Unagi, Total Awareness

Everyday we pass by unfamiliar faces, unknown lives and alien minds. Our eyes witness the strangest of episodes but only capture the swiftest moments. In the many pictures I’ve taken, only a few could actually reflect the true reality. The mind tricks us in so many ways, in ways that can lead to ultimate happiness or total despair. Sometimes it is essential, like time. From sand glasses, to calendars, to clocks and to watches, it is unnecessary for Man to be reminded that time is just an optical illusion. But when we choose the images we want to open our eyes to, the songs we want to listen to and the lives we want to touch, it is sometimes needed to be reminded that what appears to be bright and colorful is only a creation of the mind. As magical as a rainbow can seem to be, in reality, it is only a deceitful reflected multicolored-arc.

People have chosen different masks with different characters, a face that one sets and uses to bluff the world and themselves. They are walking in circles where it is so hard to find someone who is satisfied with his own life, where the sky is the only heaven you’ll never reach and the rest is just hell on earth. Some keep on searching for meaning and signs while others have mastered the art of procrastination; some get too busy trying to find themselves while others are distracted by the temptations of their inner demons.
They try to keep their lives private though they update their statuses every two seconds; they try to be unpretentious though all they really care about is what other people think; they try to be so cold when all they need is a small friendly hug. We wear different aliases everyday trying to fit in whether we want it or not. We fear being judged though we judge everything that talks, we fear getting hurt, though we hurt everything that feels. We turn on the television hoping to find a chick flick to entertain us, we play video games just to please our siblings, we buy self-help books in order to read some soothing magic words, we go to bars hoping to meet someone new, but at the end of the day we will always be reminded of the truth. As good as people are with hiding the truth, they’re experts at ignoring what really matters. But at the end of the day the truth expands till it chokes us and it is only then that we are faced with ourselves, our own worst enemy.

It is essential to be conscious of the reality that has fallen before us but the question is: Do we really want to be aware of it all? For example, when we raise the question of God and the world’s existence, we never really think about the outcome. I mean, do we really want to know the answer? Do we really want to be aware of it all? A perfect piece of art wouldn’t have been perfect if it weren’t for the flawed artist, a well written article wouldn’t have been published if it weren’t for the troubled soul, and a recently created blog wouldn’t have been created if it weren’t for the disturbed revolutionary spirit. But do we really want to know about it all?

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Mine is of a bittersweet taste, but a special kind of bittersweet. Of elusive longing for the intensity of Fifth Avenue, but at the same time the lazy tranquility of St. Germain des Pres. Mine is something between the memory of that night at Chez Georges, and the night at Comedy Cellar. Because there is some demure comedy here, and it vaguely tastes like that last glass of sangria. Mine is a sneer at the students aimlessly wandering around its pubs. Or maybe not so aimlessly, trying to get laid can be considered an aim, depending on how you look at it, and especially if it’s through the glass of your fourth drink. Mine is another longing, to share a coffee with one of its intellectuals; a seldom-found endangered species. Mine is a quest to find culture among the uncultured, and equally tough, a good drink at pubs that have so far failed to offer me any, a morsel of sincerity underneath the masks they have so carefully adjusted to swallow their entire existence, real beauty underneath the make-up, essence underneath the polo shirts, and a real conversation, away from the blackberries. Mine is a kind smile to a wandering tourist, and a nasty curse to the driver taking a wrong turn. Mine is a throbbing twinge because instead of selling roses, he should be at school, that cute kid with the gelled-up hair and the cute dimple. They even featured him in a web-series. How very cute, and very sad. Mine is wondering about the whereabouts of her children every time she tries to sell me gum, and if he really was a Physics professor like they all claim. Mine is of something between the fervor of the West Village residents and the nonchalance of those living in Le Marais.  I think some people have a commitment to not having one, and then others have a commitment to this thing I cannot name; something like a commitment to not have a commitment, but with much more passion. What are WE committed to?  Daytime walks among shops we know only too well and nighttime counseling with the bartenders we mistake for therapists.  A breakfast here because the street setting looks nice and the name of the place has this unifying chime to it, because we are sheep and we like sticking together under one big umbrella of over-priced carbohydrate breakfasts, seems like it’s the only real Republic left in the hollow 10452 km2 of our unity as a nation. Then, a coffee there, because it looks like all of these people are really, really smart and sophisticated. They all have Macs, rowdy hair, and weird clothes. How about lunch at the place with the huge red artery-clogging sign? And maybe a lung-puncture of an argileh at the place facing it. You know, it looks authentic. They use Nido cans for their décor, and it’s all so artsy fartsy. Oh look! They have books too! No one is reading them, but they contribute to the “intellectual ambiance” everyone is trying to reinstate in vain. Don’t forget the talk about how the veiled woman walks along with the bimbo in booty shorts, because what you’ve got here is a heaven of inter-religious dialogue on Earth. But of course. So yeah, mine is not bland, because of how bad I wish to actually witness what you read in books and hear in songs about the street like no other, the vigor, the life, the intellect, the art, the music, the brilliance in every nook and cranny, the beauty at every turn. It’s definitely not as bitter as my usual black coffee, not as sweet as the caramel on my apple crumble. Somewhere in between, I can taste a stale attempt at a street like no other, a memory lost with the ruins of a cancerous civil war and a generation that will soon stop hearing about the street in songs and reading about it in books, because old songs don’t make sense and books are so boring. Mine is of all what I wish it actually were instead of the mess it really is. Mine is one of a bittersweet taste, but a special kind of bittersweet. What is your relationship with Hamra like?

