Carpe Diem. I heard this term from two different people last July, during the war. Intrigued, I looked it up.
Basically it is Latin for seize the day or the moment and enjoy it as much as you can because life is so fragile and it can be taken away in a flash. I kind of agreed with the definition but it did not touch or move me at the time even though death and destruction were our daily bread back in July.
I guess the Big Fellow up in the skies was testing me this past month. He was more like messing with my mind regarding my acceptance of the Carpe Diem concept.
It is odd how our brains work and how they put us in a “frame of mind” when we are in a contemplating mode. The last 40 days have been really interesting from that perspective.
We are very tiny group of friends. More like brothers. We grew up together since our early ages of 8 or 9 years old. One of us was planning on getting married on the 21st of July and that of course did not happen because we were knee deep in “smart bombs and not so smart rhetoric” at the time. He postponed the wedding to Saturday September 30th.
On Friday the 29th one of the guys (A.) in our circle was heading to meet another one of our friends to discuss a few last minute issues before the big wedding and how we were gonna play a big prank on the groom and fool the parents of his bride-to-be who are Jordanian.
A. was riding his bike on the motorway when a car decided to make a sudden U-turn right in front of him. He didn’t even break and was killed on the spot. He was 35 and father to a 2 month old baby girl. I don’t recall the last time I cried that much. I may never have cried that much before. I was sitting through the funeral proceedings and the words flashed in front of my eyes again: “… it can be taken away in a flash !!!”
The wedding was grim. We are a loud bunch. We never miss a chance to poke fun at anything or anybody. We sat around that table and kept a seat empty for A. and for the sake of our groom we feigned a look of joy and happiness but we are bad actors. It showed miserably.
I always hated weddings in Lebanon. For starters the concentration of so many fake blondes in one surrounding is vomit inducing.
The display of plastic surgery prowess and “nude” clothing with Nancy Ajram and/or Wael Kfoury (1) playing loudly has always reminded me of a famous quip by Oscar Wilde: when asked to give his opinion during a wedding party about a beautiful woman, he said: she is wearing too much rouge and not enough clothes. Always a sign of despair in a woman.
Of course, Wilde was gay and that makes him an expert on women.
Despair is not my favorite emotion. Desperate people are not my favorite crowd. So unless some things change I still hate going to weddings.
The next week-end I was invited to yet another wedding. It was a close collaborator of mine who got plucked by a Lebanese expatriate who was on a visit to meet his match. I truly cared very much about this woman. She worked in my team for 7 or 8 years. I hated the idea of her getting married this way. But, it is none of my business and if the statistics are right and the ratio of women to men in Lebanon has reached 5 to 1, then by all means Mabrouk (2). I don’t want to interfere with destiny or statistics for that matter.
I hated that wedding as well not because of the graphic displays of “despair” but since I am unattached these days, there was an attempt by every “tante” (3) in the hall to introduce to me or me to a potential “mate” (By the way, mating season in Lebanon is a year round affair.)
Weddings are fun and the Carpe Diem ideology works best in such settings. Yet, I missed the opportunity to seize “anything” and I was about to get another message.
The second funeral also hit close.
This one was the celebration of a man who epitomized Carpe Diem. Uncle Y. was 73 years old when he decided he had had enough. There was not much more to do. He had done it all. He is the only one I know of who combined guns & poetry. He was the last of the “Abadayet” (4). A breed of men for whom courtesy comes first and enjoying life a close second. They never worried about money or planning the future. They lived in different times and different eras.
I sat through the condolences ceremonies for 5 days. I heard every story imaginable about him and the folks who were telling me these always ended their tale by: “...he grabbed life by its horns…”
When I walked out of the church hall where we were receiving condolences yesterday, I was thinking about his life and mine. I realized I was taking life too seriously, I was too insistent on navigating and not letting go of the helm. It was taking too much effort and too much resistance. I was worried that Carpe Diem might interfere with my future plans. But my future plans are NOW.
I slowed the car to a complete stop and signaled to turn left. As I moved to cross, a speeding car hit mine on the side and spun the car 180 degrees and I hit the gate head on.
It was a real loud crash. I unbuckled my seat and stepped out of the car. I looked at myself just to see if I was bleeding. Nothing. I squeezed my knees to check if they are ok. Nothing. I looked around, people were looking at me with awe. They did not believe I made it. The other car fled the scene. I did not care. I could not believe what just happened. My first ever car accident, 18 years after I got my driving license !!!
I looked at the car and I felt scared. During those few seconds of spinning, I kept thinking "it could all be taken in a flash".
Thanks a lot.
I got the message.
(1) Lebanese pop culture singers. Although their names should never be used in the same sentence where the word “culture” appears.
(3) Old woman with a knack for gossip and matching
(4) To borrow an analogy from the Wild West, these guys are the oriental version of a Jesse James or a Wyatt Earp.