At the Square II



[read part one here]


For A. Fakhreddine...


“I came into the world under the sign of Saturn -- the star of the slowest revolution, the planet of detours and delays.” -Walter Benjamin



I was down the valley, in a place that almost meets the entire beauty of the world; it was a small plateau like no other, bursting into itself like a volcano, carpeted with flowers so purple that they resemble ponds of wine growing heavenwards, only interrupted by the trenches made decades ago at the hand of both villains and heroes, and the endless curiosity of the clouds. It was a field of lavender, like no other, growing spectacular legs, and running after you with the pace of a gazelle, confusing the tiny hairy leaves with grapes and berries. So godless it all appeared to me, half accidental and half abandoned. And infinitely solitary. Why would such a place exist if it cannot be contemplated? And why would it ever be contemplated by one man alone? I imagined the festivals from other times, the gifts of the world, and how one god after another, tried to claim this place as their own, failing each and every time; oh the valley... Rejecting peace but also war. So much life, and so much death, together, at once, in the same valley, under the sign of Saturn.


And for so long, I hadn't thought about the statue and the valley, about the purple lavender and the fields and the rivers, perhaps trying to circumvent the obvious difficulty of having seen it alone. Not even God was watching then, for it was probably market day and he was collecting the tithes at a souk. Oh, how you love the world, I thought, especially from the position of beauty that immediately assumes an infinite distance from it as a pre-condition for participation in it. Once a friend had vaguely reminded me of the statue, and in gratitude I wrote him a long letter that then I sent to a foreign country, and sat across the void of a certain light, awaiting the response, or at least, even a postcard. And I somehow grew old from waiting, older than god himself... Thinking about this "problem" of the love of man, the love of the world, the love of God. Why is it that we must love God? Is it because of certainty or because of fear? Why is this world transient and passing? Why does it have to die, like us? Is the world not like a miracle too?


I remembered a certain philosopher, from younger days, reading on a bench in Hamra, and something at this church, somewhere up the hill: "Would it not be better to love the world in cupiditas and be at home? Why should we make a desert out of this world? The justification for this extraordinary enterprise can only lie in a deep dissatisfaction with what the world can give its lovers. Love that desires a worldly object, be it a thing or a person, is constantly frustrated in its very quest for happiness." Why should it be a bad thing, though, I asked. Why all these guarantees and insurance policies with God? I suppose that the only cure to the irreparable damage of the cycle of life and the slaughterhouses of history is nothing of the eternal or immortal kind. Human bonds are like that, fragile, tense, haunted, and invincible only in the sense that they are nothing but temporary. The world will outlive us always, the human community, of the lovers, of both God and the world. So will the valley, since Canaanite gods and Roman emperors occupied it, and then died.


And that is how I found thee, friend from other ages, less violent and less godly, and there you were, wrapped entirely in a field of lavender, on a regular week day, so far away from the entrance of the city. I was suddenly reminded how badly I wanted to go there and how I loved every corner of it, every hue in the air, every color of the water; entirely unafraid of the risk of disappointment or unhappiness. It was so clear, everything, that day, like a bright summer morning, like the day when I first saw the statue; all the colors returned to the palette, like a thick rain falling over the sores of a volcano. I remembered all what I had seen, as if with somebody else. It was so pure, almost laughable. Where had we been lost all these centuries? I heard at last all the laughter, all the weeping, all the screaming... All what the Berdawni had wanted to tell me, that day, after the last war. I cheered the moment, it was a discovery, a miracle, the beginning of a world. It didn't resolve any of our wars, but it made it all look probable, possible and invincible.


Maybe we'll conquer the valley after all, if only to dance at the square.



To be continued...



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Lebanon, Nature, Philosophy