Ideas emerge from our interactions with other people. These ideas are shared through conversation, friendship, and humor. They are glorified through discussions and perpetuated through rules and commitment. These ideas can build a connection between you and a group of people, a link so strong that it becomes hard to tell whether you’re attracted to these specific ideas you’re adhering to, or to the bond you have with the people you’re sharing them with. Does your sense of belonging to the group of people drive you to commit to these ideas or do the ideas themselves pull you in and force this bond between you and the group? In an attempt to illustrate the issue I am posing, I will present the cases of religion and marriage, which are both prevalent in our Lebanese society.
Religion is an institution that aims to educate people to have a spiritual set of beliefs, which is meant to drive them to follow a path that is claimed to be correct. I will not criticize the beliefs such institutions preach, at least not in this post. I will however point out that there is a big number of people that agrees to this set of beliefs without actually having a comprehensive understanding of the beliefs themselves. In fact, religion has become such an important part of people’s identities, it has come to form such tight bonds among people, that the belonging it provides has lead people to ignore the essence of religion and to claim their affiliation to it for the sole purpose of maintaining this sense of belonging. This need for belonging to a religious sect is especially accentuated in a context like ours given that individuals who reject the religions they were born into are often dismissed or disowned by their families or entourages.
On the other hand, marriage is supposed to be a strong bond between two individuals, a bond that two individuals who are very synchronized and functional choose to make in validation of their relationship. (In this case also, I will not go on about how the bond between two people does not need any validation in order to be real). Instead, because of the strong emphasis our society has on marriage, couples who barely have any connection to each other and who basically lead different lives are struggling to hold on to their relationships in order to sustain a marriage, or a plan for marriage. This is due to the pressure society applies on the importance of marriage and the strong link it makes between one’s future and one’s marriage.
In the first case, people are often adhering to a set of beliefs and principles in order to maintain certain social relationships. While in the second case, some people are holding on to human relationships in order to conform to social norms. These patterns can also be found in politically affiliated groups and even in friendships, among other social institutions.
This leaves us in a position of reevaluation of our ideas and relationships. Can we always tell whether we are in a certain social relationship because of ideas that we hold or because of the bond itself that we have with the people within it? Is it possible to know whether we are part of an institution for the principles it stands for or for the relationships it allows us to form? Being able to distinguish these situations could allow for a liberating change in our lives.
After shopping for groceries, cooking moghrabieh with both chicken and beef —the way Kareem likes it, picking up my kids from school, doing the dishes, tidying up the living room, helping the kids with their homework, and putting them to bed, I collapsed on the couch to watch TV.
I was too tired to focus on any of the shows, so I lowered the volume and let myself relax. But as my eyes started closing, I remembered that I hadn’t checked how much money I had spent today.
I got up, took my wallet out of my purse, and counted. I had surpassed my daily limit of 40.000 L.L. by 2.000 L.L. I opened the box I hide among the onions in a kitchen cupboard, the only private space I have, and in which I save money on days I had spent less than 40.000 L.L. I moved 2.000 L.L from the box to the wallet and placed the wallet in Kareem’s bedside drawer, as I am requested to do. Sometimes I think that maybe Kareem is not so kareem*.
It was around 10 pm by then so I brushed my teeth and went to bed. But as soon as I closed my eyes, Kareem walked into the room and turned the lights on.
“Oh, did I wake you up?”
“No, I was about to sleep..”
“Oh, good. I was hoping I’d be able to spend some time with you.”
He sat on his side of the bed and got undressed.