The Artist & Incompletion

The following post is part of a series, ‘The Artist’, I intend to write.

We’ve seen it in even the brightest minds, incompletion. It is often a disaster, a misfortune, a loss for an entire world of art-admirers.
Leonardo Da Vinci, the renowned polymath that he was, himself very rarely completed the work he’d have started. In fact, what is by many seen as one of the most beautiful masterpieces of Renaissance art, his painting, ‘The Adoration of the Magi’, lies to this day, unfinished.

As a man who views himself as an artist at heart, I myself have rarely ever completed my grand, ambitious, and often exaggerated projects.

Last year, I’d started work on what was to become my most magnificent achievement yet. It was a philosophical socio-political play by the name of ‘Pandora’.

The play, based on the Ancient Greek myth, was to portray my elaborated views on the erroneous use of knowledge, brain waste, and the war on intellectualism.

The play’s first act would show Pandora, the heroine, opening the pithos that would unleash unto the uncivilized man the two-edged sword which would lead him to self-destruction, the desire for knowledge.

The play would end in Pandora’s hanging in a public square under charge of corrupting society and leading it into war and corruption (due to man’s misuse of knowledge).

I wrote the first two scenes from the first act which were highly poetic in style, grand in nature, and complex in emotion and thought. But to even my own misfortune, all of a sudden, I lost interest.

Think that was a good idea?

Two years before, I wanted to write a novel and lost interest after the third chapter.
At the start of this summer, I wanted to write a collection of poems on love, but after losing hope in the collection’s dedication, I saw it pointless to proceed in any of my poetic work on the subject of love, perhaps for a break before going back into the subject.

The artist, often of passionate nature, is too regularly swayed into dismissing his work due to frequent changes in emotion towards his muse.

Too many times, I have set out on huge musical projects: caprices, film scores, dedications to loved ones, and had all sorts of great ideas and melodies in mind.

But every time I started work. my enthusiasm would fail in comparison to great masters before me: Mozart, Rachmaninoff, Tchaikovsky, Chopin, Beethoven, they were all somehow my competition.
And after listening with awe to every single work, I felt discouraged to ever pursue my projects, though I knew very well how illogical it was for a budding self-taught composer of only 16 years of age to compare himself to the great men of musical history who had obviously studied music long and hard before attaining their final level of mastery.

Also, one of the most significant reasons for my often sudden loss of motivation is the discrepancy between vision and reality, for I have yet, in music for example, to master orchestration and composition to be able to manifest the music as it plays in my mind exactly onto the music score.
My musical works thus only include short pieces for piano, numerous improvisations, and just about above 10 or 12 brief orchestral pieces, with hundreds of recorded melodies and musical notations waiting to see daylight.

Perfectionism has driven me insane.

I have recently started practicing my portrait-sketching. I am self-taught. And being the perfectionist that I am, I must stay about an hour on every sketch, neatly revising every single detail, never to obtain the envisioned result.

My success lies in simple projects, those who can keep time with my always-altering bursts of inspiration and enthusiasm. Such are my poems, orchestral pieces, and essays among others.

Many have perceived me as a hard-worker. I am not a hard-worker in any way. Most people’s definition of a teenage ‘hard-worker’ is an academic over-achiever, someone who works long nights, who can force himself into work.
I am in no way that person. My character is that of a capricious mind.

I cannot force myself into work, but, controversially, what I believe in I will work for endlessly and to the very end. When it comes to working for my values and interests, I will work long nights, spend days on my projects, and risk even my health in depriving myself of sleep and food.
The problem is that I can never force myself into work that I have no motivation for.

Perhaps it is because as a child, I was spoiled, not materially, but motivationally.
Allow me to explain; as a kid, I was at the top of my preschool and lower elementary classes, not due to hard work, but rather purely effortlessly.
I was congratulated by my parents and teachers, based on ability, and never based on determination and work. Even when they did not know it, they would very often congratulate my ability and not my work.

I was among my teachers’ favorites, if not quite a few teachers’ favorite, not because I worked hard, but because I simply was a good student, again, effortlessly.

I grew up with the idea that no matter what, success was inevitable, it was out of my control, success was almost part of who I was.
I blame the academic system for never challenging me in preschool and elementary school.

When I grew up, things suddenly needed to be studied, I had to suddenly start memorizing material. My grades started falling lower and lower, partly also due to psycho-social complications (which I might discuss later in this series in ‘The Artist & Ostracism’), though I still maintain to this day a good GPA even under minimum effort.

