Artheism: Growing up

Introduction©Karim chaibi

Writings©Karim Chaibi

Paintings©Karim Chaibi

Drawings©Karim Chaibi

Artheism©Karim Chaibi

Events©Karim Chaibi

Dedication©Karim Chaibi



It is painful to grow up, but also difficult to endure adulthood. My memory has failed me time and again, and for a while this failure proved a blessing. Not looking back made adulthood a bearable disease, and spared me from turning to salt. Now however, emboldened by an age that makes me believe my feet are firmly on the ground, I reach into the past hoping to dig myself out from my grayish hair.

I am nowhere to be seen. My very own memories have become illegible. It doesn’t suffice to come across an event; there is always a touch of oneself that is needed to decipher each memory and I can’t find that touch anymore. While unfurling my recollections, I see blank or garbled traces of the past but nothing I can hold, nothing I can read, no letters that I can recognize. For the longest time I haven’t been able to tell if these markings were really letters or simply traces of my own eyes, cannily washing off the surface of my past. Imagine a prophet holding up a holy book that he cannot himself read.

The only thing I gained by crossing the threshold of adulthood is regret. Regrets however are rational exercises to glorify moments that never were. I am still having a hard time identifying within my hazy memory a single moment of glory. What hinders an Artheist is peace more than war, stillness more than movement. Romanticizing about a point in time from which creativity sprang is counter-productive. The beginning was, is and will always be now. The two ends of the rope are in the middle.

        But then, do you always have something to say when you look back? If the act of talking is itself meaningful, then there is always something to say, for words can soothe our internal hunger, and sate it. But if we must have something specific to say in order to talk, then the answer is no.

        I hoped to translate the silence of my inner world into stories. I rolled between my fingers as many letters as I could, then spread them on paper like butter. I saw crumbs falling off the scroll but I didn’t wither. To bring down fences and walls is holy. I crossed over to the side where rationality is unspeakable and spoke myself. From my dreams, I wove stories and plots, fastened them together with a magic pinch of reality, and then beautified them with a world where the only hindrance was the span of my wings.

       I assume I only own the letters, for the ideas must have belonged to the breath of life that fills the distance between the word and its utterance. Fellow Tunisians tell tangled stories even to greet each other.  A plain greeting is an invitation to worry. A Tunisian cannot hear “Good morning” without wondering if something else is meant.

       I wanted and still wish to write the “else.” But who is my else, after all? Is it the Arab who makes his nest in my very own palms, the Muslim who wiggles his way between my eyes and my sight, or the human who is “I” although difficult to entangle? 

       I don’t know. My mother taught me long ago, “Don’t look from up high. Are you as tall as your shadow?” “Mommy!” I said one day, “Can I buy a new one?”

       Every now and then I reach to the sky as if to remind my mother not to be too deep, and Prometheus not to repaint the leaves of the Garden of Eden. I scold Sisyphus for being too mellow and blame Gilgamesh for being too Middle Eastern. I say to everyone in my own Pantheon, don’t bring down a stain from the land of the gods! I have a haze that I write by breathing.  This haze will pull apart the skies and engrave a heavenly memory that I cannot remember but that the gods should not forget. I speak myself even when I dream and oh! I miss Carthage; the ruins make her whole.    

© Karim Chaibi 2006


































Design by Karim Chaibi