the Lebanese bouquet of channels de Bahjat Rizk

I long resisted installing a satellite on my building rooftop because it required a long process from the condominium. Then, in recent years, there has been the arrival of ‘the’ magic box which included the Internet, telephone and television. Every term, I postponed this new breakthrough in the world of communication because I was afraid of losing my reference points and leaping into the unknown. Living for nearly a quarter century in the same building and keeping the same job, I had built my life patiently , with the awareness of my difficulties to adapt to sudden novelty or accelerated changes.

I always needed a long maturation period, almost hibernation, before taking action. As much as I can be fast in an abstract speculation, I find difficulty in reacting immediately on things, especially if it involves a change in my personal space and timings, i.e. a rational disruption.  I am a being of many rituals and habits, and as any obsessive being I need some reassuring continuity every day to support my action on what’s real.  Finally, the unexpected visit of one of my brothers to Paris forced me, on a misunderstanding and against my own will, to subscribe to those channels. Suddenly, after several months of postponing  it, with Christmas approaching, and finding myself unable to return to Lebanon because of exorbitant ticket prices , I resolved to try the Lebanese bouquet of channels, which includes four news channels ( LBC,FUTURE , NBN , New TV), an Arabic music channel and a channel with continuous series. However, I never imagined the impact this would have on my life. From seeing my compatriots on the screen, I was seized with intense emotion: I was not in Paris, I was in Lebanon. The outside world had faded. I desperately tried setting my eyes on Montparnasse Tower in the distance , on the classified Statue of Gutenberg in the building courtyard, and on St- Christophe -de-Bleach’s steeple in front of my window, I could not recognize the place because within myself, I was back in Beirut, almost more than the people who live there

Although I go there several times a year, it was the first time that I was in Beirut within Paris. Through the Lebanese bouquet, I substituted daily Parisian life to the Lebanese one.  I was overwhelmed with great joy at the ease of understanding words, flashes of humor, recognizing accents, familiar faces; but at the same time, very quickly, I was concerned about disconnecting myself, little by little, from my spatial and temporal Parisian reality. I was on the Beirut time zone, and French political and social debates that shook the news, suddenly became foreign to me.  I was almost expecting that all the French share my Lebanese concerns. Very quickly, I felt my inner reality taking precedence over my external circumstances. I felt like I was carrying my inner being and that despite all this distance in time and space, a few channels in a small box were bringing me back to Beirut so I could identify once again, while bounded by chains, to this world that possessed me and against which all the rationality of the world could do nothing.

Finally, a country is a culture, a language, a way of being, codes, emotions that connect us forever to each other. I consulted other options in the box and there were bouquets for all cultures:  German, Portuguese, African, Chinese, Hispanic, English, and endless others. This technological breakthrough that keeps us in touch with our own culture and our motherland is a blessing – it keeps emotional and cultural ties of our childhood intact – but at the same time it keeps us away and makes it more difficult for us to build and to internalize new emotional and cultural ties. Past the holiday season, I think I’ll skip the Lebanese bouquet.

Bahjat Rizk

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.