|Mazen Salhi | Engineer||Canada|
Re: ‘Syria is ...’
In the small town of Ma’arra in northern Syria, lies an obscure little museum of ancient art that sees disappointedly low visitor traffic. The facility houses magnificent artwork from ancient Syrian towns, including a number of large mosaic floor and wall panels. The ancient artists were so skillful in their use of the naturally colored stone chips that one can be truly taken by the beauty of some of the works. At the times they were constructed, the creation and possession of mosaic art was a measure of status and wealth. Anthropologists today also consider such works to have been a measure of peace, prosperity, and sophistication, because their production required a high level of dedication and patience that could not be fulfilled in times of turmoil.
One charming piece after another show portraits of people. Happy-looking, multi-generational members of what clearly look like families, all gazing at us in distinct studio poses. Several renderings are even complete with name tags that identify each of the persons in the snapshots, making the artifacts a kind of a two thousand years old Facebook, forever locked in stone. The wall and floor panels were made with stone chips that came from the land, mountains and plains in the direct vicinity. The resources provided the platforms. Their integration formulated the picture.
The “picture” today is not that different. Even more than what it was two millennia ago, Syrian society is a mosaic of races, sects, languages, and religions from the region and the world at large. Its members have many tints and characters, each based on their own individual heritage, and each adds its contribution to the richness of the culture, rendering an overall composition that is arguably more coherent and at peace with itself than much of the surrounding parallels. It is by far not perfect, and it most certainly has a lot of room for improvement, but yet, it is something to be cherished and built upon.
Syria is a mosaic of its people. It is a living mosaic that needs peace, prosperity, and enlightenment to flourish. The beauty of the mosaic that is Syria shines more when each distinct member shows their unique colors and character, and when the contributions of each member, no matter how small, are given their place and are allowed to add to the big picture. Extremist, dogmatic and exclusionist ideologies will destroy the richness of Syria, and only the millenia old traditions of moderation, tolerance, wisdom, and moral values will preserve and nourish it.
Who knows, even with all the difficulties facing us, if we give it all we’ve got, we may still be able to paint a good picture for future museum goers. I hope that we will.