A Letter to My Younger Self

Few years back, a therapist asked me what made me anxious. I replied that it was my constant worry about everyone else around me. Then she asked, “Where are they now?”

“At their homes.”

“Doing what?”

“Living their lives…” That’s when I realized that my constant worry about everyone else’s well-being caused my breakdown. Everyone was living his or her life, while I frankly wasn’t.

Dear Rania,

Life isn’t as complicated as it seems to be. We tend to complicate it with our mischievous mind and dark thoughts. Once we start thinking more positively, it’ll get easier. When we simplify things, in turn life will seem simple. It is ok to feel sad and lonely sometimes, but why let these feelings overwhelm you? Why think of ending life when there’s so much worth living for? Trust me, you’ll find a lot of beautiful things in life that are worth fighting and living for.

Unfortunately, you’ll waste many years trying to please everyone around you, but guess what? You can never please everyone! Someone will always have something to complain about or criticize! And it’s not your fault nor is it your duty to fix it. You will meet a lot of people who will hurt you, who will offend you, who will stab you in the back, but the good thing is, you won’t stoop down to their level. You will not condescend and lose your principles. You will continue to hold on to your values even when everyone else around you drifts from them.

Remember how in high school you used to daydream in class? Do you remember your prayers at night? All you wanted was to love and be loved.. to be seen as beautiful. You wanted to be accepted. Do not worry, you will find love, actually love will find you; however, it’ll break you. You will know the striking and throbbing agony of loss, of disappointment, of heartbreak. Yet, you will stand up again, though you’ll fall back in love even deeper. But let me tell you this, I wish that early in your life you’d learn to be yourself and to love yourself. I wish you’d accept yourself, your inner and outer beauty; not to accede and accept whatever is given to you. I wish you’d set high standards and not assent to anything less. I wish you’d not let anyone dictate how you shall live your life or tell you what’s right and what’s wrong for you already know all that! You’ll feel out of place at many times, you’ll feel different than everyone around you; but different is good! An epiphany will come to you unexpectedly; you’ll apprehend that forgiveness will set you free. Forgiveness will help you get over greatest pains and it will pave the way for you to live pain free and guilt free.

You’d always say that friendship is the most important factor in your life. I wish I could tell you that you’re right. It’s not. Family is! Friends will shut their doors when you need them the most. They will simply tell you, “people change”. It’ll hurt like a scorching knife into your heart. You will learn this the hard way, that friends aren’t your safe haven. You family is. When you’ll fall, only your family will pick you up! When you’ll be in desperate need, your family will be your savior. Through your family, you’ll witness the miracle of birth, the sincere love of innocent children, true and genuine empathy, and the ultimate bond of brotherhood.

As you mature, you’ll realize that money is just a tool. Money doesn’t make a person, a person makes money! Money doesn’t grant a person a charismatic character nor does it buy love. If anything, money can cause a rift between you and the people who will come into your life. Learn this, if you want to let go of a person, lend them money! If you want to keep them, give them money!

You will contemplate marriage at some point in your life, and maybe motherhood. But soon after, you will realize that it’s not what you honestly want. It’ll be just a mere concept that society will impose on you. You’ll soon enough know that marriage is not a goal, maybe a choice. Funny enough, you’ll come to a time when you’ll decide to marry your own self. Why? Because you’ll realize that you won’t need to comfort, love, or please anyone else more than your own self. You will live numerous adventures; you’ll travel and see the world. You’ll go to places that you never think you will. You will succeed, and you will be an inspiration to others. People will look up to you and others will be proud of you. Some will hate you, maybe envy you; but still, you won’t learn to hate, which is good, I guess.

Just as you will figure life out, you’ll also figure out death. You’ll come to understand that death is a mere transition, nothing to dread and constantly worry about. You’ll experience this kind of loss and you’ll see it happen right in front of your eyes and that’s probably why you’ll accept and comprehend it.

So go ahead young lady, make mistakes and accept the consequences. Hold responsibility to your actions and don’t be afraid to stand up for what’s right. Fear God and not people! Enjoy the sweet taste of pain because it’ll only help you contain more joys and pleasures. Don’t give in, don’t give up; stand tall, believe in yourself and be satisfied and grateful for what God has given you.

