Saturday, December 17, 2011

I’ve been procrastinating writing a “last” blog entry for Lebanon, because there’s no sense of completion or end; no neat little verbal bow to tie on to the last three months before packing it solidly away into “experiences past.”

We wrote a play based on the ex-fighters’ reflections, ideas, and experiences (check). Mike’s taking it forward to be performed by a pilot group of High School students for the April 13 war commemoration activities (check). I left with an enormous sense of gratitude and respect, and the desire to come back for future collaborations with my amazing friends and project partners here (check). But…nothing feels finished.

When I talk about the last three months, I keep returning to the story of Abu Ali at Khiam. Every day, he returns to the museum and tells the story of his time there. Every day, he tells the story of the 5 years he spent living under traumatic conditions. Every day, he stoops and reaches and twists his ageing body into the stress positions that have marked him since his imprisonment, as if exorcising his trauma through this repeated verbal / physical ritual.

There are stories that the ex-fighters returned to again and again and again. Stories I heard them tell four or five times between our rehearsals and causal meetings and conferences and documentary videos. A young boy snipered on a mission. A priest who granted preemptive forgiveness for killing the enemy. A detested sheik who paid continued visits to a child’s home, demanding more silence than the boy was capable of.

It is not the stories themselves that carry the most power, I am realizing. It is the continued act of telling them. A healing? A shedding? A molting? A ritual. A repeated return to a moment in time. A processing, and perhaps a gradual letting go.

These stories will be told again and again. Abu Ali will continue to spend his days at Khiam. I don’t think it’s entirely accurate to think of any of these actions as a means to an end, because there isn’t necessarily an end in sight. None of these men are waiting around for the day when they, or even the country, will be fully “healed.” They are simply engaged in the process of healing. Perhaps that’s as close to healed as we ever get.

Photo Credit: (c) Bilal Kabalan