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samedi 22 juillet 2017,
Jean Marie Kassab
jeudi 06 juillet 2017,
Jean Marie Kassab
dimanche 11 juin 2017,
Jean Marie Kassab
dimanche 20 novembre 2016,
vendredi 28 octobre 2016,

Does  it ever occur to you  that  sometimes you  are not yourself anymore ? That your world is falling apart and can do nothing about it ?  That for some moment you are a stranger  even to your own self. As if an evil spirit has squatted your brain , and morphed into your own soul . That people are talking to you as if you were somebody else. Somebody that you are not. But you know deep inside that they could be right just because they are judging you on your deeds and words. And your deeds and words became so foolish.

Then you run and you look into the mirror under the light of a bulb and you don’t even recognize yourself . All you see  is a wreck , with a few artifacts left of your real self. And these artifacts are the only connection with your old self  and they  scream silently that you are acting wrong and keeping on doing it but cannot change a thing? 

That even when you speak, it is like somebody else is in charge and you don’t believe what you are saying and worse,  you don’t event recognize your own voice. 

And then you try to stop it, to force yourself  back into your own skin and desperately struggle to get your life back, but it doesn’t work. And you push and push , and keep on it hitting that high wall surrounding you . And you hurt and things get worse and drag you down in that quicksand until you choke. 

Then  you hear a knock on your door, toc toc toc , but your mind is somewhere else and you curse and curse:  “ who the heck is that?  leave me alone”. And you open the door ajar,  stick your nose a bit out just to check who could that be. You know very well that you have no friend left, and that it only can be the mailman or somebody who  punched the wrong button of the elevator and actually wants your neighbor from down below. 

But you get it wide open when you see the smile on that beautiful face in front of you. And that person comes in and talks to you. Maybe your only friend left, but actually your only real friend. And that person touches your hand, and you feel the love, then something  strange happens  , some energy that seeps into your arteries, and you look at your hand and you know it is yours and that you missed it. Then he crosses the floor, opens the shades, and the light floods the room . And you have coffee, and it tastes suddenly great again. And you keep on talking, silly talk, small talk,   but so good , so  rejuvenating.

Then you make more coffee, and the sun goes down  and the night crawls in but you don’t care . All you care about is to go on with the chitchat, and the memories, about  who you are  . No mention of the dark days. No chastising, no sermons. No tears.  Only good old days. Good years past. And your muscles tone up and your brain resets. And you switch to beer, and then a snack and the laughs go on. And the beer sends you to the bathroom. And you turn on the same old bulb and stand in front of the same mirror, and you see you soul again. You smile and your soul smiles back . And you run back to shout your joy, but there is nobody there, and the apartment is empty. And you wonder but there is no answer. But you get selfish and you don’t care. You got your soul back. You got your life back. You will handle the rest later on. You puff a smoke , and sleep wins over. You throw yourself on your bed trying to catch up with the sleepless nights and you dream of angels. 

Some call them angels, others call them friends. Soul mates, is their real name and that’s what they truly are . Some come and go , some stay. It doesn’t matter. When you truly needs them they knock at your door. Toc toc toc.  

Jean-Marie Kassab

"Inside us there is something that has no name, that something is what we are" . José Saramago

A quote of this 1998 Nobel prize winner that makes  the commoner  read it and say, “ I already knew that” and the wiser one wonder for  hours and ink pages after pages while going over it .

We all come to life, get a name , live and grow up. Some live long while others don’t.  Some go to school or maybe not, some become doctors, lawyers, farmers or soldiers or maybe not . A few become leaders while others follow. Some succeed,  other don’t, but we all get to do something, even those who just lie under a tree and wait for the fruits to fall down. 

We all age, change,  suffer the years, get wrinkles and die. But “that something that has no name” , that something that we are,  never changes , and rain or shine we remain what we are from the  day we are born till the day we die.  

 

 
 
Jean-Marie Kassab

 

When George Orwell wrote his famous “1984” he did not anticipate two things. He would have never dreamed that this dystopia in particular would become an iconic piece of science fiction. He also never ever thought that his book would philosophically inspire the actual Arab leaders in their political stances in view of the evolving situation. 