Sincerely,

Your older self.

1984, Orwell, and Political Satire – Art or Reform?

George Orwell’s 1984 can best be described as a political satire and parable. Orwell wrote it to gain personal triumph rather than receive decree as an artistic writer. 1984 cannot be read literally for it is a parable and a satire teaserbox_27680941against Communism and the totalitarian regimes that spread across Europe after World War II. Orwell’s book focuses on political messages that come as a warning about the future rather than communicating aestheticism as he uses the form of parable and shows the power of language to manipulate; yet he perfected satire as a work of art in this book through the use of fantasy, simplicity, and verbal irony.

George Orwell’s 1984 is a didactic form of literature, in other words, a parable. On the surface, this story is a narrative about a community that is absurdly and completely controlled by the Party under the leadership of “Big Brother”. Winston, the main character, strives to retrieve his memory in order to understand his past that was erased by the party. He is a rebel at heart, yet eventually this rebellious spirit in him is killed. Orwell satirizes the new world division that was formed after WWII, as it is divided into three super states: Oceana, Eastasia, and Eurasia. The focus of the story is on Oceana that is lead under an extreme totalitarian regime. This regime is power hungry and its leader “Big Brother” is depicted as the ultimate totalitarian leader that dominates that community. The party aims to control its subjects just as the leaders of Europe attempted to control their people. In the novel, the Party rewrites history for political purposes, just as Stalin rewrote history to denounce Lenin. 1984 is a realistic book though it may appear as a fantasy. Orwell’s main target is to warn the English people of their imminent future had they accepted the fate of their country and accepted the form of government that was taking over. This is not given by chance, for it wasn’t the first time that Orwell attempted to write in order to give a political message. In his book, Animal Farm, Orwell also sends a very powerful message as he harshly criticizes the failure of Communism and the totalitarian regime of Stalin. This political parable shows how language can be a powerful tool to manipulate and control people, which is another way in which Orwell portrays the government as a supreme totalitarian system.

In his article, Language as the Ultimate Weapon in Nineteen Eighty-Four, Jem Berkes states that “Language has the power in politics to mark the truth and mislead the public, and [he] wishes to increase public awareness of this power.” The form of government which Orwell criticizes in this book uses language as the most powerful tool to alter people’s thoughts, narrow them, and eventually, diminish them. The Party uses language to alter the past and erase memories, which is a potent tool to manipulate and control. Orwell disparages the abuse and degradation of language for the purpose of control, as depicted in the story through the double-think phrases as well through Newspeak. Newspeak’s main purpose is to narrow people’s range of thought as it is mentioned in the novel: “Newspeak dictionary is always shrinking, limiting the words and thoughts that are available to the subjects… We’re cutting the language down to the bone.. Newspeak is the only language in the world whose vocabulary gets smaller every year.” (Orwell, 55) Orwell shows how by manipulating language, the government can change its subjects’ way of thinking, which is a brainwashing strategy that is strengthened by the Two Minutes Hate.

In addition to language, the Party uses propaganda to spread false news, such as the alternating enmity and allegiance with Eastasia and Eurasia. The fear of war and the sense of being protected from the enemy make the people blindly trust, respect, and ironically also fear their own government. Orwell wants to provide a powerful message here of how politicians at the time used propaganda to manipulate people’s feelings in order to keep them under control. Propaganda is also used to changing past events. Changing history and using it to benefit the Party is another weapon to persuade and change lies into truths. “And if all others accepted the lie which the Party imposed – if all records told the same tale – then the lie passed into history and became truth. ‘Who controls the past,’ ran the Party slogan, ‘controls the future: who controls the present controls the past.’ And yet the past, though of its nature alterable, never had been altered. Whatever was true now was true from everlasting to everlasting. It was quite simple. All that was needed was an unending series of victories over your own memory. ‘Reality control,’ they called it: in Newspeak, ‘double-think.’” (Book one, Chapter 3, paragraph 18) In addition to the use of paper and written history, Orwell’s genius extends to create a new technological tool of the future which is the “telescreen”. This new technology is also used to control for it watches people’s every single action. “The telescreen received and transmitted simultaneously. Any sound Winston made, above the level of a very low whisper, would be picked up by it; moreover, so as he remained within the field of vision which the metal plaque commanded, he could be seen as well as heard. There was of course no way of knowing whether you were being watched at any given moment. How often, or on what system, the Thought Police plugged in on any individual wire was guesswork. It was even conceivable that they watched everybody all the time. But at any rate they could plug in your wire whenever they wanted to. You had to live-did live, from habit that became instinct – the assumption that every sound you made was overheard, and, except in darkness, every movement scrutinized.” (Book One, Chapter One, pages 3-4) Orwell satirizes how technology is used for evil and not for good, for it is also a means to manipulate, control, and spread propaganda.

