a Lebanese notebook; AntiParadise


The ruined church of St Vincent de Paul in downtown Beirut which is located on the Green Line -a severely hit district during the Lebanese civil war- made me think about the dual pointlessness that lies behind wars: not only that of vain death but also that of the delusion of victory. The interior of the church –once its congregation hall, which was later used as a rampart during the civil war- looked like a derelict patio smothered by parasitic urban vegetation, growing frantically towards the crumbled roof.

It seemed ironic that this very site was tragically at the same time a place of worship and hope for the believers (ultimately symbolizing the metaphorical pathway to Paradise -a land of divine happiness and euphoria), and a place of death and punishment –a kind of divine justice- both, in the name of sacrifice. Paradoxically, sacrifice became simultaneously the only way to salvation and an inevitable cause of distress and suffering.

Dystopia is a term that denotes a condition where everything fails; a place where chaos and anomie prevail. However, in the tormented environment of Lebanon there appeared to be more than chaos and anomie. It was the feeling of vain sacrifice, which intensified the feeling of loss and deepened the trauma of war. This is what I named Anti-Paradise.

Anti-Paradise, stands next to Paradise, like a mirror image, as a condition –rather than a real place- where aspirations remain unfulfilled. While Paradise embodies hope, faith and salvation, Anti-Paradise embodies despair, vain sacrifice and futility. Hence, the Heaven of one becomes the Anti-Paradise of the other and, essentially, sacrifice becomes primarily a political notion.

However, Anti-Paradise does not characterize solely the war-torn land of Lebanon which, a couple of decades after a bloody civil war, still remains divided and fragmented and suffers from the latent trauma of the war. Ultimately, Anti-Paradise addresses most of the civilized world and stands metaphorically between the delusion of earthly delights and prosperity developed by contemporary human societies -made of artificial needs, pleasures and aspirations- and the Paradise of heavenly bliss and euphoria found in the allegoric gardens of Eden.

© demetris koilalous