Ladies and Gentlemen I particularly wanted to join you to congratulate the British Lebanese Association on your 25th Anniversary. It is rather wonderful that it has coincided, if I may say so, with the publication of these speeches. I must say I was enormously touched if not surprised that Professor Suheil Bushrui should have wanted to, or even considered wanting to publish, let alone translate into Arabic in his amazingly ingenious way, my incoherent ramblings over the last 30 or so years. I want to express particular thanks to Professor Bushrui for having taken this course.
Not only that I am hugely grateful to the University of Maryland and it’s so wonderful that Professor John Townsend has come all the way from the United States. They even have a course, at the University, looking at my incoherent ramblings. I am very flattered and honoured by this. Apart from anything else I have found over the years that having ventured into territories that sometimes people don’t always appreciate at the time, or don’t understand why I’ve ventured into these areas.
It intrigues me how so often some twenty years later perhaps people begin to realise a little bit more what I was trying to get at. It can be quite frustrating if not exhausting that people haven’t got it. One of the things I’ve always found is how hard it’s been for people to understand that I wasn’t just dashing from one subject to another, but that I actually think about those things.
In fact I’ve always felt they were connected and interrelated. One of the great difficulties I’ve felt is that we have succeeded throughout the 20th century in fragmenting the whole of our existence and the way in which we look at the world. So we have succeeded in separating ourselves from Nature and have lost the appreciation that we are actually a part of Nature. We are intimately connected with Nature. All I’ve been trying to say over the years is that we need to put Nature back at the centre of the process and reintegrate the fragmented elements not only in our own being but in the way in which we relate to the environment. So the more we destroy the environment the more it actually affects our own disintegrated inner being. That’s another reason why I’m always trying to remind people of their heritage and their traditions. Of the perennial wisdom and great truths that over thousands of years our ancestors through immense and careful study and probably through revelation and meditation have learnt an enormous about the nature of this existence and of our connection with it.
It seemed to be crazy to throw away this extraordinary wisdom feeling that for some reason or other we were somehow a different set of human beings altogether. It seems to me that unless we do rediscover some of these great truths we will become completely lost. Not only that but if you look around the world and travel, which you all do I’m sure wherever you go you might just as well be in the same place. This is another reason why I’ve been so obsessed, much to some people’s fury, about our built environment because we are what we’re surrounded by. Equally to the same extent we are probably what we eat.
Again what I’ve been trying to point out is that there is no point in dealing with this monocultural approach to our existence whether it’s how we treat the land or how we grow things.
One of my great regrets Ladies and Gentlemen is that I never actually learnt Arabic. I wish I could speak it but the older I get the more incompetent I become and the less I can remember anything! But I can appreciate just how special Professor Bushrui’s Arabic is. It is a great honour to have my speeches translated by somebody so special who understands the Lebanon so well and the great traditions in history. He is one of the great treasures I think we have in today’s world.
So again, I am hugely touched that this publication has occurred and those of you who risk reading these speeches, I pray they may prove to be a small tranquilizer to aid you as you rush about this world from one part to the other.
Thank you Ladies and Gentlemen.