I look at the baby, for that’s been my favorite hobby for the past two days, and I think: We’re all born like that, and we’re treated like we’re something extraordinary, and then we grow up and some of us live up to that potential that was trusted to us, while others settle for being another face in the crowd.

And then of course there’s that old hard-to-fathom idea that even Hitler, Stalin, Ariel Sharon and Donald Trump were once this little and cute. Hard to fathom, I told you.

And it seems boring and redundant when you think of the big outlines only, like: We’re born, we’re small, we grow up, we may or may not be so special, we live, and we finally die.  But that’s not it. It’s the little details that make a life. The cooing sounds a baby makes, their first steps, the first time they taste chocolate , first day of school, their first crush, sharing your old memories with them, giving them books to read, watching them grow up and have babies of their own, and all the emotions going up and down throughout that journey. Nothing boring about that if you ask me.

New births, isn’t it awesome that it’s something that happens every day?

 

بينك بانثر

اليوم كنت في زيارة لروضة بنت أختي لحضور احتفال، أو مسابقات، أو أياً كان اسم الفعالية. رجل يقوم بحركات طفولية ساخرة لإضحاك الأطفال، لو شفته بالشارع مستحيل تتخيل إنه شخص بهذا المظهر الرتيب ممكن يركض وينط بهاي الطريقة، وبتشوف شو ممكن يعمل الإنسان عشان لقمة العيش. وواحد تاني لابس بدلة “بينك بانثر” أنا عن نفسي خفت منها واستغربت كيف ولا واحد من الأطفال انصرع وصار يصرخ أو حاول يهرب. والأطفال مبسوطين وبزقفوا وبرقصوا مع البينك بانثر وضحكهم موصل للسما، وهاد أهم إشي

بعد شوي الرجل اللي بقدم الحفلة سأل الأطفال مين بحب يغني. طبعاً مش غريب إنه ولا طفل طلع غنى أغنية إلها دخل بالطفولة زي ما كان الوضع على أيامنا، يعني بدل “ماما وبابا بحبوني” و”أنا إبريق الشاي” مثلاً سمعنا أغاني مثل “إنت معلم” و”إنت باغية واحد”.0

لكن اللي خلاني شبه أتشنج هو طفلة متحمسة طلعت مسكت الميكروفون وصارت تغني “متل الطلقة الروسية، إذا ما قتلتي بتشلي”. سيبك من الطفولة الضائعة، الأغنية هاي عندي مشكلة معها من زمان. الأغنية هاي طلعت في عز الحرب/الأحداث/الثورة في سوريا (ضع دائرة حول المصطلح الذي يناسب توجهك السياسي). كل ما كنت أسمعها بعرس خاصة كانت تيجيني حالة اشمئزاز من المستوى اللي وصلناله فنياً وإنسانياً، تمسحنا بالمرة لدرجة إنه صرنا نتغنى بالرصاص اللي عم بنقتلوا في ناس على أرض الواقع. قلة احترام لدم الشهداء والضحايا اللي انقتلوا وانشلوا بطلقات روسية، في وضع إقليمي حساس وبيغلي أصلاً

البنت الصغيرة صارت تغني “الطلقة الروسية”، وفي بالي نطت صورة أطفال مرعوبين تحت القصف، وأطفال مسحوبين مع الموج، وقدامي أطفال بيضحكوا وبزقفوا، وفكرة وحدة: إنه هاد الإشي اللي المفروض أطفال بهالعمر يكونوا بيعملوه. وفجأة بتصيبك حالة انفصام، ورهاب من إنك تفتح الفيسبوك أو تويتر عشان ما تشوف الصورة السودا الكبيرة، وبتقرر للحظة تسكر كل حساباتك وتنقطع عن العالم الخارجي لأنه الصورة المصغرة أحلى بكتير، الصورة الصغيرة فيها أطفال ماسكين سطولة وبركضوا عشان يلموا فيها طابات، ونمر وردي عملاق بالنص، أما الصورة الكبيرة ففيها أطفال بركضوا عشان يهربوا من سطولة ضخمة نازلة من السما، وأسد مش وردي بتفرج من بعيد، وفجأة بدون سابق إنذار بشتغل صوت شاعر في راسك: “أدري بأنك لا تخاف الطفل حياً… إنما أدعوك صدقاً.. أن تخاف من الصغار الميتين”0

*** هذا البوست عبارة عن تخبط محض، سامحونا عالركاكة

Monkeys See, Monkeys Do

It was a few days ago, in a small dusty stationary shop, when I stumbled upon what I considered to be a treasure, a blast from the past: the children stories I grew up with and were some of my first reading experiences and a gateway into the world of books and literature.

stories

As it turned out, many people were just as excited about them as I was, or even more so, although I must say for those unfamiliar with the said illustrated stories, the reaction may seem a bit over the top. In our defense, though, they would look much more appealing if you were a kid in 1992.