I believe many other artists-at-heart have had similar childhoods, thus leading to our often whimsical minds.

The moment a duty or project turns into an obligation, or rather homework, I inevitably detach myself completely from any effort to achieve it.

Another thing is that, being the socially independent person that I am, I never give importance to social praise of my work; I am never encouraged by praise or any other outside force like money. I am what some describe as “intrinsically motivated”, which means that I cannot derive any motivation from anywhere other than myself, and also that I cannot derive motivation from what does not somehow relate to my integrity in my case.

I am heavy with the burden of my incompletions, due to several motivational and moral complications.

When I think of my work, I think of how many ideas I have betrayed, how many artistic projects that never came to be, I think of how high my GPA could be if I could somehow force myself to study, but I know deep down that even like those before me, I may really never be able to escape this terrible reality, incompletion.

I am guilty, before God and man, for never fully utilizing my potential, seldom completing my work, and never forcing myself to work against my motivation.

Perhaps, though, these final lines may justify my indolence before the godly court:

It is a pity when the artist does not complete his art, but even more a pity when the art does not complete the artist.

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My LIYLS Farewell Speech

The following was the speech I gave on behalf of the Lebanese Delegation at the end of the Loundoun International Youth Leadership Summit (during the farewell dinner).
I cannot be more thankful for all the friends I have met through this summit, they are the people I think of when I feel down, and knowing that such good people exist in the world renews my hope in the cause of humanity.
I will not speak much further however, the speech says it pretty well I believe.

Teachers, Students, Delegates, Global Ambassadors, friends, one for one…

Close your eyes, Imagine a world where men of all cultures and creeds, would meet and interact every single day…
Imagine a world, where man’s many and diverse differences, were seen as a means of progress,
Where young men and women of all races and lands, would unite for a single cause…
Imagine… Imagine a world where men would live together, side by side, in each other’s very homes, united and strong…

In a word, what we have witnessed in this brief stretch of the canvas of time, is a rainbow of colors, a harmonious reform, and perhaps the greatest manifestation of Utopia.

I am today, a truly universal citizen, with friends that span the globe. I have learned and experienced different cultures, peoples, and ways of life…

I have made lifelong friends and experienced life-changing phenomena…

Whether it was waking up to students lazily heading to school, being greeted by people’s humble smiles, having random fun with friends, or going out to a dinner where at least 4 countries were represented, the experience was truly beyond my very dreams…

From heated discussions on the world’s most debated topics, to partying with the guys, I have made ties with not only men, but citizens of a global society, whose causes are too great to be restricted to a single geographic location…

As I say goodbye to all the friends I have made, it’s sad to imagine that we may never meet again…

But I say to you, as you leave Dominion’s lively hallways, carry me with you, as I will too, and make of me a cherished memory, that you may one day look at me as part of your own history, that which you may one day present before the cause of humanity.

Thank you.

At first I thought my speech was too formal and emotional for the occasion especially compared to those presented by other delegations which expressed more of the light-hearted humor and inside jokes among the summit people, which were admittedly the funniest thing ever, (If Henning from Germany is reading this, I am still desperate for the Germany speech!) but after seeing so many passionate, emotional faces after delivering my speech, I knew I had somehow reached into the depth of all who were truly as passionate as I was about the experience. (Laura!)

I would like to thank every single person that participated in the summit and here goes:
“Thank you for altering my life and allowing me to know you and understand your view on the world. My heart is rich in your memory.”

The men of tomorrow will look back at us with a smile of gratitude.

The Revelation of Truth

Trust in the truth and the truth will reveal itself.

The above saying is a theological law, and like many other philosophical speculations, there is more than one interpretation to it. And it is perhaps possible to judge that no interpretation can ever be refuted. All interpretations discovered under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit must count as correct.

The standard interpretation is that if one were to trust in God by faith, God would reveal himself to him.
Thus one must believe in God before having witnessed his full power or having had proof of it. (John 20:29)

But let us ponder closely at this Bible verse:

Jesus saith unto him, Thomas, because thou hast seen me, thou hast believed: blessed are they that have not seen and yet have believed. (John 20:29)

I personally cannot accept the existence of a person I have never met.
But perhaps, the flaw in man’s mind is that he sees God as a person, or rather, only a person.

