Apr 28, 2011

SkyLines and City Lights

Starry Night - Vincent Van Gogh  

Sky. An expanse of air over any given point on Earth.

Sky. The highest degree or level, also an expression to mean the limitless boundaries one is expected to reach or attain in personal and especially professional life.

They say the sky is the limit to a person’s creativity or ambitions in life. It is the boundary to one’s ideas, dreams, hopes and expectations. However, what happens when that supposedly blue and unattainable space becomes a grey concrete matter over one’s head?

Driving in the outskirts and suburbs of Beirut, I passed by Bourj Hammoud, the city under the bridge. It is not a romantic description of the place; it is the real identity of this city. It lies under the roads that lead from Dekweneh to Ashrafieh and other parts of Beirut.

And under that bridge is another life; life as most of us doesn’t know it.

We have seen closed-up buildings, wall-to-wall architectural constructions (or not!) but many of us haven’t lived there. We have experienced small narrow alleys where barely one car can drive through. Still many of us haven’t lived there.
There, in that narrowly packed space is where some people live. They wake up in the morning, have their Turkish coffee with the spouse, and go down the stairs and unto the streets. They walk to work under a nice grey sky of concrete where the smells and noises start compacting early in the morning, under the bridge.
Many are the moments where each of the members of this community might look up to try and breath or reach out for a blue, far-far away space. And, many are the times when these people are attacked by the grey concrete.

As I was driving through that city, I felt frustrated and confined by their sky. I couldn’t imagine living there, under the detention of the grey, the concrete and that reality so bold and so tangible. I became the voyeur, the rosy imaginative perception upon life, seeing it through the tainted glass of my comfortable car. But really, how rosy can life be?
Even contrasted, both lives are similar. The bold concrete grayness of their world and the unattainable blue-ish hue of ours are just two extremes. Moreover, both worlds are characterized by the colors they reflect, an illusion of sentiments and achievements. However, one must keep in mind that despite the contradiction between the light blue color and the sinister grey, both are only hues on the color spectrum.

Thus, no two worlds exist. There is no real contradiction between the city under the bridge and the city under the blue. There are no two lifestyles, but one shared existence, an animation of colors. Whatever shines might not necessarily be gold and whatever is opaque can be polished to shine.
The architecture of the city is but a mental masturbation, shape-shifting the little building blocks of our knowledge. Those who can de-construct the city become ferociously attracted to its lights at night and to its sky lines during the day.

Walking the city is no more an activity. It becomes a condition of the frontier and the economy of classes.

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