So I decided to get some of those stories and experiment with them on my 8 and 5 year-old nieces – whenever I could get them off their tablets that is-. To my mild surprise and despite the not-very-flattering illustrations, they seemed quite interested. However, there was a little problem.

You see, it’s different when you read a story from the 1990’s after you’ve developed some critical thinking skills. You start reading the story to the kids and then your mind goes into panic mode and you’re completely horrified at the crap you’re pouring into their minds right now.

Let me give you an example.

We read a story called “In the circus”. That particular story seemed to caught the eye of both my nieces, how not so when it has a monkey balancing on a rope and bouncing a colorful ball over his head? It’s a daydream materializing into a 2-D drawing.Yet, the title of the story was a bit misleading, so to speak. If they called it “How to be a good monkey who suffers silently” well, that would be more like it.

The story revolves about a little monkey who works at the circus, and who one day decided he’s had too much and decided to run away from the circus because the trainer works him and his brother too hard. He suggests the idea to this brothers who refuse to join him so he carries on with his plan alone. Long story short, the little monkey escapes, gets into trouble, and finally goes back to the circus with his trainer, ashamed of what he’s done and promising not to do it again. And it gets better, and by better I mean worse of course, for guess what was the monkey’s name? “Nimrod”, which is a famous name in Islamic and Biblical literature, the name of the tyrant who threw Abraham – Peace be upon him- in the fire. In popular culture, the name became synonymous with mischievous, rogue and unruly behavior. In other words, that monkey was a no-good maverick who didn’t know any better.

As soon as I finished reading it I turned to my 8 year-old niece and asked her what she would do if she was in the monkey’s place, would she run away or stay in the circus, to which she immediately replied that she would stay. Naturally, I told her that I would leave, because that trainer had no right to torture that little monkey and because monkeys should live freely in the open wilderness where they could feed on bananas and swing on trees. To be fair, I told her the monkey’s only mistake was that he broke into someone’s house and ransacked it.

But that’s just one story and one kid. What about all the kids who have read this story and others? Don’t underestimate the power of the subconscious mind and all the ideas instilled in it. Don’t you dare resist. Don’t you dare revolt against oppression, and don’t you dare find a better life for yourself.

I’m not questioning the intentions of the people who wrote and illustrated those stories. I’m almost sure they did it with the best intentions at heart, but after all there are many ideas that are deep-rooted in the collective mindset of society and those are bound to display themselves in our literature. Take another example:

raven

Here, the raven is being described as “ugly with its hideous black feathers”. It’s not strange at all given this is coming from people who live in a society obsessed with whiteness and who associate fair complexion with beauty. And it’s not only this story, I’ve read other stories from our folklore with some less than subtle comparisons between the pretty white princess and the sinister, ugly, black slave. I guess this is a universal problem, white supremacy is global plague, but it becomes alarming when you see that in the 21st century, it is still being nurtured and instilled in our children.

All in all, there is no way to protect your children from all the poisoned ideas that will be pitched at them whether on the street, at school or through the media. The best thing you can do is to try and help them develop the power of critical thinking to be able to think for themselves from an early age and bust any rotten idea before it seeps into their minds and take part in shaping the way they see the world.

أثر الحمص

اليوم، على غير العادة وأيام الجمعة، ما كان عندي شغل. وطبعاً كما هو القانون الكوني لما تكون فاضي ببطل جاي عبالك تعمل إشي من الأشياء اللي نفسك تعملها وإنت مليان… وإنت مشغول. وفي خضم هذه الحالة قررت إني أروح مع بنات أختي على حصة السباحة تبعتهم أشوفهم وهم بسبحوا وأضحك شوي.

