|Kindergarten graduation is a big deal here! |
(17 June 2022 - Nor Marash)
A couple of weeks ago, as I was leading the washing-machine repairman up the steps in complete darkness, the tiny lights of our cell phones revealing the steps before us, I apologized that, after a long day of work, I had to make him walk the steps and not take the elevator. Deflecting my apology, in Arabic (and some broken Armenian, as he used to work in Bourj Hammoud) he said, “Haram, Beirut, haram that such a beautiful city as you is like this, haram!”
“Haram” means “shame”. And supposedly the Middle East is one of the many regions throughout the world that operates around an “honor/shame” culture, something the West has great trouble grasping. Not that the West doesn’t use the term “shame”; it does, but only when attempting to shame others, and no longer as a means of self-examination or personal reform. Here, shame is part and parcel of each day, and especially in today's Lebanon, with the abundance of shameful situations. Yet although so much is shameful, those responsible for engineering this state of affairs over the years have no sense of shame… and therefore no honor.
|The "Cine Vendome" steps have been |
upgraded to include a playground!
(24 June 2022 - Mar Mikhael)
|Traffic jam on the Stepanavan-Vanatzor |
roadway. (8 July 2022 - Armenia)
|"Mer Shougan" (Our Market) on Arax Street, |
to promote the home-based products of
(10 July 2022 - Bourj Hammoud)
These God-given sensitivities – shame and honor – have often been misused when they are detached from personal conscience and used as weapons for controlling others. But in our current situation they are merely a veneer of words used by the powerful, devoid of meaning or effect, papering over the corruption within. John the Baptist (Matt. 3.7-12) and later Jesus Christ (Matt. 12.34-37), when confronting the corruption of their day, challenged the powerful to change direction or else face relentless justice from the God they no longer feared. Honor needs to be seen in honorable actions, not just in long-winded speeches or televised soundbites.
|Facing the explosion site, memorials to |
those killed in the Beirut Port blast
of 2020 (photo by SAB - 30 July 2022)
We’re finding ourselves approaching our refrigerator with trepidation, since the power (from all three sources) is off more than it is on in these hot and humid days. It used to be that stocking up the freezer and putting leftovers in the fridge put our minds at ease for coming busy days. Now we play the game “What’s That Smell?” when we open the fridge. Good smell? Thumbs up. Bad smell? To quote my college roommate’s slogan, “When in doubt, throw it out.”
Maria and I had our first bout of CoVID-19
last month, as we were preparing to receive our son Sevag and then travel to
Armenia together. See plans, apply wrench. After the readjusted Armenia trip concluded and we returned to Lebanon,
Sevag had his first bout of the disease. We were grateful that we didn’t have
any loss of smell or taste (refer to preceding paragraph). And grateful that we were able to provide him with at-home care.
|LebCat 51: "It's simple: you climb up this |
grapevine, push one of those switches down,
and then someone comes out to his balcony
and starts yelling. You meow and he throws
you a treat when he comes down to switch it
back on." (24 June 2022 - Geitawi)
What concerns me the most is that those among whom I work – Armenians and Lebanese – will lose their sensitivity to the tools God gives to keep their consciences alive. The poisonous examples are so very prevalent, and only with divine help and concerted mutual support will we avoid this plague, this collective degradation – whether in Armenia, in the Diaspora, or here. [LNB]