In his book Orwell and The Techniques of Didactic Fantasy, Zwerdliong mentions that Orwell saw the world was becoming intensely absurd and illogical, and thus he had to find a means (fantastic satire) which went beyond the boundaries of pure reason that will entice the audience to realize the abuses he had uncovered. Orwell in 1984, just as in Animal Farm, exposes a failed revolution as well as what happens when a revolution fails. The use of satire is extremely profound and Orwell perfects it in his books. Firstly, he shows aesthetic disengagement from his argument as well as from his characters. It was obvious that Orwell was ambivalent toward his characters and showed no sympathy what so ever toward Winston and his tragic fate. Yet, through the use of verbal irony, wit, and degradation, he indirectly manages to provide his message through this character and what he faces. Orwell’s detachment from his characters causes the readers themselves to be detached from the characters as well. Moreover, Orwell depends on the element of fantasy for he creates this imaginary world (Oceana) in which the real world is reversed and reflected in a form of parody. 1984 is clear, simple, and straight to the point. Orwell focuses on one idea (the use of manipulation and control to run a state); he exaggerates it and disregards the other ideas. 1984 is clearly a double story that reflects the events of World War II as well as the spread of Communism in the Soviet Union. Through the use of satire, Orwell derides the division of the world into super states in which power hungry totalitarian regimes govern. In 1984, Big Brother is the ultimate totalitarian leader that dominates the society. Big Brother is portrayed clearly as leader who is always watching over the subjects of this society, yet his title is a misnomer for he is by no means a caring and sympathetic leader.

Another form of revealing a political message is Orwell’s brilliant use of psycho-analysis and the technique of stream of consciousness. Orwell alludes to Freud’s psycho-analysis as he portrays how Oceana manages to erase its subjects’ memories as a brain wash and control techniques. Winston, however, attempts of retrieve his memories (memories of his mother and childhood) in order to understand his present state. Moreover, the depiction of sexual desires, or eroticism, is another way that Freud had discovered to affect a person’s mental and emotional well-being, and this is shown through Winston’s affair with Julia, which was distinctly sordid rather than pathetic. Freud declares, “Two people in love, by excluding the larger society, incite its wrath.” In 1984, The Party prevents any form of sexual interaction (unless it is for reproduction) in order to generate hate inside its subjects, and this hate in return is directed toward the enemies (Eastasia and Eurasia). Both Freud and Orwell believe that Christian Sainthood is a form of escapism from the demands of love and desires. In 1984 and Animal Farm, Orwell severely criticizes the Catholic Church as being manipulative and hypocritical.

1984 is without a doubt one of the best pieces of literature ever written. Its excellence does not stem from the aesthetic aspect, but from the ideological and political messages that it reveals through the form of satire and double story. Orwell stipulates, “Political language… is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable, and to give an appearance of solidity to pure wind.” His use of political language aimed to trigger change and to disparage a political regime that is intended to control rather than amend.

Works Cited

Roazen, Pall. “Orwell, Freud, and 1984,” National Journal of Literature and Discussion (2003). URL: vqronline.org. 23 April 2016.

Zwerdling, A. “Orwell and the Techniques of Didactic Fantasy” in Hynes, S., Twentieth Century Interpretations of  NEF. Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice-Hall (1971): 88-101.

