Meditation On and In Leaving
I’m writing this as I lie in bed awake at four in the morning, in a half furnished studio in Reykjavík, while the streetlamp colours my walls orange through my curtain-less windows. I moved here four days ago, and tomorrow I step outside my door for the first time, like all the eager visitors of Iceland this time of year, to get a second PCR test.
I spent most of the past three years dealing with leaving Lebanon, while at the same time leaving from home to home, making this one my sixth. A decision to leave that I took wholeheartedly, and perhaps because of that I was open to its transformations. A decision that I willingly embraced and yet was made for me decades before I was born by a coloniser that left.
You stay if you are satisfied with the present, or you are forced to stay, and you suffer. You stay if you can live the lives of those before you. You suffer if you are forced to stay, or you suffer because you left. In either case suffering ushers a departure. A flight in thought; a divergence from conventional, agreeable thinking and acting.
Nothing ever changes if it wasn’t for those who left.
The roots of the world that we know today, the seeds of capitalist modernity took roots in the homes of those who left behind the feudal village and its communal ways of living. The homes of those who lost their home and could not find it anymore, even when they remained in the same place. They engineered factories and fuelled them with the anger of leaving. With the anger that sprouted on the way from home, and grew with the distance. Anger with home, and everything in it. A passionate anger grounded in the loss of something dear: a part of the self.
Leaving meant the loss of the community and the common. Living necessitated a reduction of the world to one; to the self. A reinforcement of the individual: the individual builds, succeeds and owns things, owns ideas, and owns thought. The individual became the model according to which we construct our world (the individual soul that we even lend to corporations). We created a world, systems of governance where even the multiple is considered one. In order to apply the principles of the individual to the population, the population became one. A mass that can be studied, manipulated, and managed as one. They forgot that they left because they were ones that refused to be massed. They forgot, or assumed that the ones who did not leave, the ones who did not leave far enough, the ones who are still multiple, do not deserve to be ones.
We live in cities built for individuals, individual families and individual communities. Cities that still reverberate with the anger of those who built them. We live in cities designed by people whose anger prevented them from finding a home away from home. We lost the ability to imagine a world together because being together cannot be the same away from home. Instead, we declared the individual our home. The lines of oneness that we drew, whether along lines of race, gender, ability, sexuality, nationality, or religion became the space where our anger towards home played out. A definition of home and the outside, the one and the other, of good and bad, of human and nature and of order and chaos. A definition of home grounded in the anger felt with the distance from home. A home that is always big enough only for one, even when it is the size of the earth, even when it is the size of existence. This is the story of the coloniser that left to become a manager, soon to be CEO.
We seek stability, we seek home, while the only way we can have home and stability, is by things staying the same; by settling in privilege. Stability and home should not be mutually exclusive; cannot be mutually exclusive. We find home in each other; a rhythmic patch of order among the chaos; an unstable, dehierarchised home, a song that we hum to guide our uncertain stroll. A home that you can only enter if you leave your privilege, delusional stability, and intergenerational compliance at the door.
Stability is not the enemy, but deceptive stability is. Our lives are not stable—we are all deterritorialised to various degrees—and if there’s anything the past year has taught us (whether through the pandemic, the Lebanese crisis, or other local or global crises, uprisings and breaking points) is that our lives can be uprooted at any moment. And our lives will be uprooted at any moment because we are reaping the culmination of centuries of exploitation of the planet and of each other. The fact that we are still living in the same social and political structures, we still produce within the same institutional and corporate environments under the shadow of a techno-totalitarian alternative (whether under fascist states or corporations); and this is no less than planetary suicide. But perhaps the most comforting thing about all of this is that even if we’re not able to break out of our hierarchised selves and our dreams of solving the problems of production by producing even more, the earth will see another day, and life will continue beyond our self-centred definitions.
Nothing will ever change if it’s not for those who are forced to leave together.