المهم، رحنا على الحصة وانبسطنا وخلصنا الحصة وروحنا. واحنا بالطريق وقفنا نجيب أشياء، خبز وحمص بالتحديد عشان الفطور،  مع العلم إنه من أكبر الأخطاء في رمضان تفوت على مخبز وإنت صايم، لأنه روائح الخبز حتى لو كنت متخوم وعندك أميبا بالأمعاء ومتصاوب برصاصة في المعدة رح تخليك بدك تشتري المخبز باللي فيه، بس الله ستر المخبز كانت ريحته غاز لسبب ما. بلا طول سيرة،  تركت أختي في المخبز وأخذت البنات على محل الحمص اللي جنبه. طلبنا صحن حمص ورحنا وقفنا عند الموظف المختص بتعبئة صحون الحمص. حقيقة الموظف كان مبين عليه مش طايق خياله، متجهم ومكفهر الوجه وهذا شيء مفهوم طبعاً نظراً للوضع الإقليمي. المهم، تناول الحمصاني الصحن وحط فيه كمية لا بأس بها من الحمص وصار يدوره ويلفه ويتفنن فيه، وبنات أختي واقفين براقبوا بفضول الأطفال، فمن باب كسر الصمت اللي عادة بكون awkward  بين الغرباء قلتلهم: شوفوا كيف عم بعمل صحن الحمص. فطبعاً، قامت جنى حكتلي: بدي أصير أعمل متله بس أكبر. فعدت كلامها من وراها عشان الحمصاني يسمع، وقلتلها اه ليش لأ، قام الحمصاني ابتسم لأول مرة منذ دخولنا وصار يحكيلها: “حنشغلك هنا عندنا… تاكلي حمص طول النهار… وكمان  نص ساعة حننزل الشاورما…” واندمج في الحديث معهم، وفجأة تحول لإنسان آخر، وخلص وأعطانا الصحن وهو مبتسم ومنشكح وكمل مع الزباين التانيين بنفس الروح وصار يحكي بصوت عالي، والمحل اللي كان قبل 5 دقائق ميت فجأة صار فيه حياة

طلعت من المحل وأنا بفكر كيف حوار مع بنتين صغار قلب مزاج هاد الشخص 180 درجة، وبما إنه كل إشي مرتبط ببعضه ممكن هالدقيقتين هدول يكون إلهم تأثير إيجابي على أشياء أبعد، بنظرية أثر الفراشة، أو أثر الحمص في هاي الحالة

تذكرت إشي مرة حكتلي إياه صاحبتي، كان عندها مشاكل وكانت بمزاج سيىئ، وكانت طالعة تزور ستها وبدها تاخدلها معها إشي حلو، فدخلت على محل ولما أخدت طلبها وإجت تطلع ولا هو الموظف بقولها: استني… وراح جاب إشي، شَبَر أو إشي من أشياء الزينة، وعملها على شكل وردة وحطلها إياها فوق العلبة. حكتلي القصة وعادتها مرة تانية بعد سنوات، لهلأ الموقف معلق بذاكرتها وكيف إنه قلبلها كل مودها

اللي بدي أحكيه فكرة مبتذلة ومكررة ومعلوكة لمهلوكة بس مهمة كتير: كل إنسان بخوض معركته الخاصة في حياته، كل حدا عنده همومه ومشاكله الخاصة، حاول تترك أثر لطيف على نفس أي شخص بتقابله حتى لو ما عرفت اسمه وعالأرجح مش رح تشوفه طول حياتك، أو إذا مش قادر تكون لطيف لا تنكد عليه، لأنه زي ما المسبة بتلف بتلف وبترجع لصاحبها، النكد كمان لو يلف الأرض برجع لصاحبه، والكلمة الطيبة نفس الإشي

 في إشي اسمه زكاة نعم، يعني إذا عندك نعمة تعطي من جنسها، فإذا كان ربنا منعم عليك بالسعادة (حتى لو ما كانت كاملة) فلما تنقل جزء من سعادتك لشخص ىخر بتكون شكرت النعمة وزكيتها

رمضان  مبارك وسعيد عالجميع

A Haunting Image

Today, watching the news. A report about children deaths in Gaza. A family lost 4 children while playing on the beach. Another family lost 3 children while playing on the roof of their house.

Could this be a nightmare?

And then there was that image.