 The current crisis that is unraveling the Middle East, tearing countries apart, killing people by the thousands, has its roots well ingrained in recent history, mainly in the twentieth century, or even further away in the distant past.  Hopping back and forth in time could also be useful to explain some of the contemporary events. 

The area is obviously rich in history. It harbors after all  many of the cradles of civilization and is the nest of the three Godly religions. Supposedly cousins in terms of worshipping the same god, Christians , Muslims and Jews have had a harsh relationship throughout their existence.   Jews claim rights as old as two millennia. The Holocaust, world war II and its subsequent Yalta agreement propelled these assertions and somehow triggered the creation of the state of Israel in 1948.  However and as demonstrated by Arnold Toynbee , the gray parts  of this  agreement  signed by the winners of the war while having a drink and a smoke while looking the Black Sea left questions about the middle-east unanswered. In the words of Toynbee, this gap created a power vacuum that the Soviet Union and the United States tried to fill in  through their proxies. The USSR standing on the side of Arabs, and the USA unequivocally championing Israel. 

 “What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun says the wise man “[Ecclesiastes 1:9]. 

It always was about control, power, money and religion hasn’t it? 

The demise of the USSR in 1989, so well-illustrated by the fall of the Berlin wall was supposed to have an impact on the region. It did not. Hatred and the pursue of regional interests were too strong to stop and their momentum too intense to vanish easily.  

Just to mention a few: The Iraqi-Iranian unending war and mutual slaughter, the invasion of Kuwait and the subsequent two Iraqi wars resulting in the ousting of Saddam and the horrific collapse of Iraq.  In parallel and since 1975 till this moment  , the Lebanese wars , the multiple invasions of this tiny country,  and it’s never ending crises. 

It also is obvious that many more contemporary factors were added over  and above the previously existing ones to form a disgraceful  stack  of problems all stained with horror, massacres and tremendously adding to the complexity of the picture.

The Shiite Sunni feud, thought to be well contained after circa fourteen hundred years of the killing of Imam Al Hussein at the battle of Karbala, was suddenly reignited by the imperial ambitions of Iran and eventually the Sunni abuse of Shiite populated countries such as Iraq and Syria, each one from a perspective, provided we agree that Alawites are next of kin to Shiites. In both cases, even if opposite,  minorities , when  in power  abuse  majorities and this  is  recipe for  trouble .

 The use of the adjective “imperial” is not coincidental despite the fact that Shiite Iran  calls itself a republic . All countries pride themselves of their curriculum, but Iranians of all allegiances, both Ayatollahs and Shahs, take pride of the antique accomplishments of Cyrus  the Great and Xerxes.   After all , and in line  with this  nostalgia  , Mohamed Reza Pahlavi celebrated in 1971  the 2500 birthday of the Persian empire at ancient Persepolis , with a great deal of extravaganza  ,  and not in  the capital , Teheran just to underline the extensive history of his homeland. 

Saudis who obviously are adamant to deter by all means the Iranian ambitions surprised everybody when they readily used military force to overcome the problem  they have with the Iran backed Houthis in Yemen. A somehow unexpected and unusual trend for the Saudis who traditionally try to solve their problems the cash way, while leaving the nasty jobs for the rest of the people. Among the deluge of reports concerning this conflict per se stands out a single string of information mentioning the presence of Iranian ballistic missiles in Yemen. The presence of these missiles somehow justifies the Saudi rage and the pre-emptive retaliation to this threat. This eventually  explains why the  US helped so much in terms of target identification , and the data that was generously  delivered to the  Saudi air force  despite the parallel talks the US is having with the Iranian about their nuclear program  . If helping the Houthis in controlling Yemen is one thing,  targeting the Saudi oil fields and the water passageways is a  different  problem   and of a more dangerous magnitude. Speculating that this is only a tactical move by the Iranians  to provoke the Saudis in order to create a conflict in the area that would normally lift the price of oil and subsequently fill up their  empty cash registers would be a smart guess. 

In the same line of thought, but time ago Yemen was used as a mail box for an older feud between Nasser and the Saudis over the control of the Arab world. A swamp called Yemen that phagocytized most of the Egyptian troops, and left Nasser as an easy prey for the Israelis  in the June war of 1967.