God is not simply a person, he is not a distant acquaintance. He is not a formal relation of ours.

God is the power of good.

God is the power of good men.

Good men, be they even non-religious, have in them a hope, a purpose, a belief that no matter what happens, the power of good will always triumph by the end.

The belief in the infallibility of good can be deemed as quite illogical. Odds are, good should have as many failures as victories. Yet, to this day, I have not seen a single good man who does not hold on his forehead the mark of victory, be he lonely, poor, or dying. Even the death of good men seems a triumph.
And through my life, I have not seen one wicked man who does not bear concealed within him the mark of defeat. For even in all his encounters he is always grim, he hides, he conceals, and he seems to always carry the load of his wickedness on his back, that he may never be truly happy. His death is pitiful and horrible, as he looks back at the life he has lived, he knows he has been defeated by his own self-love. This brings to mind the death of Hitler, for example.

The equation derived from the infallibility of good has one unknown, one mystery, and that mystery is God, the strength of the good.

Just as light always triumphs over darkness, so does good triumph over evil.

God is the power of good men. He is the strength of the peace-makers, the justice-fighters and the joy-spreaders.

Thus we can conclude that no good thing on earth has ever come to be, except through this power of good, God himself.

Just men, intellectuals, often meet God on such paths.

History is full of examples of such great men who, through their devotion to the values of good, started feeling an unknown power working alongside their cause, giving them strength every step of the way, and even though they were mere individuals fighting against an entire world, they still won.

It must be deemed impossible for a single man to defeat the world. There can never be enough strength, psychologically or spiritually, in a single man, to conquer a world infinite times his power. The triumph of justice and equality through men such as Gandhi for example, reveals that men such as he had within them, not their own power, but the power of their values.
And if their values are good, that means that they are driven by the power of good, in other words, Almighty God.

It can be said, therefore, that it was not Gandhi who fought the tyrannical British regime, but rather the universal power of Good, or rather Almighty God, who, through Gandhi, put an end to this global injustice of the time.
This can be held true for numerous other historical events.

To conclude, the just man will often start off a skeptic, questioning God. Although, as he follows his own righteous values, which are derived from God, he will start to recognize the infallibility of his cause, and an enormous power emerging within himself that he never knew he could possess.
This man of justice will then recognize that all throughout, his fight for establishing good in society, was being aided by a hidden power.
Little by little, the truth reveals itself, and he realizes that all this time he was only a soldier in the army of God, that all this time he was fighting for good, he was fighting for God.

And he, a faithful warrior of light, shall dwell in the house of the Lord for evermore.

Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God. (Matthew 5:9)

________________________

At last I say to my readers, be warriors for the power of good, for it will lead you to the revelation of God, all worries then, shall be dwarfed, and you will live in the glory of the victories of good.

And my tongue shall speak of thy righteousness and of thy praise all the day long. (Psalms 35:28)

End of School (2012-2013)

I’d often seen how, in movies, people’s lives can change in brief periods, in a flash, or even in a single instant…
I’d often thought it illogical, absurd… I’d deemed it as a mere embellishment to a plot, perhaps in order to provide contrast between great lows and great highs.

But that year, my opinion changed, along with a ton of my ideals and principles.

The year 2012-2013 was initially met with a lot of enthusiasm on my part; I vowed that high school would be a turning point in my life, that stretch of time between conflict and resolution, that would make everything better at the end…
I had, in my mind, set a well-organized plan, a plan that was sure to bring me to the pinnacle of intellectual and social status, a plan that would finally bring me to my happy ending, being accepted at a top-notch university abroad, where I would be surrounded by people I could relate to, people I could genuinely call friends, people who were intellectually stimulating, the kind you can have endless talks about virtually anything with, who had an opinion on every single detail of the world around them and beyond them.
I also might add that I was particularly excited by the fact that all of my teachers would have PhD’s, which to me meant that they were interested in their subjects enough to have followed through such tiring education to attain this degree. That interest, I thought, was sure to be reflected in their work as teachers…

Though my goals were ambitious, my plan was simple: being class delegate, joining MUN, and actually taking studies seriously.

