Up you go!
Creative Social’ the group that invited me for a talk to their Beirut meeting, asked me to send something to a book they are putting together under the title of “the best advice ever”.(I wrote this!) I must have been around five years old or so, when my father used to walk me some distance away from home, where the school bus stopped every early morning to pick me up and take me to the kindergarten. It was quite a walk actually, maybe a whole kilometer or two. On the way he sometimes told me an interesting piece of information or opinion, or recited one or two lines of poetry, usually with a motto, in either Arabic or English. One line of Arabic verse I remember so clearly, he explained with a lot of vigor said what was to the effect of: say not I am of this descent or that. . a fellow’s descent is what he achieves. After dwelling on the profound meaning, he would recite it again this time more poetically. But that was not the best advice I got from him during the morning walk. It was the second best. One day he asked me how would I prefer to write my name! He said that there was the French way “Camille”, or otherwise I can chose a simpler way, explaining that a person has the right to spell his name the way he prefers. Frankly speaking if you ask me now, I can hardly name a third thing he told me in that walk, without putting real effort. But I think that with this one, he actually planted the seed of individual choice in me irreversibly, and I was so young!! Apparently I found free choice attractive, and I ended up writing my name the way I do. This gave me some trouble every now and then, since as French is the more dominant second language in Lebanon, officially my name is written the French way. But I believe the early discovery of this additional opening of freedom characterized my life indefinitely. At secondary school when an English teacher, for example, would write 3 titles on the board to chose for a composition quiz in class, still I will always raise my hand and ask for a fourth which is free. A student’s choice! And since, then looking for the better alternative to anything became the real title of my life occupation. To add some extra pepper to the moral of the story, there is another dimension to that principle, namely that when I am made to understand at such an early age that I am free to spell my name the way I like, it also tells me that this unconditional freedom is in the realm of what is very much mine but outside that realm you need to raise your hand. The bus is here son, up you go! Kameel (after all Camille is not so bad)