Hodgart, M. Satire (London: World University Library, 1969); Pollard, A. Satire (London: Methnen 1970); Sutherland, J. English Satire (Cambridge: CUP, 1962).

A Mighty Friendship

I had just finished my class and was going down to the staff room. I was passing by the short pathway that overlooks the playground when I heard a little boy’s squeaky voice shout: “But Dany, you’re my bestest friend in the THE WHOLE WORLD!” I turned to see who was making such a huge revelation, and to my surprise, I saw a tiny 12 year old, 7-grader, confess his strong admiration to a tall, well-built 17-year old 12-grader. It astonished me to see such a friendship grow between two completely different boys, in terms of size and age!

The next day, I decided to approach the boys and have a conversation with them. As usual, they were sitting at the corner of the playground, chatting and laughing loudly as they were having their breakfast. The first thing I asked Makram, the petite 12 year old, was if Dany is his best friend. Enthusiastically, he answered, “Yes, of course he is. He’s my only friend! He’s actually nice to me, he’s the best and so much fun to play with! We play Minecraft together!”

As for Dany, when asked why he’s friends with Makram, he answered: “Truthfully, he reminds me of myself when I was at that age, especially with the problems that he has. He mostly faces insecurities and class issues, pretty much like I did when I was younger.”

Dany seems to not only care for Makram, but he actually does enjoy his company as well. When asked if they ever meet outside school, the boys said not yet, but they’re planning on it. They do exchange texts and calls from time to time, especially to discuss Minecraft.  

 I was intrigued to ask whether he gives him any certain advice since he’s the older one.

“Apart from screaming all the time, I would say to be honest and be more optimistic, much more optimistic.”

Makram then interrupted saying: “Well, yes I am negative sometimes, but I’m lucky to have Dany as my best friend. I’ve told my parents about him and that I’m not close to any of my classmates. I don’t know why they hate me!”

“They don’t hate you,” Dany replied defensively. “They like you as much as I do! You’re charismatic and everyone at school knows you, you’re just too shy to talk to anyone. For years, I’ve been alone as well, but I’ve learned to accept others and not be too quick to judge.”

“Well, you see,” Makram said thoughtfully, “I keep trying with my classmates, but they’re not as nice to me as you are.”

Dany will be graduating in few months, and in response to what he feels about that he said, “I do worry so much about Makram, especially that he’s grown too attached, and to be break such an attachment is a lot to handle. I want to make sure that he makes good friends before I graduate, I don’t want him to be by himself next year.”

“I don’t know what I’ll do when Dany graduates, I wish I could go to university with him.”

I’ve always told myself, school years are the hardest to overcome. Even though both Makram and Dany are traumatized by their school experiences, especially with bullying, they both seem to have found solace and a remedy in their friendship. Age doesn’t seem to be an obstacle, for they both seem to enjoy each other’s company so much! When I pass by Dany’s class, I always see Makram hovering around in the hallway, trying to get a glimpse of his best friend. That warms my heart for there’s no sweeter feeling that a true blessed friendship.

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Happiness, a Mirage

Happiness is like a mirage, the more you chase it, the further is drifts away.