But instead of everything going straight and mellow as I’d planned, life seemed to have had other plans for me…

The truth is, I wasn’t allowed to run for delegate, because, though I had won all elections I had run for (perhaps more for competency than popularity, that and the strong reputation I had for my rebellious feel of justice in the academic institution), and despite having been deemed by many the perfect candidate, the school had a rule against students who had received demerit slips in the previous year to run for candidacy…
This was quite a shock especially noting that my demerit was received merely due to having drank in class without permission (that teacher must have been extremely enraged about something!)
Also, to my indescribable astonishment, I was not accepted into MUN. Here is what had happened during my interview: I entered the room filled to the rim with confidence, literally assuming my interview was a simple formality. I had surrounded myself with “motivations”, set my phone wallpaper to Nassau Hall in Princeton University, read political articles even more so than I did (it is necessary to note that my interest in MUN had actually begun in 8th Grade, along with my interest in government, and that my research on MUN had actually begun far back in the early summer of 2012, all adding to my excitement at joining this club that I considered the most amazing thing that could ever happen to me) But then at the first hint that my interview might not turn out as witty and perfect as planned, the entire illusion started to shatter before me, I panicked, lost concentration, yet still clinging to stay in that interview room as long as I could to prove myself to what I later called the self-consumed pig who ruined my life. Simply put, I panicked under unnecessary pressure I had forced on myself, and thus failed miserably.

After having been rejected from the positions I valued most, I no longer made any effort to study, I had accepted my fate as a worthless failure never to be discovered. In other words, I was ready to sink back into the depression I had been hopelessly immersed in for years already.

I still tried my luck though, and applied to the US Embassy Essay Writing Competition in November 2012.

Later in the year, interviews for joining Face to Faith were pending to start. I remembered a classmate that had discussed it with me. It had seemed to me as one of those really annoying tedious clubs where people sit around and discuss uninteresting topics like “What Is Love?”.
I was nevertheless, though reluctant, drawn to join the club, not because I found it interesting, but because I thought it good for me to be surrounded by such kind religious people as those who would care for such topics… Maybe it was also a plead from my seemingly dead ambitious self that just didn’t want to let the year pass by without having done a thing to mark it by.

I remember waiting in the halls for the interviews, along with another 30-40 students… People seemed nice, friendly, some even surprised me in that they were actually interested and wanted to join, how wrongly I had judged them!
Amazingly, people were asking me for advice on how to answer questions that may come up in the interview. I didn’t think they knew of my interest in philosophy… I didn’t think they knew I had opinions on almost all that could be asked… But apparently, an earlier presentation on George Orwell’s ‘Animal Farm’ that I had given in my English class back in the first month of the year (which had earned me a full grade) had gone into the discussions of even those who had never heard of me, and had painted me as a thinker who went by strict principles and moral values, who criticized everything, and who had an opinion on everything. That image, was admittedly true, though incomplete.
I entered the interview room, and was received by the humble smiles of the former members and the trainer. I was asked questions, similar to many others, and answered them, as I would have judged, averagely. And between each question, I was told a little about what they did in Face to Faith, as in-between talk…
After exiting the interview room, I was convinced that I actually wanted to join the club, that I belonged there, all simply by the character of those inside that room.
Briefly, I entered hesitant, and went out with not only a will to enter, but what I felt was a need to enter.
A few weeks later, the Face to Faith team of 2013 was announced, I was there, on that list of 23 members.
I was told by insiders that my name, and that of 3 others, were selected afore the selection process, the news simply baffled me, what that man of God had seen within this man of resentment and defeat I did not know, but I was eager to discover it within myself.

Suddenly, my life was changed, I was a new-born. I believe the Holy Spirit was transmitted to me through these people, and for the first time, though we never hung out outside club meetings, I felt I had friends.

God works in many and miraculous ways.

Ever since I was introduced to this club, good things just started to happen, in different fields of my life, of which I will only discuss school.
I felt renewed appreciation from my teachers. Opportunities started jumping right at my face, people suddenly treated me better, and I had no clue why. Even on bad days, I was always happy, I was simply content with the fact that my God was present, alive, everywhere, and he was the power of Good, and he had saved me from the darkness of myself.

