Editor’s Note: Tolerance, “a harmony in difference”

A new issue of Indelible promises another handpicked bouquet of different artistic expression: poetry, prose, painting, photography, interviews, and reviews. In this special issue covering the theme of “tolerance” and accompanying the American University in Dubai’s Tolerance Forum, different contributors from around the world have voiced their thoughts through various manifestations. As a meeting platform (of tolerance) for artists, creative writers, and art aficionados, Indelible takes pride in hosting great pieces that speak the language of art–the language of sharing, exchanging, and appreciating viewpoints.  Art is a medium of tolerance, through which we can see and understand the experiences and thoughts of others who are different than us, and a portal from which we can step out, expanding our understanding and catching a glimpse of the world through a different lens. While artefacts of various types all tell something about the artist-creator, when engaged with creative work, we not only learn something about the artists, but we oftentimes discover something about ourselves. Thus, by broadening our scope, we enlarge our world, no matter how limited in range or contrary to our perspective is the artist’s work; what matters is that our encounter with art has just altered our view of the world.

According to the UNESCO definition, “Tolerance is harmony in difference,” and as most creatives may know, reading and writing about other people’s experiences and perspectives is one of the most important and effective ways of seeking that harmony. By reading creative works such as poetry and short stories, we learn, spark an inner openness to new ideas, communicate with other personalities and different cultures at the humane level, awaken our conscience when related with the good against the evil, and maybe even get the chance to gain or support any already existing beliefs.

Besides entertainment, of course, art is an act of tolerance that offers a chance for reflection and contemplation–a step into the other-worldly. The world is a true melting pot of cultures, customs, and beliefs where now, more than ever, learning to understand—and tolerate—how others see the world is the most important strategy in avoiding conflict and prejudice. While people can easily lose touch with each other, the arts in the humanities are a vital way to build and maintain an appreciation for what makes human beings special: our creative abilities…

This issue’s contributions have been sent from different corners around the globe like Japan, France, Lebanon, Canada, the UAE, the United States of America, and the United Kingdom. Our writers and artists, both established and emerging, have all sent their expressions of/calls for tolerance between humans and nature, the rich and the poor,both genders, and people from different cultures and belief systems. An excerpt from Sadika Kebbeh’s “Daughter’s Trade” highlights the cases of human trafficking in poor societies, while Grace Stech closely observes the problem of gender inequality in the workplace; filmmaker Sophie Boutros sheds light on mayhem caused in binational marriages (Lebanese-Syrian), whereas Aida Al Awadhi reviews the portrayal of  biracial (Chinese-Irish) families in the USA based on author Gish Jen’s works; portraits of posters hung in Palestinian teenagers’ rooms are shared with photographer Dorine Darwiche, while bestselling author Dr. Christine Mangan shares glimpses of her adventures in Japan, reflecting different aspects of tolerance she encounters in a place far from home (the U.S.A); artist Dr. Pamela Chrabieh shares her Peace Collection on reflecting tolerance, while artist Lorette Luzajic expresses different messages of equality on her canvas.

…Each contribution speaks to our faith in humanity and in the connecting thread that passes through every one of us, and we are happily looking forward to sharing them with you!

Dr. Roula-Maria Dib 
Editor-in-Chief

Tolerance is a theme whose facets are potentially many-pronged and variegated.  One could mean by the term tolerance towards others of many different races, ethnicities, socio-economic backgrounds (or indeed foregrounds), faiths, beliefs, ages, genders, sexes, nationalities, even stylistic predilections – and so on.  One might mean by the term tolerating differences within the self, between one’s youth, say, and the more established attitudes and outlooks of middle age or beyond.  One might mean by tolerance the belief that all of us are on a par, and so rigorously that what may seem like difference really isn’t.  Or, one might mean by tolerance a basic and categorical equality that only does, and perhaps more emphatically, only can show and shine its face via the very flourishing of radical differences.  And so on; we must have tolerance, we might say, with the various ways we each might parse the term, ‘tolerance’, differing from each other, or from ourselves at different points in our own lives. 

