Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Redundant Lebanese Thought

“An insight into why Lebanese history repeats itself”

  Any person that has lived in Lebanon for a few months, would sense that daily life eventually becomes quite mundane and repetitive. Even the avant-garde societal faction thinks in a highly one dimensional manner.  People do express their discomfort about their socio-political situation, but it ends there. They are incapable of changing it, not because they are not willing, but they are not able to.
Abraham Maslow said: “If the only tool you have is a hammer, you will tend to see all problems as a nail”. This is one of the reasons why we are stuck in a vicious cycle of discomfort in Lebanon, and the region in general. We have a limited repertoire of intellectual tools to deal with problems that arise in front of us.
  This scarcity in analytical tools is rooted in our deeply conservative mentality. In order to elaborate this hypothesis, you have to take into consideration the following factors.

1.       Intelligence
2.       Knowledge
3.       Execution
4.       Results

Intelligence is defined by Webster’s as "the ability to learn or understand or to deal with new or trying situations". Thus, in order to deal with situations adequately, we must be able to acquire relevant knowledge which is effective in dealing with those trying situations. At the same time, we also must be capable of using it.

However, before we get to the execution part, what does intelligence and knowledge have to do with being conservative? The answer is the influence of personality traits on learning and motivation.  Conservative individuals score very high on the closed minded personality trail measures, whereas liberal individuals are more open to new experiences and seek novel experiences and ideas.

Therefore if we are dealing with problems or trying situations intelligently, it would require from us to acquire new knowledge.  How will we be capable of doing so if we cannot overcome our bias and thought preference? Moreover, even if we are capable of acquiring that knowledge, will we be willing to change what we are extremely accustomed to?

I believe that the preceding argument is indicative of why we are incapable of proper execution of change. Moreover, it provokes an endless loop of melancholic thought and behavior. The results may be quite grim; however, it doesn't mean that change isn't possible. It is, but it requires too much damn effort.  

An easier method of change would be to stop pursuing change consciously, because the means are producing redundant results, which in turn are keeping the progress wheel stagnant.  Since we are a conservative nation, we would be more at ease if we accept the current decadent culture, and learn how to work its dynamics more efficiently. Eventually things will change if we truly find out that we can’t live in such a system, because change then would be much more synergetic and has profound natural momentum and direction.

However, the irony of the matter is, as long as change is required, liberal thought will also be required. But Liberal thought will always create discomfort in conservative nations. Therefore the fate of the Lebanese will remain the same due to their conservative identity with liberal whims. 

Sunday, December 23, 2012

The Human Rage

Be it a tick or a tock
the gate was closed and now unlocked.

It is a feeling that keeps him kneeling
it is a feeling and it is here to stay,
it is not fear, for it keeps you not at bay.

 It is a feeling that emancipates
however unknowingly, you become the wolf’s bait.
You’re overwhelmed and want to annihilate
that damn prick who thinks he’s great.

It is neither resentment nor hate
for with his mother you would mate.

Pride was perhaps what had him in my way
what a useless feeling for him to feel anyway.
It got him shouting, cursing, and frustrated
then his countenance was obliterated.

Perhaps that feeling was of amelioration
that feeds of his devastation.
A feeling that is primal to the human race
that feeling was definitely rage.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Anti-purposeful Meaning


     When talking about ‘meaning’ in a general sense, it is usually accompanied by ‘purpose’; more specifically, the purpose is that of life. To most philosophical theories, you cannot have one without the other.            

  There is no exact definition of meaning, but the one that can be most accurate is given by an online dictionary, which states “meaning is the sense or significance of a word, sentence, symbol, etc.; import; semantic or lexical content”. Also, the definition of purpose is “the reason for which something is done or created or for which something exists”.           

 The notion that purpose precedes meaning seems unappealing. This is due to the unanswerable questions that this notion provokes, which makes the concept of meaning very restricted, and gives it a doctrine-like nature.

  The fundamental questions that purpose poses are “why” questions. Therefore, when asked about life, the answers tend to be weak because they are oversimplifications. Also, most explanations imply that we have to work our way into having a purposeful life. This method is highly unperceptive because it neglects a lot of human factors, especially emotions.          

  Having a universal explanation for something so abstract and vast like life is useless and dull, for life goes beyond thought and purpose. Even more, it is the epitome of human arrogance and narcissism to claim that life is not worth living without purpose.         

   Since meaning is derived from the significance of things, and since different people find different things significant to them, it makes more sense for the meaning of life to be subjective. It also makes more sense that a purposeful life which adheres to a doctrine is likely to become meaningless.           

 Things that are most significant to us are those that give us pleasure, but this does not mean that a hedonistic life is a meaningful one, for significant pleasures are not restricted to bodily gratification.        

    If one must give a structure for meaning, it is likely to be general and applicable for different types of people that value different things – or simply relative. One theory that is this way is the “Engine Theory”. This theory states that in order to derive meaning, three elements must be present, which are: thought – which has a similar function to the engine lubricant, emotions – which have a similar function to the engine pistons, and personal experiences – which share the function of the driver. Remove any of those three elements and you will not be able to properly derive meaning. Similarly, if you remove any of those elements from a conventional car, it cannot go anywhere.        