Knowing that over a third of the world’s petroleum traded by sea passes through the region , this blend of primal  religious hatred, economical interests and thirst for control could be  about to explode. 

Coming back to the more recent causes of the present conflict comes in the famous Arab spring, whose name is inspired from the originator: Prague’s spring. However, contemporary  story tellers forget that this same poetic denomination ended with the crush of the Czech resistance under the  Soviet tanks  . As in everything, it always is a matter of perspective: For some,  the Arab spring worked , for others it did not, with of  course  the hues and nuances that come with such an  assessment . Gadhafi’s removal turned Libya into a gross country.  Maybe Tunisia got the best outcome so far.  Egyptians went through this process as well, threw away Mobarak, then hastily replaced him with a supposedly secular and more open Mursi, provided he intends to remain as such. Bashar Assad when inaugurated , promised reforms and liberties, some of  which were done in order to provide the necessary cosmetics for popularity, then turned in a gif into a fiercer and shrewder  dictator  than  his father and  is systematically destroying  his country and people. Again Alawites against Sunnis, notwithstanding the crucial  alliance with Iran who is willing to impose its control over this region,  and intends to fight to  the last Syrian and Lebanese . 

Nonetheless  the  juicy  leitmotiv  ,  that is ,  waving war against Israel , a motto that still  inflames Arab crowds is  invoked by all parties the same . The question remains if this is going to last long and for how long.  Nasser himself said on one occasion, obviously with a hefty load of sarcasm, that “Fighting Zionism is the nail Arabs use to hang their unity over”. Mostly probably the Iranian leadership adopted this nail and is using it on and on. 

If assessing is easier than crystal ball speculating   , mostly in a region where parameters are numerous and constantly reshaping, it still remains a difficult task.  Yet, it is not a secret anymore that many Arabs, Sunnis of course, are seriously pondering if the peril of Iran outweighs that of Israel. Dealing with Satan to evade the curse of Beelzebub isn’t any more an impossible option. If it will openly materialize or not    still is at this stage pure assumption, yet an interesting one . Years of conflict with Israel have become a tradition and are a factor of popularity too resistant to fade away easily. As a matter of fact crowds are unpredictable, yet they can easily be manipulated by the fourth estate that is, the media. 

As for the Israeli stand over  what is happening around their borders , besides clapping and cheering over the collapse of Syria and an  almost oblivious and slowly diminishing  Arab animosity ,  Israel is strongly   worried by  the hundreds of missiles aimed at its territory by the Hezbollah .  If these missiles will never be able to destroy Israel, they could strongly shake it and defeat it politically. That said, any attack of the kind would eventually bring Lebanon back to the Stone Age as recurrently claimed by the Israeli military, but this is another story. 

The government of Jerusalem is not particularly worried about ISIS and all the hullaballoo around it. They are focused on   Iran and its proxies, nothing else. They don’t really fear the Iranian nuclear program despite their public allegations.  They clearly can see the dedication of President Obama about it   and his obsession with  the legacy he wishes to leave when  done with his office, that is a deal to stop the Iranian nuclear program . Moreover and deep down inside the Israelis  estimate  that despite the risk that Iran could  be considered as a rogue state, blowing up Israel with a nuclear device  would result in more Palestinian kills than Jews and would result in an annihilation of Iran with a few of the many nuclear bombs the Jewish state secretly holds in its arsenal. Long time considered as a carefully hidden secret and in the hands of a small elite, the truth was blatantly revealed lately: The US Department of Defense released a secret report done in 1987 by the Pentagon-funded Institute for Defense Analysis that essentially confirms the existence of Israel’s nukes in response to a Freedom of Information lawsuit filed by Grant Smith, an investigative reporter and author. As much as the Mullahs could undergo daring actions, they always have had the capacity to determine what is right or wrong for their country and people and accordingly know that in a worst case scenario, the Israelis do have the capacity of first strike on Iran. 

All of the above places both Saudis and Arabs in general in the same trench with the Israelis with a single idea on their mind: how to ward off the same threat, that is,   Iran. If such an alliance is too obscene to be declared at this point in time, the facts on the ground are revolving around it. 

History is rich with broken alliances in favor of new ones. Former enemies can easily become today’s friends in order to fight new foes. This is the foundation of politics and a rule of strategy. George Orwell has well illustrated it through the main character of his 1984, Winston Smith, who spent his days re-writing history in function of new alliances being shaped  and reshaped . 

As cynical as could be,  many indicators point this way. Time will tell.  

Jean-Marie Kassab

 

They say that Rome conquered the world thanks to the discipline of its legions. That long hours of training made the calves of the legionnaires become as hard as the steel of their swords and allowed them to walk the thousands of miles necessary for conquest.

They say that the Tibetans monks discipline is unparalleled and is the sole reason for the almost total body control they have. And with discipline came detachment that brought happiness, contentment and serenity even if the meal is a slice of bread, a vegetable, and  cup of Tibetan tea.  

 

They also say that discipline is the essence of genius. Victor Hugo did not write hundreds of his unmatched poems while playing cards or fooling around. He did not pen his legendary saga “ Les misérables ” while drowsing in the sun, a straw hat over his face. Hugo used to lock himself up for very long hours in his room to be able to finish his work.  I have read somewhere that he used to give the key to his butler and instructed him not to open until a certain specified hour even if he begged to be let out.

  

They say , probably for fun,   that the  first sign of civilization was not the taming of fire, or the building of huts nor the invention of the wheel. They say that the first civilized man , instead of crunching the cranium of his foe with a heavy club, suddenly decided  to shout at his enemy . Most probably, and sometime later, both shaggy characters found that this was good and started talking in order to work out their problems. This mental leap came only from a surge discipline and self-control. 

They say that Michel Angelo suffered tremendously when painting the marvelous Sistine Chapel ceiling. He suffered to a point that he had to translate his utmost misery in a poem:

“ I've already grown a goiter from this torture, 

hunched up here like a cat in Lombardy

(or anywhere else where the stagnant water's poison). 

My stomach's squashed under my chin, my beard's 

pointing at heaven, my brain's crushed in a casket, 

my breast twists like a harpy's. My brush,

above me all the time, dribbles paint

so my face makes a fine floor for droppings!

My haunches are grinding into my guts,

my poor ass strains to work as a counterweight, 

every gesture I make is blind and aimless. 

My skin hangs loose below me, my spine's 

all knotted from folding over itself.

I'm bent taut as a Syrian bow.”

Yet he never abandoned, and finally managed to offer us this inimitable wonder that the Sistine Chapel is. How and why? Discipline. 

 

Discipline is about mental strength. It is about self-control. Mental strength is the muscle, not the biceps or the triceps or any other muscle . Muscles are useless flesh if not controlled by the strongest muscle of the human body, also known as the brain. Discipline took us from the state of utter barbarians that crowded in hordes and looted and burned their way to nowhere land into organized nations with flamboyant civilizations. 

Discipline made boys and girls leave their bikes and dolls and sit behind a desk to learn what life is about. The same discipline made these same kids strive for a better life. It made them draw maps, sail the seas and suffer from scurvy and thirst  in rat infested ships just to explore the world .

 It made them struggle to build cities in faraway lands, castles and fortresses to protect them, and high-rises to touch the sky  .

  

 

 

 Discipline allowed men to stand the dangers and the darkness of coal mines just to bring heat to their cold homes , while others stood the heat of the sun when harvesting their grain to feed their children . And when in dire times drought hit the land, discipline made fathers and mothers cut their bread in half and give it to their hungry kids so the next generation survives. 

     

If love makes the world go around, discipline makes it last longer.

Jean-Marie Kassab

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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         “Of all sad words of mouth or pen, the saddest are these: it might have been.”    

 John Greenleaf Whittier

In other words: Regrets! And yes, Whittier was so right:  regrets are a sad thing. Unless… 

Who doesn’t have regrets just about a lot of things? Maybe kids don’t, but they are the only ones, and that’s easy to elucidate: The little ones did not have enough time to do anything they would frown upon later on. How can you regret anything at all when you are four or six ? But soon enough, just a few years later, they will surely join the club of the universal “regretters” of past gaffes and mishaps. 

