Written by Hala T. Bugaighis
“With freedom, books, flowers and the moon, who could not be happy?” – Oscar Wilde
That’s what I kept telling myself during the long nights of power cuts in my city. Gazing at the stars was and still is the only thing that makes me feel connected to the universe. It helps me to forget the random gun shots echoing nearby. My books were my gateway from reality – my freedom. Well not really, but at least my spirit was free.
I must admit, it has not been easy living in Libya while being a person who believes in peace, art and music, and it became harder for me after the country was ravaged from war. I remember deciding that after the revolution I would avoid politics and all civil initiatives. I was happy at my newly started business, Awars Consultancy LLC., but happy days don’t last for very long. The country entered into another armed conflict; blood, destruction and oppression followed. We were watching everything crumbling to dust; all of our dreams of bright futures, social justice and prosperity. It was chaos on all levels including the civil initiatives. I felt guilty being passive; and I decided to engage more as a civil agent, to be a part of reshaping Libya, and somehow contribute to creating a better future for the next generations.
People think that working as civil agent is about travelling, exclusive invitations to important meetings, events and privilege, but it’s not – at least not for me. It is a great responsibility and constant stress. You have to deal with personal fear to serve the cause. For me that meant giving public speeches, writing opinions and being accountable for them, stepping out of a comfort zone, dealing with online bullies, being innovative, and always positive no matter how you really feel. It means remaining supportive within a negative atmosphere that feeds on your sufferings; it’s not easy at all.
But we have to do it all while smiling and remaining positive. When things get darker I follow Charles Bukowski’s advice, “People empty me. I have to get away to refill”. However I don’t have to go far away to refill, I just drive to the nearest beach or café facing the sea front and enjoy the calmness. The war crashed through my city – the buildings, streets and people, scarring everything, but it couldn’t change the sea. I keep telling myself that strong things don’t allow hatred and negativity to leave their blemishes on them, no matter how brutal the situation, strong and genuine beings remain the same.
If I can offer advice on how to survive in a conflict zone, I’d say spend time stargazing or meditating, and read poetry – yes poetry in a place filled with hatred and greed. Poetry will cleanse your soul and nourish it with beauty. Read, acquire new knowledge or skills. And finally, make time for the ones you love be it your family or friends.
So if I may rephrase what Wilde said, I’d say: “With freedom, books, flowers, the moon, a loving family and a noble cause, who could not be happy? Even if they live in a war zone”