People huddled around a hospital bed on which another child was receiving medical treatment, or perhaps was being announced dead. By the bedside stood a man holding a little girl, couldn’t be more than 2 or 3 years old, her face was smeared with blood, dotted with wounds. Her expression drooped with cluelessness. Her head swayed back and forth, her eyes were closing as if she couldn’t stay awake any longer. Was it pain or was it exhaustion? Or was she too exhausted from the pain?

Cut to the next scene. More dead children.

Perhaps she went to sleep. Perhaps she didn’t.

The Most Beautiful Girl in the World

So today at the gym there was this really beautiful baby, apparently she was the daughter or niece of one of the trainers there, and she kept moving from hand to hand, and it wasn’t only her cute face, big green eyes or lush black her, I realized as I passed by her on my way out that it was the way she smiled back at anyone who smiled at her, with such excitement and happiness as if she couldn’t believe someone is actually smiling at her, although everyone did and so much more. Actually, if smiles were earthquake this would be 7 or 8 at least on Richter’s scale.

But then my thoughts took another direction. Seeing such a beautiful baby, I thought of the women I know who, while pregnant with girls, prayed to God that they would be beautiful, and the insensitive comments from those around them when the girls didn’t turn out as beautiful as they hoped. Actually there’s an old joke people say when a baby girl is not considered beautiful enough, or even ugly (although I don’t believe there are ugly kids), and that is her parents should save money so that when she grows up they would pay it to a man in order to marry her. So, I asked myself: Why is it important for a parent to have beautiful girls?

First, let me say this: As a parent, your main concern should not be to have a beautiful girl whose looks would make people swoon whenever she walked by, or land a rich husband at an early age later in her life. As a parent, your main concern should be to raise your daughter to be strong enough to face this world and this society where being a woman is a challenge in itself. Your duty as a parent is to teach your girl that her looks will only take her so far; because it’s something she didn’t earn but rather inherited, a privilege with which she was endowed with no effort on her part. Your job is help her build up her self-confidence independently from how she looks, to teach her how to be deserving of admiration and respect because of what she’s like, not what she looks like.

As a parent, your main concern must be protecting your daughter, and part of that is understanding and making her understand that beauty often attracts the wrong kind of men, and to make sure she knows she’s not a doll or a Barbie, and that she doesn’t have to look like one for anyone’s satisfaction, because a real man wouldn’t compare her to some plastic-looking singer on TV or some anorexic cover girl, that a real man would see through to her real beauty before seeing the skin-deep one, and that her image in his eyes would actually be a reflection of her soul.

As I write this I can’t help but remember a small funny incident. A few months back my little niece, Jana, came to me while I was working and started blabbering – or continued blabbering as she lives in a constant state of blabbering- then she paused for a moment, and then said with a look I still don’t quite understand: “I’m the prettiest girl in the world”. I’m not sure what put it in her head, all I know is that once she said that my job as her aunt and her parents’ job is to make sure she keeps on believing that she is the most beautiful girl in the world, perhaps not in the sense she meant as a 3 year-old, but in a rather in a different way, one that is not related to anything she can see in a mirror.

 

The Beauty Effect

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I guess we’ve all seen this picture by now. Chances are you  saw it, stared at it for a few moments with a silly smile, felt a tinge of sadness when you realized it’s a Syrian refugee (or so claimed the pages I came across), and then went back and looked at it again later on.

Now, there’s no denying the amount of pure beauty in that picture, and it’s not only the smile, the innocence or  the hope. It’s the  the eyes, the complexion, certainly not a face you see every day, so it’s quite understanble why it would get so much attention. Still, I couldn’t help but think: why should this picture be more moving than a picture of any given Syrian refugee, even those who look less hopeful and more famished?

I’ve always believed that humans are naturally shallow creatures. Of course, some people are less shallow than others because this is something you acquire through maturity and experience as you grow up and learn the real value of things and people. But no matter how deep one could be, beauty can have its spell-bounding effect on the human brain. I remember this study where they found out that men can’t think properly in the presence of a beautiful woman. Well, there’s a cave man inside every man, perhaps it’s the same with women, but obviously women are generally less visual than men.

But this is scary. To think that we could base our opinion of people or how much we are willing to sympathize with them on the way they look and how that affects our mental function. It takes some conscious effort but that conscious effort takes some conscious effort too.