Gurus tell us to turn the page, to forget about the past and just look forward.  They compel us  to accept the fact that what has been done cannot be undone.  In other words, “forget about regrets and focus on the day and eventually the future”.  This sounds wise at first sight. However what these gurus don’t know or feign to ignore is the fact that regrets have a life of their own. No matter what you do, regrets will still haunt your nights and sometimes part of your days despite your firm decision to put everything behind.   Regardless of what you do, there will always be an event that occurs during your daily life that makes you feel sorry for what you did time ago, or for that matter, what you actually did not. Doing nothing is often as bad as doing something inappropriate if not worse. 

When you are stuck in traffic, almost drowsing after a long day at work , and  suddenly see next to you a white car that looks like your ex’s and  you remember how stupid you were in letting her go. Or when you are checking your dwindling bank account and say to yourself, shit, I should have taken that job when it was possible. What if you were  trying to get some sleep on a Sunday afternoon , your mind wandering  here and there, crunching sweet memories when a stop sign shows up unexpectedly and you remember vividly the day when your dad called   and you snapped back because you were busy and  never called back as  promised . Two weeks later he dies.

There will always be something that reminds you of your past, and eventually make you feel uncomfortable with your current life. People calls them regrets, I’d rather call them consequences. Meaningful consequences that should be mended and adjusted if and when possible.  

Looking at regrets from this angle transforms them into simple past actions that could be reversed, and consequently regrets aren’t anymore states of mind that eat your heart out. They become an action plan. Sort of a revenge over the past and  an  opportunity of  taking hold once again of your destiny when at a certain point you had lost control of your life. 

Dwelling on something sorrowful without the will to do anything about it could be dangerous. On the other hand , knowing  that things could change provided some action is decided is a major part of the relief. Most of our happiness relies on expectations and   anticipation. 

« Le meilleur moment de l’amour, c’est quand on monte l’escalier . » The best moment of love is when you climb the stairs. 

Georges Clemenceau.

   

Despite the fact that we are pondering here about negative thoughts, the similarity still applies. Anticipating is sometimes stronger that the fact itself. 

I believe that Clemenceau is so rightful while  I don’t agree at all  with that other French, Albert   Camus,  who said that” Tout le malheur des hommes vient de l’espérance” [All the misfortune of men comes from hope]. That’s pretty depressing I guess. I personally find that hope is the most important thing that keeps us alive and fighting purposefully. 

 Even if Camus was a major philosopher and Clemenceau just a shrewd politician my belief is that Clemenceau was right. I trust that politicians are more down to earth than philosophers. Philosophers tend to go deeper than necessary and forget sometimes the realities of the daily life. 

 Maybe this is why often I have a problem with these self-proclaimed contemporary philosophers that call themselves “gurus”. I am not talking about Camus or Socrates or any comparable genuine thinkers.  I am talking about those who fill page after page books with  mumbo jumbo advices that most of the time make no sense even if the words sound great. 

 Strange people these gurus.  They have an opinion about every possible issue: Grief, happiness, sorrow, love, headaches and even how to get rid of you hemorrhoids and so on and so forth. They leave no emotion unscathed and pretend to have a cure or a miraculous advice just about everything. How can one be so assertive about this wide scope of emotions without having the adequate experience? 

Sitting under an oak tree, growing a goatee, being outspoken is not enough.  Experience is key.  Just look at a person in pain. Pain is silent unless the ailing person is shouting its agony, or does not suffer from external wounds. Would you possibly guess what pain is and how bad it is unless you have gone through the same ordeal yourself? 

Gurus deal with grieves as if all grieves looked alike and accordingly the treatment should be the same. Like a wide spectrum antibiotic that is supposed to cure all types of germs. Grieves are so specific to everyone.   Every person has its own kind of sorrow. People are unique, so are their feelings. Every person is one of its kind and so are the problems it gets into. Of course there are generalizations, issues, topics: grief over a lost love, grief over a dead parent or a relative or a friend. Maybe the loss of a job or a financial disaster which could amount the same. Nevertheless and when getting into  the nitty-gritty part, you will be surprised how every grief , how every emotion is so specific to people. 

