Bad Like I Feel: Empathy as Solidarity

The institution that I’ve been dedicating myself to is embroiled in an online controversy, and this is valid and good, but I don’t want to discuss the specifics, as I would be doing so in ignorance of much. I prefer to avoid joining the cacophony of voices talking past and over each other. I do want to discuss some of these voices, though, because if I have skills in anything, it’s in listening for the words that people trip over in the thick of the awful din. I believe that, for most people, the human capacity to imagine worlds at … Continue reading “Bad Like I Feel: Empathy as Solidarity”

Christmas Day 2012

The big data notification angels have reminded me of this moment on Christmas Day, 2012, outside teta Sou’ad’s place in that liminal neighborhood called Mar Youssef (St. Joseph): Mar Youssef just happens to be the saint that Pope Francis chose as Patron of the Universal Church for this coming year, in a letter entitled “With a Father’s Heart.” In the spirit of that letter, this photo, and all mothers, fathers & loved ones we can’t be with today, Merry Christmas to those who go unnoticed, yet nurture us with their “daily, discreet & hidden presence,” wherever they may be.

#AdventWord 2020, Week 1

#Tender I’m not ready for Advent this year. Maybe it’s this prolonged pandemic, this extended Ash Wednesday bleeding through page after calendar page—in which case, I’d be somewhat relieved—or maybe it’s my growing familiarity with what goes on behind the curtains as the audience lines up for their caramel popcorn—a very real possibility I must contend with—either way, this year feels a little off, a little “gently out of time,” as one of Blur’s lesser-knowns goes. Today’s word is “tender” but unlike 2 or 3 years ago, this year, I know that today’s word is not tender—I understand the logic … Continue reading “#AdventWord 2020, Week 1”

This Skin Is For Feeling Nothing

A couple of days ago, Christine and I were having one of those random rabbit-trail conversations that somehow ended up on the question of superhero mutations. She mentioned dragon skin and the power of imperviousness. I speculated on the dynamics of acquiring such powers; would a mutation amplify an existing trait? Or would truly mythic transformations bestow upon the hero-to-be the kinds of capacities they’d only wished for, but had never actualized? This metamorphic distinction seems to mark the line between the curse and the blessing in superhuman ability—then again, we know that both realities may be true at once. … Continue reading “This Skin Is For Feeling Nothing”

#BusLineHeroes: 20 Weeks of Gratitude, Week 18

Part 1: Becoming the Change This week, I’m stripping it all back to the bare tacks: I’m grateful for the stories I’m able to tell. @BusMapProject was a bit of tactical urbanism, a modest gambit to capture a global moment when participatory data and collective mapping were becoming en vogue, in the service of a sociotechnical artifact that was very much not—and in doing so, it was a lot more than that. It was an attempt at re-writing a story that Lebanese people told themselves about themselves. In place of chaos, we wrote of everyday ordering; instead of lawlessness, we … Continue reading “#BusLineHeroes: 20 Weeks of Gratitude, Week 18”

Earth Week: 20 Weeks of Gratitude, Week 17

Part 1: Lebanon I’ve noticed a pattern on Instagram in the last few weeks; every time I flick through your stories, I see one or two or three or four of you posting images of plant life—wild flowers, potted plants, tree bark, even grass. These little odes to botany come from different countries & diverse people, but they usually share a similar aesthetic: close up, almost reverential, with an air of rediscovered naïveté like “have you ever really seen a leaf, like really really seen a leaf?” It seems that social distancing has brought us closer to our non-human neighbors. … Continue reading “Earth Week: 20 Weeks of Gratitude, Week 17”

Creed & Culture: 20 Weeks of Gratitude, Week 11

Part 1: Grandpa’s Hymn This is a hymn written by my grandpa, a poet and gentle soul who always spoke like he was from another dimension, and now, is struggling to cling to the last tendrils of connection to this world. He’s been hospitalized after a bad fall and his mental state is deteriorating rapidly—my mother says that he’s not recognizing anyone in the room, though he’s talking about me by name. At first, I was stunned by that particular detail; I’ve been a terrible grandson, rarely around or in touch. But then I stopped to think about why he’d … Continue reading “Creed & Culture: 20 Weeks of Gratitude, Week 11”

Kuwait: 20 Weeks of Gratitude, Week 10

Part 1: Growing Up For the longest time, I’d dream in distinct phases. In college, my dreams were populated by people from high school; in high school, my dreams featured my friends from Kuwait. That pattern has since abated; today, my memories of Q8, as we called it, are still vivid, but the details are hazy & more dreamlike than ever before. Kuwait is where my sister was born; it’s where I heard Pretty Fly for a White Guy on the US Armed Forces Radio—you had to turn the dial to the very edge of the spectrum, in one corner … Continue reading “Kuwait: 20 Weeks of Gratitude, Week 10”

The Ex: 20 Weeks of Gratitude, Week 6

Part 1: Difference Today I want to talk about hummus. That’s not hummus in my photo, that’s mtabbal, aka baba ghannouj. I don’t want to talk about mtabbal at all. I took that photo years ago to talk about “my” culture. I want to talk about chocolate–flavored hummus. Rick Flair-endorsed, BDS-listed #SuperBowl ‘mmus. I want to talk about how my views have both changed and remained the same when it comes to this amorphous cellular cake of matter and meaning we call human culture. I didn’t think much about hummus before I started leaving Lebanon; that’s when it stopped being … Continue reading “The Ex: 20 Weeks of Gratitude, Week 6”