mirage
2017 has been a life changing year for me. It has taught me tremendous lessons. I’ve lost people who’ve had a great impact on my life, yet I’ve gained others who have altered my life and provided me with boundless happiness. One of the greatest lessons that this year has taught me was that happiness cannot be chased after; you can’t look for happiness as a far-fetched dream and wait for it, or when the time comes, go after it. Happiness is within the moment, you just need to create it. It’s simply a choice!
This year I’ve faced many challenges in my career life; I’ve surmounted these challenges, and only through hard work and perseverance, I’ve attained my goals. Now, I have many other goals to achieve in 2018. It’s always good to have something to look forward to, it means that you’re actually living the moment to get to your goals.
Earlier in 2017, I’ve lost the man dearest to my heart. The man whom, I believe, loved me like a daughter and a friend. He was, without a doubt, the greatest man that has ever lived. I still haven’t actually cried real tears for his loss, for every time I think of him, I remember him with a smile. That was his greatness, his power, to make everyone around him happy and smiling. Uncle Adeeb, I miss you so terribly, I know you’re always watching over me, and I hope I’m making you proud!
Despite the heartache, I’ve learned true heart-flutter. At a time when I had given up on love, it came knocking on my door and barged in without any invitation. I’ve learnt that love cannot be pushed away, nor can it be chased after. It simply chooses you, and there’s no escape. This love that I’m talking about comes in many forms, it’s the love that makes you fly without wings. It’s the love that you feel within the smallest things, yet makes you feel so grand. It’s the love that succumbs yet pinnacles. I thought with age, passion fades away, love becomes an illusion, but I was wrong. Love knows no time nor limits.
I look at 2018 with utmost optimism and I smile from the depth of my heart to welcome it. Of course, it won’t be all flowers and butterflies, but I know for sure that no matter how high the mountains are, I will climb them sturdily. I have my resolutions and they are life changing. I believe when you write down your goals, the universe will read them, with your will you can accomplish them, and the universe will in turn make it easy and smooth. I will live every day deliberately, like Thoreau says, for a moment that goes, will never come back, but one moment can make all the difference.
To all those who are reading this, I’d like to wish you the best in the coming year. May God grant you with everlasting happiness, prosperity, wealth, and peace of mind. Happy New Year!

A Shadow Within

She sits alone.. in the dark.. in the cold.. She lifts up her sleeve and without a mere decision, she slices the knife over her fragile skin.. She’s bleeding, yet she enjoys the pungent pain that overcame her as a rush of chilliness and sourness. It’s a pain that makes her alive, that makes her exist, that makes her who she really is.. The bleeding is her reality.. She’s bleeding her misery, her shame, her anxiety, her anger and everything bitter that exits inside her wrecked soul. She covers her arm and opens the window to take a deep breath.. She lits a cigarette, yet another fatal way to survive. The cold wind slams her face like needles, yet she enjoys the feeling it gives her as she exhales the smoke that slowly disappeared into the darkness. She wants to scream, to let it all out. She wants to let go of all the sullenness and resentment that has tormented her for years. Throughout her distress and misery, she’s bleeding; still she cannot shed a tear. Bitterness made her cold as the dark dim night. She is cold from within, nevertheless she’s forgiving and cannot hate. She closes the window, closes her eyes and looks at the frame that is printed inside of her head. She wants to break free from this shadow that crept into her mind and soul and lives on sucking the life out of her. Not for once has she felt the peace of mind that she’s yearning for, not for a moment has she lived peace and tranquility. She’s a lost cause, a failure.. A prisoner within herself.. a victim of her own crime that she never wanted to commit. She is guilty as charged.. A sheep that has been captured, thrown on the dirt, held its neck up before it’s slaughtered.. She wakes up the next morning, blood stains the sheets of her bed.. She takes a look at her arm and a smile draws on her face.. She enjoys looking at the scar that she has sculptured. She rises from her bed, showers and puts on the first thing that she finds in her closet. It is a sunny day, but she hates the sun, the light, and everything bright and clear. She walks with her hands in her pockets and her face lifts up towards the sky seeking a breeze to caress it. She keeps on walking until she reaches the shore.. She sits on a rock and watches the waves breaking again and again just as the beats of her heart race one after the other. She sinks into deep thoughts, of her past, present, and future..

“Who am I? Who will I ever be? If I want to live, to survive, I need to break free.. I need to tear the thorns that surround me and suffocate me.. I need to take off the knives that have stabbed me; I need to kill the sorrow and emptiness that dwell inside of me. I need to suck out the ghost of you.. I need to tear myself open and take you out because you cannot carry on inside of me.. You no longer take hold of me, you no longer kill me, you no longer shape me, you no longer define me.. You’ve uprooted me, yet now I’m a seed that will grow green and tall.. I no longer need your darkness to label me.. Your dead inside of me, you’re dead without me…. I forgive you, I’m letting you go so I could break free from your venomous drug that I was addicted to.. You no longer reside in me..”