    It might be appealing to relate the Engine Theory to Pragmatism. This is due to the significance of experiences. However, unlike the Engine Theory, Pragmatism states that meaning is only derived or discovered through experiences.        

    Similarly, the suggested theory also shares attributes with the theory of Existentialism, but it is different because Existentialism decrees that meaning is only derived through thoughts.         

   Common grounds can be found between Nihilism and the Engine Theory, since both asserts that there is no purpose to life. But unlike the Engine Theory, Nihilism requires that purpose precedes meaning, thus rendering the concept of meaning void.        

    The discontent that people experience does not have to do with the meaning of life, because everyone is living a meaningful life, especially since the concept of meaning is subjective. It is more likely that it arises from uncertainty and its significance. People become discontent when they are uncertain of what is significant to them, which keeps them from knowing what means to them; thus, they ironically feel as if their life has no meaning and their dissatisfaction becomes greater and grows exponentially.         

   Since the concept of living a meaningful life is significant to most people, and since everyone is, in fact, living a meaningful life, this means that knowing that we are living a meaningful life ideally is enough to minimize the dissatisfaction that people experience from that subject, without going into its meticulous details. However, the ironic reality is that everyone is dissatisfied because “meaning” is ubiquitous, which renders the “purpose” of having a meaningful life untenable.  

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Fiddling with Whisky

So I’ve been exploring the world of whisky, especially malt whisky for a couple of years now. I was drawn to this category of spirits by its aura of refinement, sophistication and mysticism. I don’t have a personal favorite, I’m still exploring the world of scotch, but I’m also interested in what the other major whisky producing countries are doing, like Ireland, Canada, and the US.

On a separate note, as I was researching scotch whisky in particular, I discovered that they use what is called a copper-pot “gooseneck” still. It directly had a lightbulb light up in my mind, those stills bear a striking resemblance to the still that my grandfather bought in the late 60’s or early 70’s, which he used for distilling grappa, brandy and arak. Also, earlier this year, my father started producing beer for export, so I stole a batch and distilled it for whisky experimentation purposes with the still that we had. I also started experimenting with different kinds of wood for aging.

My grandfather, George Hanna Riachi next to his Copper Gooseneck still. 

So far, it looks promising, but I don’t want to work with imported malt, so I’m also experimenting with malting some domestic “Lebanese” feed barley, and honestly its easier than I thought it would be. I still don’t know beer breweries aren’t malting Lebanese barley, It’s more accessible and more relevant than imported ones to the beer that they brew.

            In any case, I am brewing, distilling and maturing something interesting for you guys. Let’s see how much time it will take to have something that I think is worthy of releasing into the market.

Monday, March 26, 2012

The Wise are Delusional

Dr. Manhattan: In my opinion, the existence of life is a highly overrated phenomenon.

 Irrelevant whether there exists a single universe or multiverse, this universe started with a single spontaneous burst and expanded at first into a hot dense cloud of gas and dust. This happened 13.75 ± 0.11 billion years ago. 

This cloud started expanding at an exponential rate, and the larger it got, the cooler it gets. Formations started to appear, and so far, the oldest galaxy dates back to 500 million years after the Big Bang.

Celestial bodies and formations kept on appearing, Nebulas, Galaxies, Stars, Red Giants, Black Holes etc. At one point out there in the backwaters of the universe, in the boondocks of the small Milky Way galaxy is a Nano celestial formation which we call the solar system emerges.

This solar system which we call ours is roughly 4.5 billion years old, however during those 4.5 billion years, it’s mechanics were constantly changing, and its evolution was a violent one.

About 4 billion years ago in that solar system which we call ours, a small grain started to form from small particulates smashing together and rotating around a medium sized star. A spherical shape emerged that rotated around itself and that star in an elliptical manner. 

If I were to compare the state of the birth of earth, I would say it was like a blazing splinter, and that splinter started to eventually cool down, similar to the rest of the universe.  About 400 million years after its birth, earth started to look like a planet with an atmosphere, however, back then the atmosphere was very different than what it is now.

Life, which is most probably accidental, began its journey roughly 3.7 billion years ago with the formation of amino acids. They were formed from water (H2O), methane (CH4), ammonia (NH3) and hydrogen (H2) combined with an extremely high energy, which is most probably lighting. 

These amino acids started to swarm and form and evolve in water to create the first life forms which were microorganisms. From those microorganisms came more evolved aquatic life forms, and fast forward billions of years of evolutions and you have animals.

Perhaps the most accidental of all the animals; and I am being biased and judgmental came about 2.4 million years ago. Homo-habilis was a pleasant ole chap that resembled your cousin the Gorilla, but the difference is that he is you great grandfather. 

Your great grandfather was both simple and complex in terms of cognitive abilities. His simplicity or complexity does depend on your perspective. Homo-habilis, (habilis as in handy) was named this way because they were believed to be the first to use tools.

Then came homo-rudolfensis then homo-ergaster then homo-cepranensis then homo-heidelbergensis then homo-rhodesiensis, and alas we reach the Neanderthal, which equates to your grandfather relative to homo-habilis. We are sub strands of Neanderthals, we are homo-sapiens and we came after homo-floresiensis which looked like hobbits and lived about 120 thousand years ago.

All of our ancestors were of decent cognitive abilities, the used tools and built functional societies. They started to develop habits in order to facilitate their daily life. However, what differentiates us homo-sapiens (sapiens as in wise) is that we were not only intrigued with how things worked, but we also wanted to know why things worked. So from that point on things started to get really interesting. We started to discover more, and the more we discovered the more oblivious and deluded we got with our findings.

Perhaps the “why” that baffled us the most was the “why do we die”, but I think that why is banal and our great grandfather has answered that question a long time ago. He realized that at some point of time things end, they just do, and that’s how things are. However, that answer makes us uneasy because we feel that we are special and should be eternal.

We reach a point which is roughly 60 thousand years BC, and at that point people were so concerned with the end, hence devised a ritual to make them more at ease. “The funeral”, it was created in Mesopotamia, more specific modern day Iraq.

The funeral complemented the delusion of an afterlife, so people started to expand on that postulate, and I think the epitome of that expansion was with the pharaohs and their monolithic pyramid tombs. However those religions and rituals were immeasurably schizophrenic so people wanted to make them more coherent and consistent. Therefore the idea of superior deities emerged which for a decent amount of time gave people’s lives meaning because it rid them of their fear in a more convenient manner.

However, certain people were not convinced with the delusion of multiple deities, because they were so “human” like in their behavior. Therefore, they ironically created a more elaborate delusion of a single omnipotent, all powerful everlasting deity. This was approximately 3000 years BC.

Obviously people expanded on their delusions to explain things, however, knowing how schizoid we are, we decided at some point to be pragmatic in parallel to our delusion, so determinism and physics (physics as in the study of nature) emerged, and it was more reliable in everyday live.

However, the latter do not give life meaning for they give the truth. There is no meaning in truth, meaning is found only in that which comforts our psyche, and truth does not.

The irony of the situation is that we crave meaning by explaining things yet those same things that we crave to explain are either irrelevant or contradictory with what comforts us. Looking at the big picture, I believe that we are so insignificant, accidental, and irrelevant to be concerned with explaining the universe, and the world in order to explain our mortality and give our lives meaning.  

Sunday, December 18, 2011


I passed by AUB's Online Collaborative on Friday around 7:30 pm. I came a bit late, but it was the only time I could pass by the event. There was a Panel discussion on Social Media for personal use, and it was moderated by Ayman Itani. It fount that it is no surprise for people to have that much power created by social media, in particular blogging. However it was interesting to hear about a couple of success stories related to blogging, it gives you an insight about the evolution of that medium.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Making Things Work in Different Mediums

A few months back I read a book called "The 22 Immutable Laws of Branding" and there as a section about the internet and how communication is shifting from the traditional medium "broadcast and print" to, well, the internet.

I remembered this today while Mr. Nasri Atallah, the author of the blog "Our Man in Beirut" was talking about his blogging experience, how it evolved, and why and how it turned into a book. As you have noticed, his blog talked mainly about Beirut and his perception of it. So why is relevant to the main topic ? Other than the obvious reason that he has experienced success on an online medium and is now trying to shift to a more traditional one, I believe that it is important to see why he did so and to what extent would he have success.

Why the shift ?

Getting published usually in the pre-internet era had to do mostly with credibility when it comes to the author, it was used to build credibility about a certain topic, for when you get published most people would get the sense that you are an expert in that field. However Mr. Atallah got published because he was credible due to his online audience, however it is most likely the shift occurred based on self-esteem or self-actualization needs on the behalf of Mr. Atallah, and I believe he mentioned that motive in an indirect manner while he was talking about the issue. Therefore, the shift from the online medium to the more traditional medium had nothing to do with which is the more successful one in terms of communication.

Will his shift be successful ?

There is no doubt that the man has had a lot of success when it comes to blogging, however I don't believe that his book will have as much success because the audiences are different. Some might argue that the book audience is not so different because the theme "Beirut" is still the same, and that was Mr. Atallah's argument. However, the motives and the consumer behavior of each is very different, people who are more likely to read blogs are less likely to take the initiative to go to a book store, pay and read something which is found online for free. Whereas book readers seek out authors differently and in a more ordered and structured way. Therefore I can't see for the book the same success that the blog has had for different mechanics go into buying or reading each. At best the book will be a collector's item for someone who is passionate about Nasri's blog work, and in case sales spike in the near future, it will be no more than a fad. and one piece of advice to Mr. Atallah, I suggest you stick with the medium that got you where you are, if you stop blogging your following will decrease dramatically, however there is a possibility that my analogy is inaccurate but I still think the reasoning behind it is sound.