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Good morning cubicle,

You wake up and “mad world” is playing in your head non-stop, slowly buttoning your shirt, awaiting that shot of caffeine that’s going to guarantee you’re alive. Short pause. You stare at the construction site beneath you, the lonely streets and the mess you’ve been trying to bury in your balcony. For a second you wonder where your life is heading, but then again you remember that you’re late and you’re one sock away from picking up your briefcase and leaving. What I do is of crucial importance, you see, the fruit of my work is a one page document certifying that Jassad & Co. prepared their financials properly. I am the master of their fate. Their accrued expenses, current assets, CD’s, CMO’s, financial investments, CDS’s, tax liabilities, employee utility (basically how happy they are as measured by bars of Snickers), cash at banks, cash on hand, prepaid expenses, closing balances and all the accounts  I wish to dig up. I could build an empire. I am the master of their fate and, tomorrow morning I will feed the poor, achieve world peace and all that other beauty pageant bullshit. Reality hits me like stupidity hits their blank -makeup filled- faces. You put on the other sock and leave. With a tight tie wrapped around your neck and a desk the size of a sardine box, breathing no longer becomes a necessity. Everyone has a reason to be afraid, afraid of not submitting their report on time, afraid of not having done a good job, afraid of having a life outside the office, afraid the delivery guy would be late with their sandwich, or just plain afraid. The clock to the right of the screen reads 10:54. I’ll do this for two short years and then move on. The clock to the right of the screen reads 10:55. Soon I’ll have time to follow my dreams. The clock to the right of the screen still reads 10:55. Get me out of here.

Three o’clock and you’re still hanging on, with diminishing utility and lower productivity of course. The older they get the more peaceful they look. Their suits have grown under their skin; life outside the cubicle still exists, only not more than a believer’s illusion of heaven. They’re happy because they’re told they are. What more could one ask for than a telephone line, an Internet cable and proper air-conditioning? When you stick around for a while you start to feel the world moving slower, small chatters becoming louder. And pause. Like a synchronized dance. With a watch on your left hand, a watch on your screen, a watch on your phone, and a watch on the wall, you wonder how you could ever lose track of anything. With time you learn to make an aimless stare at the wall look purposeful. With time, you begin to realize how easy it is for you to lose yourself.

(Inspired by the work of Chuck Palahniuk)

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The Prestige

Twelve years ago, I lied on the floor of the living room in our old house and started writing a small poem in French. It wasn’t homework and I wasn’t randomly scribbling. From what I recall, other than the vague image chronically flashing in my head, the very few lines spoke of a love confession and ended with a demand for an answer to the feelings I had for my classmate. Now, I only remember the last line and that my sister read it and started laughing. But, obviously, that’s not the point. Disregarding the many times I had confidently written my name just about anywhere, this is the earliest recollection I have, related to writing. It was the first time I felt and wrote something that sincerely had meaning to me, a value of indescribable worth securely concealed deep inside, with apparently infinite repercussions on every shred of my existence. It was a matter of the heart —that was the point— and one of true and utter significance. Yet, the magnitude of the memory has nothing to do with love or childhood innocence and isn’t a call for nostalgia or the value of the good old days, though some really need to make that call. The real significance rests in the initial source of the memory and its eventual destination. The only problem is that this “cardiac journey” turns out to be as complicated as a heart-shaped maze, a puzzling path through which all invisibility and protection charms cease, leaving only vanishing acts on scene.

Before, and even now the most famous muscle in history is thought to be the silent, yet supreme ruler of the planet, regardless of space and time. But, the evil summit the world has reached unfortunately reveals that the heart’s reign has been stolen along the way and that darkness is indeed the absence of light. And, in these shadows, one only hears voices calmly declaring that the soul does not exist and that mankind is the collection of collections of atoms and chemical reactions. Today, we are an intermediate species in the long chain of evolution. Today, fate is based on probability, love is a profane business deal, and faith and magic are fictional myths. Today, we have no creator and no end. Today, and every day, we die.

So cheers to that and to the all-time greatest vanishing act.

Twelve years ago, I childishly thought that life had purpose and I was right. But, that was twelve years ago. And, now, even though I don’t know how or when the truth disappeared, my eyes remain fixated on the empty stage, trying to project the sparkling glimpse of hope and see a change in the world, a little warm flame in the dark. And I just sit and wait. I wait for the all-time greatest Prestige.

So cheers to that.

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