Love’s Shore

I’ve written many rhymes before,

About the ebbs and tides of love’s shore.

I thought I’ve experienced it all

Its beauties and how they enthrall.

Lately, my words have dried away

Rhymes have drifted off from their bay.

Thought my muse has abandoned me,

Locked the door and lost the key.

The truth is, words no longer can express

Such love and absolute happiness.

No, love was never really in my rhymes,

Barely an illusion, a shadow in those lines.

This is how love genuinely feels

I stumbled, now I’m head over heels.

This love cannot be expressed in words,

Only a melody sung by birds.

I thought I lost my notes,

But in fact, they were just in boats,

Waiting to sail towards your shore,

Towards the one that I adore.

Now, let me tell you this,

In utmost ecstasy and bliss:

Your touch, to my soul, is a remedy;

Your voice, to my heart, is a melody.

Your love helps me explore,

Boundless horizons and more.

Now I see eternity with everlasting smiles

For you’ll be with me through all miles.

The Land of the Cedars

 

The first time I visited the United States of America, I was asked how I got there. I guess some were surprised that in my country, Lebanon, we actually have airports, planes, electricity, and that we are as developed mentally, socially, and economically as they are. Of course, I had to explain that Lebanon is a technologically developed country and that we don’t ride camels to work or live in tents. I was also asked how come I was wearing short sleeves and didn’t cover my head. So again, I had to explain that Lebanon is a religiously and culturally mixed country. I absolutely do not blame them for the misconceptions that they had; we, ourselves, have misconceptions about Western countries. But that’s not the focus of this blog; I was looking at some pictures that I’ve taken of the beautiful nature of my country, the land of the cedars, and thought that these pictures themselves can reveal the stunning splendor of Libnan.

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Moringa: A Natural Remedy for Acne

Is acne your worst nightmare? Are you confident enough to leave your house without covering your acne with foundation or BB cream? If you’ve been suffering from acne or its scars, then you should try this natural remedy. I’ve been dealing with facial acne for years now; I tried all over the counter treatments as well as medications recommended by my dermatologist. Nothing worked! I felt helpless and started looking for surgical alternatives, until a friend introduced moringa seeds to me. After having two moringa seeds every morning over a period of two weeks, I can definitely say that my acne has 80% vanished. Well, at least now I’m confident enough to go out without wearing any make up to cover my acne and their scars.

Moringa 1

Despite the fact that it’s amazing in rejuvenating the skin, moringa seeds have various other amazing benefits. I had decided to use it at first as a source of energy since it’s a great source of proteins and vitamins. I’ve read many articles on it and I am astounded by its benefits. During the first few days, I had noticed that I was getting more energetic and refreshed. It had also aided me with my night sleep since I had been struggling with insomnia. Another great benefit was helping with my digestive system and accelerating my metabolism. But the greatest surprise was its effect on my skin. Of course I’ve had read that it slows aging signs and empowers the skin, but I was truly shocked when I found out that my acne and my old scars were slowly disappearing.

I won’t lie and say that I enjoy eating the moringa seeds. They actually taste horrible! They have a pungent bitter taste that lasts for a while in your mouth. Yet, I’ve found a way to eat them without their taste lingering. I usually have them early in the morning with lots of water. I peel them at first, then I grind them with my front teeth, and finally I swallow them as if they’re tablets as I gulp a large glass of water. Let my stomach do the digestion part! This helps in evading their bitter taste without missing out on their benefits.

Moringa-seeds

The sad part is that the moringa seeds aren’t really found everywhere. I get mine by ordering them online or having them sent to me by friends who live in Gambia and Zambia. There are a lot of websites that do sell them in form of pills, oil, or even powder. Moringa are native to parts of Africa and Asia; it is the single type in the flowering plant family Moringaceae. The name is derivative from murungai/ munakkai/ muringa, the Tamil/ Telugu/ Malayalam word for drumstick.

Go on and google their benefits, you’d be surprised by how much vitamins and nutrients they include, who knows maybe they’ll be the remedy for your other health problems!

Written by: Rania Kiwan

Photos Taken by: Rania Kiwan