And perhaps it might be true to say that such kaleidoscopic insights into tolerance, itself a kaleidoscope of views – that that sharing between inside and outside the frame (of reference) is endemic in and for any meaningful, enlightened human life.  Because it is a fact, to paraphrase a snippet in Heraclitus, that we never step into the same river twice: first, because ‘we’ are temporal beings, changing, adapting, developing, growing, decaying or what have you, all the time; and second, because the river we dip our toes into, too, is always on-the-flow, eliding.  That said, to recoup, that image of a ‘river’, of flowing water, well – perhaps it, too, brings out and brings us back to our sameness.  We know after all (or the right people do, anyway), that and how water from the clouds and water from the sea and water from the sewers and from our kitchen sinks are, all in all, one in the end.  Whether we are discussing the object-world, the world ‘out there’ for each one of us, imprisoned to a certain extent in our own subjective berths, or whether we mean the very inhering world of our own minds, delimited from each other as we are – that dignity which confers respect, inside or outside the human domain, finds its most palpable fruit in acts and attitudes of ‘tolerance.’  Such is the hope anyway. 

In this second issue of AUD’s new literary journal, Indelible, we see work of a critical or creative sort that lives-out but perhaps more pressingly lives-up-to my little riff of lofty thoughts above.  In Aida AlAwadhi’s incisive review of Gish Jen’s ‘Who is Irish?’, we find a discussion of narratorial modes, style, and a range of characters and themes that illuminate aspects of racism or diversity, ethnic idiosyncrasy or cultural conflict, amid Chinese, Irish and American mythoi.  AlAwadhi concludes her reconnaissance of the book at hand by reinstating the idea that stubbornness of character and mistrust, rigidity of temperament create ‘rifts’ – by the wayside, though, allowing us a brief glimpse of what seems to be a compelling read which in itself may serve, not to split a reader, but to help insight congeal for him or her.

Poems from Danya Elmalik, from deeply incisive and thought-provoking haikus to longer-limbed verse, show an immense gift for both startling imagery and sustained reflection.  A tower in Elmalik’s verse is seen to be ‘sneering at the slighted sky’, and with real pathos, in the haiku ‘Woods Around a Cabin’, we see a dialectical zigzag which starts with oak delimiting a protagonist and, after ‘her’ light goes, ‘oak’ again that remains.  The pathos in this last haiku: a calm riposte to the more sardonic wit of her previous haiku-entries.  She seems to tolerate different moods and modes within herself.  Indeed, in some of Elmalik’s longer-formed verse, we see a similar dialectical sensibility evinced.  ‘Tearing the Wrapper’ ends with the splendid line: ‘The void of spoiled things’, making us feel longing and forlorn nostalgia at poem’s close.  In ‘A Poem Speaks’, too, tension is both told and shown as a poem tussles with itself, and with its own formation.  And yet, Elmalik is more than just interesting: she’s a vivid ear, too.  Her poem, ‘She’s Resting on Her Bed’ ends with an equally splendid line: ‘See her soma on that salmon.’  Finally, and perhaps this editor’s favourite two lines of this issue, in ‘Abstract’, amid a ‘fire burning with a blaze’, we read: ‘And as they forget what they once were, / They reach for each other through the flames.’  I couldn’t think of a more poignant couplet of lines suggestive of the metaphysics of tolerance, and a couplet of lines that speak to such in and for our own very riven world.

In D.R. James’s poetry, also featured in this issue, the collapsing of a heart is imaged with real tenderness as ‘… like when the sails deflate / And maroon the little schooner that is you.’  The heart being countenanced and tolerated in this poem can be seen as both physical and spiritual.  In Dana Hachwa’s ‘Joined at Daybreak’, a breakfast scene is the occasion for that kind of tolerance that seams with love, whether inside or outside the frame, perhaps, of the eggs being fried; the ‘Meeting eye to /eye’ here might be both married eggs in the pan or lovers at dawn.  The two senses tolerate each other: after all, ‘as one we eat.’  Lorette C. Luzajic’s prose-poem, ‘Snow Men’ manages to be both literally chilling and at the same time heats up the mind of its reader.  Lines like ‘There is barely a droplet of cream in the carton, and you curse yourself for putting it back into the fridge near drained, as if you could fool the future when it came to reckon’, show both a command of language and a command of thought that are admirable.  More tolerance, thus, between ways of being.  Finally, with Mayar Ibrahim’s poem ‘Tolerance’, concrete imagery, such as that of ‘clouds’ the colour of ‘raven feathers’, and more reflective intents, as with the sun shining through those same clouds like a ‘celebrity in the crowd’, marry in a way that, again, renders facets of tolerance as both shown and told. There is much else to savour in this issue, and one hopes that the growing readership of Indelible will tolerate one more issue, one more rung on a ladder whose summit seems to rise and rise.

Dr. Omar Sabbagh 
Associate Editor

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