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A woman, on her deathbed, looked at me and was going to say something. For a moment, I was terrified. What if her last words were to me? What if she asked me something deep, and I couldn’t find a satisfying answer to her inquiry? What if, for example, she asked me “what have you done in your days?” But that would be an easy way out because everybody who self-reflects has an answer for this question. What if, instead, she asked me “what to do in this life?” If she asked me that, I would just say: “Learn.” I was wrong about the what-ifs and my imaginary answers to my what-ifs. Here is what she said:

“The realm in which the learner (of good and bad, of life and death, of pleasure and pain) lives is a highly instructive, effective, and binding dialogue. For most, learning is direction and enlightment. Unlearning is part of learning and it violently deconstructs unnoticed. But what have you re-learned? Where is the re-learning? What could you do, if you can’t learn anew?”

I think her point was pretty fresh, considering it was coming so close from the door to death. I am trying to learn what re-learning meant. Maybe I am not ready for re-learning yet. I think it will take some time before re-learning can be done without annihilation or architecture.

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The is a quote from Jean-Luc Godard’s 1996 “For Ever Mozart”:

“Knowledge of the possibility of representation consoles us for being enslaved to life. Knowledge of life consoles us for the fact that representation is but shadow.”

It was said by a highly anal French director who works with two bodies fresh off a Sarajevo bombing, and afterwards the director shoots an actress, only to say “Oui” (Yes in French) right, and it takes about 30 takes to get it right. Take a bit of time and mediate on this. It is deep. This is what I understand of it:

We are stuck in this deep abyss between life and representation. “The possibility of representation” is the possibility of escape from the real. But it is absurd since without “the possibility of representation” any understanding of the real (actually defining the real) is impossible. “The possibility of representation” is thus all we have besides the concrete life, the real. It is not only art, but it includes science, religion (however inferior), and the gaze (inward and outward) itself. It is what is left of the Universe to the imagination, and this imagination is what make us what we are. Representation is our view of life; it is precisely what is not life in us. It becomes our project and consolation.
But we go on. We still have life to live, and we have got the representation to carry us through. So we live and in doing so discover that representation is “but shadow.” Shadow could mean a lot; maybe a silhouette or a dark projection or even a hard-to-get rid of company. Or maybe just an incomplete imperfect image. Now “knowledge of life” is not life, it is merely a hope that we will live and experience something real. So once immersed in representation, we view a hope of life only as a consolation. We again tend to like to escape from the too much representation into a hope of life, to escape from a shadow of life (and ourselves in it) to life’s reality.

But I also looked at it from the view of the director in the film. He yearns for good acting, but what does that mean within his quote’s context? It is a bit different like that. His actress was unsuccessful of rendering “Oui” satisfactorily because she was “enslaved to life.” The moment she pronounced “Oui” satisfactorily was when she left the set and she didn’t know that the camera was rolling. It was a stolen shot. So maybe the consolation is representation being shadow was this shot, when he attained knowledge of her life, not on film, but in reality, only with a shot as a shadow of that moment.

So with the light of the new fatwa upon us, it is now “religiously acceptable for a woman to have her hymen surgically reconstructed”. They used religiously as in within Islam’s “doctrines of course.

Here is a Daily Star Egypt article by Yasemine Saleh on the new fatwa. Mark Trodden from Cosmic Variance has already blogged about this. Here was my comment on it for you viewing pleasure:

I am all for the conclusion and the application of this “fatwa”, but the reasoning behind it is just hideous.

El Gindy’s quote from Daily Star Egypt is: “Islam never differentiates between men and women, so it is not rational for us to think that God has placed a sign to indicate the virginity of women without having a similar sign to indicate the virginity of men.”

Islam does differentiate between men and women. But even if it doesn’t, what does God putting signs on the bodies of men and women have to do with the issue? Since when was it up to Muslims to know what is rational for God to do or not? The God of Islam and His commands are not subject to the laws of logic and reason, the last time I checked.

Another example is Gomaa’s quote from the same Daily Star Article: “If God wants us to know everything about each other, He would have given us the ability to read each others’ minds, so why did he not do so? ”

This is just a bunch of cooked up rhetoric, plain and simple. I say unless Islam makes a very clearly stated doctrine which may be questioned or consulted, every “mufti”, Grand or not, will come up with a new “fatwa” for every day of the year. I am glad this “fatwa”, as Mark says, a bit of progress, and I can only hope that next “fatwa” from a bigger “mufti” will not contradict it.

It is not surprise that the word “fatwa” in current colloquial Egyptian Arabic means something like “non-trustworthy news or advice either in content or source.” In the Egyptian slang, it is more like “bullshit.”