Friday, September 30, 2022

A Time for Discomfort

 53.A Time for Discomfort (30 September 2022)

A rare day of low humidity, with a crystal-
clear view of Beirut from KCHAG.
(24 Sept. 2022 - Monteverde)

How much more surreal can things get? Yesterday the parliament met to make its first attempt at electing a president of the Republic. Hearing all the laughter and good-natured ribbing happening in the chamber, one might easily have concluded that there is little to worry about in the country, and that Lebanon is back to its glory days of the 1960s. Yet the upbeat mood in the room served only to highlight the deep disconnect between the people and their daily suffering and uncertainty on the one hand, and on the other hand those who are ensconced in the halls of power. Although this disconnect is arguably true in practically every country in the world, here it is as if a house is burning down, but the residents themselves must battle the fire alone, unassisted, running to and fro to find water to fill their basins and toss a few drops on the ever-heightening flames.

The building (at rear) where Armenian
orphan girls wove carpets after the Genocide
(17 Sept. 2022 - Ghazir)

            When people take up arms, even toy guns, and desperately enter the banks that hold their savings hostage, demanding their own money to be able to pay their own medical or business debts, it shows a deeply troubled society. They are depicted by news outlets as committing “bank heists”, as if readers were only capable of understanding Hollywood terminology. These are people struggling against the injustice and humiliation they have been fed continually for these past few years. The obliviousness of those who comfortably led Lebanon to this state, in local or international halls of power, only serves to increase our discomfort.

Reflecting on a day off, with the
help of a sculpture by local artists
(17 Sept. 2022 - Jbeil/Byblos)

            As we view the continued terror inflicted on Armenia by its un-neighborly “neighbors”, our discomfort multiplies all the more. The world today is witness to Azerbaijan’s push to impose military solutions on a weak and defeated country while the peacekeepers’ country is otherwise preoccupied. Yet once again, Armenians are demonstrating their political naïveté by rejoicing every time some Western government issues a condemnation of Azerbaijan, or a statement in support of the territorial integrity of Armenia. This same reasoning justified the international community’s lack of support for Artsakh’s Armenians during the war that began two years ago this week. Yet many Armenians the world over, in their self-imposed amnesia, continue to imagine that those statements will actually affect the reality on the ground. The reality is that this aggressor will take as much land as it can from Armenia, disrupting and destroying as many lives as it can, while big sister Turkey watches admiringly.

The streets around the Ashrafieh church &
school transformed into an Egyptian street
for a movie (30 Sept. 2022 - Geitawi)

            Meanwhile, despite the discomfort caused by events near and far, we are comforted in some measure by the beginning of a new school year. Armenian schools in both Lebanon and Syria welcomed their students back this month, providing much more than an Armenian education, as crucial as that is for the health and strength of Armenians everywhere. They are also providing a point of stability in the unstable world these children and adolescents inhabit. The daily conversations of adults around them, centering most often on continual worries about finances and the crashing currency, is being offset to a degree by the rhythm of the school day and the school week. Yes, the schools face deep financial challenges, especially if they have not yet installed a solar electric system on their grounds, and have to pour large amounts of currency into fueling their generators. Yes, this is aside from the inevitable school closures resulting from unexpected events, likely to increase as the current President’s term comes to an end. But it is an act of love and hope, based not on circumstances, but on vision and convictions.

Guitarist Ayman Jarjour transfixes the
audience with classical, Spanish and
"Oriental"-flavored pieces
(27 Sept. 2022 - Minet el Hosn)

            A moment of beauty I recently enjoyed was a guitar recital by the brother of a former student from my Haigazian teaching days. Aside from being a fundraiser for a rehabilitation center in Lebanon, the event provided a feast of musical delights, filling the church’s sanctuary for one hour with the sound of that one guitar (and the regular dings of someone unable to detach from Whatsapp). It was a gift that the guitarist gave to an audience hungry for something that would lift them up, if only for a brief time. As Fred Rogers’ mother told him when he was young and afraid, “Always look for the helpers. There’s always someone who is trying to help.”

LebCat 53: An exquisitely striped "McCat",
frequenting the location where it's most
likely to be fed - just not by me
(11 Sept. 2022 - Ain el Mreisseh)

            This is the way of the world. There are those in challenging places doing their best to help others, even at the cost of their own comfort. And there are others who seek only their own comfort, no matter how many others must suffer as a result. This is a “scalable” truth, applicable to societies as well as world powers. Though countries only occasionally enjoy peace, they are often oblivious to the role they themselves play in the natural, political or human disorder around them. More likely, though, they lack the moral grounding needed to admit their role in the hardship they cultivate.

            Yet this is the very same world into which Christ Jesus entered, into which today he leads his disciples to share words and works of comfort and hope to those truly in need of it, and to engage in the struggle for what is right, true and beautiful.   [LNB]

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