Later that year, selection procedures started for participation in the Loudoun International Youth Leadership Summit. I, again, decided to try my luck. We had to write an essay, an essay about Gibran Khalil Gibran, a world-renowned Lebanese-American poet/philosopher. Out of about 40-50 applicants to the summit, only 4 people apparently had sufficient knowledge of Gibran Khalil’s life and works in order to write a decent essay about the given topic. I was one among those four. (My essay received a 25/30, very high in the Lebanese grading system for writing)
After recognizing the failure of most students to write the first essay, the school decided to ask for a second essay, an essay about how to improve Lebanon.
I wrote an essay that discussed a plan I designed to educate the Lebanese of all ages especially the young in order to create a peaceful, economically, and socially stable country. (This essay wad graded over 20 and received a 17/20)
The 10 students with the best overall score in essay-writing were to be selected for interviewing, only 4 would later be chosen to participate in the summit.
I entered the interview room, confident with a feeling of renewed strength, I was met with the face of the same man who had previously denied me my position in the MUN team I had so longed to join. Unexpectedly, the interviewer made a relieving comment on my essays to start off my interview, saying briefly that he was impressed with the quality of my writing. My interview went well, and that was a load off. (It was given a score of 35/50)
I was selected the next day to enter the summit in Loudoun County, Virginia with the highest final score among all others (77/100).

During the buzz of summit preparations, one afternoon when I had just returned from school, I was holding ice cubes in my palm to place under my newly-budded rose plant, when at such an inconvenient timing, my phone rang. Cursing at the caller who had picked so bad a time to call, I resolved to answer my phone, ice cubes still in hand.
The voice on the phone was that of a man in his 30s, a professional of some field judging by his tone. The voice on the phone first verified that he was talking to Elio Azar of Saint Joseph School, then came the announcement of the year. “Mr. Elio Azar, I would like to congratulate you on winning the US Embassy Essay-Writing Competition”. The man continued to speak of the timing he would like me to arrive at the embassy to receive my certificate and closed the call off saying he would email me with further information.
You could imagine what trouble I had holding back that thrill while holding ice cubes that were about to freeze my palm solid, but I speedily distributed my ice cubes under the little promising rose bud and hurried off to inform my family of the good news.

That same interviewer that had denied me my dream school-life had now become to me a prime supporter, and perhaps even a friend, I consider him as such at least.

Then came the day where I had to pack my bags, say goodbye to sweet Lebanon for a while and say hello to the seat of the self-proclaimed leader-of-the-free-world, or technically, Loundoun County, which is just a half-hour away…

The summit is easily a milestone in my life. I can say without a doubt, that I made, during the summit, better friends than I had ever made in my entire life.
The summit exposed me to various faces of American society, and allowed me to hear the perspectives of people from all over the world on world issues.
Also, being immersed in such a group of fun and friendly individuals, I actually danced for the first time in my life, a lot of times, and actually enjoyed it…
The experience left me with a broadened perspective on the world, friends around the globe, and a more social character.
It was truly depressing to have to leave these people the last day probably never to see them again.

I came back to Lebanon. The weather, I believe, was a fine rainy spring. The jet lag was terrible; I cannot say I truly managed. To make matters worse, I had a math test during the week after my return on subjects explained during my absence, which I had come to grasp but not master, I did awfully.

A new project rose in that head of mine at year’s end: to start a school newspaper. I stayed up nights researching what works and what doesn’t in school newspapers, all in order to write my proposal, which turned out to be a quite-detailed 6-page document.
I delivered it to my school’s Student Affairs Office right after completion.
I had to wait 3 weeks for feedback, which mostly promised that the newspaper would start the very next year. I was thrilled.

The rest of my days at school were long, boring, as is the norm of course…

My final grades for this part of the year were bad in comparison, my final grades were not as expected, but I was in fact impressed that I was able to achieve as this with zero effort, and I really do mean zero effort AKA: not studying, daydreaming, etc.

But the period was also one of deep religious reflection on what had happened to me during the year. I knew that God had intervened in my life, made a change in me and those around me. I felt enlightened by this truth, and started tweeting all about God’s greatness.

Soon, I found that my tweets were actually helping others with their faith, encouraging them in life, helping them with their everyday interactions.

And thus I realized the work of God:
I, once a darkness to myself, had become a light to others.

The truth is that my failures before had been the results of me trying to mess with my own path, setting my own goals, driving the vehicle that was myself. But, after seeing myself an unworthy driver, I placed God in the driver’s seat, and my life has never been better.

Today, I know almost nothing of my future, before, that was my worry. Today, I do not mind it, because each day my path is revealed more and more, and I fail to understand why God has given me such a path of greatness, but I do not need to understand, only to follow in the path of light. For it is said:

Trust in the truth and the truth will reveal itself.