Old Damascus, Modernity and Cubby Houses
Walking in the souqs of Old Damascus, I felt comforted as I did as a child cosseted in a cubby house made of layers of bed spreads and sheets laid across chairs positioned at random in the room, the covers falling in odd directions and places as I looked out between them. Whenever I had the chance to walk under archways of the souqs in Damascus, I floated. My spirit would soar and my body lighten.
It may have been be due to the dimensions, the chaotic mix of structures, tarpaulins and stalls; the village atmosphere: shopkeepers chatting, sitting as if on a picnic; couples and family groups in no hurry to go anywhere as they ponder purchases. Cyclists touch their bells in a gentle warning as they weave their way like circus performers through the crowd. The haphazardness of it all, and the solidity of cobblestones, basalt, and walls roughly hewn centuries ago. Memories in the air, of camels and caravans, traders from far away places. The lack of self-consciousness. The layers that have been added by individuals, who responded not always aesthetically to what they created, but with an eye. There, in the moment. Their hearts would have lightened when it felt just right – our response after completing our cubby house. Perhaps that heart mind had a memory of much more rudimentary dwellings, when cave walls, stars and crescent moon, the breeze in bushes, and water rushing over rocks were integral to living.
Modern malls corporate built with their shine and uniformity leave me cold. But they are modern! There seems to be a sense that the road toward greater modernity is the road to perfecting life, people. It’s chilling.