But what the heck, don’t kill the messenger says the wise man, so we won’t kill the messenger, we will tap him on the hand and will try to make things right.  

Regrets are part of us. 

For some, they come and go occasionally.  Others dwell with regrets all through their lives and that’s truly bad. If living with regrets is tiresome and energy draining,   doing nothing about it is mere suicide.

But what are regrets in the end? 

Regrets are  the prison we jail ourselves in , whilst the key is at hand.  But what are we saying here? We are talking about the past, and the past cannot be undone. Right?  Your ex with a white car is already married and you cannot get her back. The job you were offered is already taken. Your dad is dead and nothing will bring him back. But how about you treat better your next date based on your previous mishap and have her or him for the rest of your life and do it right this time ? How about you get better prepared for the next job you are applying to and get it. It is your own choice to make your dad smile in heaven when you call your mom more frequently. 

Who said that regrets are bad or aren’t useful. Regrets are the best motive we could have to mend things or at least avoid the same mistakes done again. Turn the page,  but don’t burry the book. Your future could depend on your past.

Jean-Marie Kassab

 

(My way . Lyrics by Paul Anka) 

 …Regrets, I've had a few; 

But then again, too few to mention.

I did what I had to do

And saw it through without exemption…

…Yes, there were times, I'm sure you knew

When I bit off more than I could chew.

But through it all, when there was doubt, 

I ate it up and spit it out.

I faced it all and I stood tall; 

And did it my way…

 …To think I did all that; 

And may I say - not in a shy way, 

"Oh no, oh no not me, 

I did it my way"…

 …For what is a man, what has he got?

If not himself, then he has naught.

To say the things he truly feels; 

And not the words of one who kneels.

The record shows I took the blows -

And did it my way!... 

 

     (Click to listen to the best version ever of My Way! )

 

 

Look nowhere, she is gone, answered the Wind with the whisper of the autumn leaves. 

And how do you know?

I know because I carried her tears.

Ask the Sun where is she. He knows what a woman does when she so deeply weeps. 

 

Sun oh Sun, where is she gone?

She followed me, but I slept when the day was done, answered the Sun with a wink of a passing cloud.

Ask the moon, the moon knows where broken hearts crowd. 

 

Moon oh Moon, tell me, have you seen her go?

I have seen her sailing. She went far far away, where you don’t want to know, answered the moon with a blue glow. 

Ask the sea where did she go. 

 

Sea oh Sea, what did you do to her?

None was my deed, in a white robe and flowers in her hair she just came to me, answered the sea with the rumbling of a an angry wave hitting a cliff.

Ask me not, ask the Rose, secrets are often told to her.

 

Rose oh Rose 

Why did she go? Will she be back?

Her secret is deep within me answered the Rose with a tender whiff. 

All I can say is she needed you back. 

 

But how my love could I confess if she is for ever gone?

Ask the Mountain,, answered the Brook with the freshness of a misty caress. 

The Mountain will help you with your distress.

 

Mountain Oh Mountain will you ask her?

 

Shout her your love and I will echo your voice answered the Mountain with a roar.

And the boy shouts his love and his heart he loudly tore 

But the echo returns with words unsaid before. 

Why didn’t not you love her to my friend the Moon and back when you could? Says the Sun.

Why didn’t you tell her you shine like my friend the Sun when you could? Says the Moon.

Why didn’t you not drown her in a love as deep as my friend the Sea when you could? Says the Brook.

Why didn’t you quench her thirst with love as pure as the water of my friend the brook when you could? Says the Sea. 

Why didn’t you pick my friend the Rose and offer it to her when you could? Says the Mountain? 

Why didn’t you climb as high as my friend the Mountain just to get her back when you could? Says the Rose. 

 

I was a fool and I did not see how dear she was to me 

Now she is lost and I don’t deserve to be 

I never told her that I would die if she wasn’t with me 

Now she is for ever gone and the misery is to be.

 

I heard you my love, but don’t look for me

I am far away but in my heart you will always be

Loving you is all I lived for and mine you will ever be

Happy I am now and for eternity now that I know your love for me. 

Says the girl lying in the womb of sea.

 

 

Jean-Marie Kassab

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