First, a German word, heimweh (heimlich fühlen, literally, to feel
home-like, is a less elegant expression). Heimweh implies a sense of connection
to a place that far exceeds the inadequate English translation, home sickness.
Whereas the latter can be private, particular, perhaps even maudlin, heimweh
has a collective and abstract dimension. Think of Fairouz and what she
evokes, especially the mind of the Lebanese and you get close to the meaning
of heimweh. We came from as far as Pakistan and North America and all
points in between to this cherished patch on the Eastern Mediterranean
because we are connected to it collectively by a sense of a past that
goes back 140 years and hope for a bright future.
The second word, wabisabi, is a Japanese one that I encountered a long
time ago when I read books by Alan Watts and tried to learn about Zen
Buddhism and things Japanese - I was also practicing karate at the time
as well. It is actually composed of two words, wabi and sabi and difficult
to translate, but I tried in my impromptu performance. The combined word
can connote a quality of austere and serene beauty expressing a mood of
spiritual solitude. It can also mean simple, as in not particularly gorgeous,
but also special and dear. An extension of this meaning is valuing the
imperfect or appreciating imperfection. It is a complicated, nuanced and
context sensitive word that can only be genuinely understood by the Japanese.
Certainly the WAAAUB we were trying to create was less than perfect, which,
paradoxically, is good. We need to embrace and appreciate our imperfection
because therein lies the potential for continued improvement and adaptation.
There really is no point in being hard on ourselves and each other trying
to create a perfect organisation from the very beginning.
The third one is not word but a phrase in Latin. Nunc est bibendum, literally,
"now is the time to drink", is an invitation to celebrate -
as in "break out the champagne!" And boy did we celebrate! You
just had to be at the Mandaloun Sur Mer on that Saturday night to feel
the collective and infectious exuberance there.
So, in conclusion, let us continue to cherish this beautiful campus of
ours and what it stands for, let us appreciate our imperfections and move
on, and let us celebrate our accomplishments.
Thanks to Tony Moussalli and Kaija Metuzals, both fluent speakers of German,
for correcting me (heimlish by itself, I am humbled to say, has nothing
to do with heimweh. Mea culpa). Thanks are also due to Arabella Barbir
Bohsali of the Japanese Embassy in Beirut, and a fellow alumna, for expanding
my understanding of the wabisabi.