A Beautiful Ugly World

It’s five in the morning.

Streets lie quiet in unconscious abandon, the residents of this city napping soundly, ignorant of the struggle of the jet-lagged storyteller to bring himself to rest while his mind refuses to lie dormant, not now, not when it’s ten at night the day before in the land he just left, not when his body has not yet adjusted to the cycle of those who rest around him.

A motor scooter, a moped, a red Vespa, zips down the otherwise empty street. A chicken crows at a sun as yet unseen. The sky remains an inky black, and I sit on a third story balcony—second-story, for anyone who isn’t American—as the city below me begins to rise.

It’s five-fifteen. The call begins.

I am in the Middle East for the first time in six months. I am in Lebanon for the first time in a year. I have been in Beirut for thirty-two hours, and already, I am, as I often am whenever I visit, touched.

The call begins. The disembodied voice of a devout man echoes between the side streets and back corners of this capital, the government seat of my father’s land. It is a voice I had grown all-too accustomed to hearing during my time spent here. Nevertheless, after its absence, I find it chilling to be speaking to me again.

A prayer, a prayer children in this part of the world know without yet understanding its power, a prayer that is a verse that is a chapter that is a book that is a word that is a vow to a power they will never see but into which they will put all of their faith, awakens this part of the city.

Perhaps this is why it is called Faith.

It’s five-thirty. The call falls silent, its final words resting on the ears of a slowly rising country, the ears of an ever-listening world, a world full of impossible odds, full of miracles.

Perhaps this is the Faith we should have in the world.

It’s six in the morning. The power has gone out. The city is awake now. The smell of gasoline chokes the fresh Mediterranean breeze. I cannot stop it.

We live in an ugly world. This is an ugly, unfair world where nobody lives forever, where hearts flooded with darkness exude only hatred, spilling it onto the cracked foundations of societies in which its people have long stopped believing, a world where if a nation is not at war with someone else, it is at war with itself.

It’s seven in the morning.

The first rays of sun soak Beirut in their golden glow. Engines, horns, shouts of shopkeepers and old friends fill the atmosphere. Something cooking below smells incredible.

I live amongst gods. I associate with creators, world builders, forces of nature.

We live in a beautiful world. We were not born into a beautiful world. We were born into a sandbox and left to our own devices, and we populated the world with art, where a man lives until his name is forgotten, where immortality is granted not by any supernatural means, but by the magic of legend, by being remembered.

We live in a world that is always itself and its opposite. This is a state of nature we have created.

It’s seven-thirty. Good morning, Lebanon. Did you sleep well?

Left to our own devices, we created duality.

We live in a beautiful, ugly world.


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