Yesterday for example I was with my cousins in the mall. We were in the playing area as my cousin’s 2.5 year-old daughter was playing. Now, she is a truly adorable child, she looks like east-Asian kids, who are the cutest in my humble opinion. I was looking at her play when she was approached by another little girl. I always say that no kid is ugly, but when I looked at this girl I was ashamed of myself because the first thing that came to my mind was that she was. I shook the idea off immediately with that conscious effort I was talking about. I tried to look at that little girl for the little girl she is, who couldn’t care less for what she sees in the mirror, and it’s amazing how that changed everything. Now I was looking at  a little beautiful creature and smiling.

And then I thought: what if I had kids who weren’t exactly cute? Actually, I found that I couldn’t even think of that because I’ve always imagined that, if they should ever materialize, my kids would be quite adorable. I couldn’t even think of having kids who are anything but a sight for the sore eye. For some reason I’ve always imagined that if I had a girl she would have a petite frame with long, black curly hair, small delicate features, and, perhaps, big almond shaped eyes. Now I think, what if I had a girl who wasn’t beautiful at all according to normal shallow standards, would that affect how I feel about her or would it make me more protective of her, fearing that she would grow up feeling insecure about her looks and being hurt by others because of that?

Well, we can’t help the effect appearances leave on us I guess, but we can try to control it, for our own good. It takes some effort, a lot of maturity and wisdom to be able to see the beauty that hides beneath the surface, the one more time-resistant. I just hope this little’s girl angelic face won’t prove to be a curse in disguise for her, because beauty has a history of bringing out not only the best in human beings, but also the worst.

بيتهم – Their Home

Some of the best times in my life are those one-on-one’s with my nieces.  As I’ve mentioned before, children could be a great source of knowledge, driving you to discover things about yourself, the world and teaching you a lesson or two, just like the lesson on courage I learned firsthand today when I took my niece to the theme park. Not being very courageous when it comes to theme park rides, I learned today how you can derive that courage from your children as I looked at her screaming happily as that ride went up and around in the air.

But from time to time, you have to be the one giving the lessons. And it’s not an easy task if you ask me especially when you’re standing face to face with that notorious “WHY?” and you really don’t know, or at least don’t know how to put it. And I was faced with something of the sort today when we came home and my niece went digging around for something to keep her busy.

Slightly below her eye-level she spotted a large, appealing book. It was “Palestine: The Exodus and the Odyssey” by  Tamam Al-Akhal and the late Ismail Shammout. It’s one of my favorite books, and it’s especially close to my heart that it’s signed by both of them,  on the same year Ismail passed away, and I’ve dedicated a part of this blog for this book few years ago.

So, Ghazal, my 4 year-old niece, grabbed the book thinking it’s a story and told me to read it to her.  We sat down with the large book on our laps, and as soon as we open it one of Ismail’s paintings came into view. It was “THE SPRING THAT WAS” and it showed Palestinian men and women in the fields, collecting oranges. Naturally, she asked me what the was and I told her those are Palestinians collecting oranges, and I reminded her or Handala which was a subject of a prior discussion.  As we flipped through the pages we were staring at another, less pleasant painting, “TO THE UNKONWN”, which showed Palestinians being driven out of their ancestral homes in Lydda at gunpoint.  Ghazal was confused, a look of dismay on her face. She asked me what that was about so I told her that this is where Palestinians were kicked out of their homes. As we turned the pages the horrifying scenes kept coming in. Ghazal was desperately trying to find any sign of these people returning to their home, or “Bait-hom” as shereferred to it. “That’s bait-hom”, she would point at a certain picture and say that hoping that I’d agree and tell her that they were back, but I couldn’t. She looked really concerned for them, asking why they looked so sad and beaten up, expressing her compassion with the word “Haraam” (poor things) repeatedly.

And then came the question I couldn’t answer, or maybe I was afraid to. She asked: “How will they go back to their homes?” I paused for a few moments, then said: “They have to kick the Israelis out and reclaim their homes”.

Then we reached a painting by Tamam Al-Akhal called “JAFFA- BRIDE OF THE SEA”. There were people swimming, others collecting oranges, people in boats, beautiful houses, among other things. Ghazal brightened up when she saw it and said with confidence that this was their home, they are back at last. I couldn’t burst her bubble; I told her it was true. They were back.

What else can you say?