Jordanian blogger Qweider wrote a post called Survivor’s Guilt: the idea that with all these emotions floating around lately concerning Lebanon and Gaza it’s difficult to keep going on with life as if nothing’s happening. And I’ve noticed those same words he pointed out floating around the blogosphere and the tips of people’s tongues: sad, depressed, upset, angry, frustrated. How do you wake up to news that the country next to you is getting bombed and then go catch a movie? At the same time life goes on but in the strangest way possible. A feeling looms over you all day like a shadow. Like someone died in the family and you don’t know if it’s too soon to do this, too inconsiderate to do that.

In the past 5 years alone we’ve seen the second intifada, the invasion of Iraq, terrorist attacks on our lands and now Lebanon and Gaza. And war and strife is a daily image in our region, it is as unavoidable as the weather report, you can’t turn on the TV without seeing another child’s limbs. And so we go about our days somewhere between being alive and being dead, like a waking dream or indeed like the waking dead. You go on but at the same time, you don’t. Not really anyway.

And what’s worse is that word; what is that word to describe what you’re feeling; to define that shadow? That part sadness, part depression, part anger and frustration. The part that makes you want to give up on our future, the part that makes you cynical, the part that makes you feel useless and the part that makes you want to lash out, to get up and scream until a chorus of screams all across the country joins you in a single cathartic moment.

What is what word? I’ve never been able to define it and I simply wait it out like a bad moment in life hoping that it will pass like scattering storm clouds and it usually does. Or at least it becomes a part of your daily life like Iraq, like Palestine. Perhaps it just takes time to get over the initial shock and get used to the idea of death more often.

Though after watching an episode of The West Wing lately there is one word that I’ve come to know, that I’ve grown familiar with: it’s the Korean word “Han”

There is no direct English translation. It is more of a state of mind, a state of soul than an actual emotion. Han is a sadness so dark and deep that no tears can come and yet…there is hope.

(p.s. listen to Chopin’s prelude #4)


  • I call it “numb”

    Life must go on … the show must go on!!

    Despite the ugliness of the whole situation, one cannot afford to pause life at a certain moment; we need to continue doing what we do because if we give up to “han” as you call it … we will never be able to break free and it will consume us with all our feelings and emotions and soon we will be dead without putting a fight … I don’t think this is the solution!

  • Thank you Naseem for expressing how we’ve all been feeling so well.. I sort of feel relieved that someone expressed this thought and got it across, cuz it’s been crippling me.

    Life sure goes on in the strangest ways.. how could I go to a demonstration against the war in Lebanon here in Munster in the morning, and then sing and dance in the evening??!! It’s weird, it’s life.. but it doesn’t look like the guilt is going away anytime soon!

Your Two Piasters: