It’s easy to feel like the world is turning into a cold and terrible place. Just a quick look what’s happening in the Middle East is enough to dim even the brightest heart.
Since Fall 2012, Lebanon’s beautifully designed The Outpost magazine has been on a mission to incite a socio-cultural renaissance in the Middle East through the exploration of the possibilities of change.
Their previous issues have tackled the Possibility of Moving Forward, The Possibility of Living Here (in the Arab world), The Possibility of Rewriting Our Story and other monumental themes. The issues usually include a supplemental fiction text or a creative, interactive way of connecting the reader to the theme of the issue.
The latest issue – The Possibility of Warming Our Hearts – was created with the hope of making people feel a little better during these relatively unhappy times by showcasing happiness makers in the region. In the opener, The Outpost founder and editor Ibrahim Nehme writes, “It may seem odd that you’re holding a heartwarming issue at a time when our hearts are breaking into a million little pieces every day. They are breaking to the cries of Gaza, the wounds of Iraq, the scars of Syria, and the sight of our world falling apart. But it’s because of this very narrative that we present to you our sixth edition.”
With curious minds, we caught up with Ibrahim to talk about the latest edition.
You’re based in Lebanon, so it’s easy to see what inspired the theme, but how did the theme develop?
The idea has been incubating for quite some time. I’ve been noticing a lot of people trying to work on positive things in a place that brims with negativity and always wondered: what if those people came together and created a force of positivity — how would it affect the world, what would the impact be like, and, importantly, how would it counter the overwhelming negative force?
It was just an idea for a possible future theme, and it was pushed further down the pipeline because we had other concepts that were already in the works. When the bombardment of Gaza started and we saw what was happening in Iraq – how the world was falling apart – we decided to halt production and changed the concept of the issue mid-production. We started from scratch on a whole new concept that we referred to as the heartwarming issue.
How have you approached the articles in this issue, given that the Outpost is focused on tangible change, or at least the possibility of it?
We tried looking for people who are full of love and light, because we think that that’s what the world needs right now. Be it those spreading books to kids in rural areas in Morocco, or starting a literary festival in Palestine, or feeding the hungry in Amman, or painting the streets of Beirut, or approaching Syrian kids in refugee camps, putting them on stage and training them to become future actors. These may sound like tiny initiatives, but our point is that each tiny initiative counts. It helps in instilling hope, providing space for imagination and dreams, spreading joy and happiness at a time when such emotions have become hard to achieve given what’s going on in the world.
Even we spun our what’s not happening section, which is usually associated with negative issues, in such a way to make it positive. So we turned the whole section into a big photo-led feature, where we used heartwarming photos as inspiration for a plethora of possibilities. It’s an exploration of the little things in life that the world needs to become a place worthy of the loftiest aspects of humanity, like more dreamers, more comrades, more listeners, more merry-makers, etc.
The Outpost is divided into three sections – What’s Happening, What’s Not Happening and What Could Happen. Where did the realms of possibility take you in the ‘What Could Happen’ section of this issue?
We thought that the first step in the possibility of warming our hearts is for each one of us to start with her or himself and work on warming their own heart, because a positive person is bound to radiate positivity, and the rest would take care of itself. So we asked 15 young writers from across the Arab world to look within themselves to find that one activity, pursuit, or hobby that is sure to energize and light them up inside, and muse on it in a 1000-word essay each.
So…what makes you happy?
I have a soft spot for people who put all their guts and lives and everything they have into producing something that help us move forward as a humans. People with raw talent, people who believe in the infinite possibilities of the human mind. Those people warm my heart.
What is the most interesting thing you learned, or realized, when making this issue?
I learned that it really doesn’t take much to warm someone’s heart or light up their world, even in the most heartbreaking situations.
Where would you start make the world a more positive place?
I would actually start with this issue! As I write in my editorial letter, this issue is a bundle of good vibes and positive energy. It’s a gesture of good will and an act of defiance. We really worked so hard to make it happen and I really hope that it would somehow become a tiny ray of light that inspires people to be more positive and spread more positivity.
Before we go, we heard there is an Outpost store in the works. What can people expect from the space?
It’s essentially meant to act as an office, but given that it’s a storefront with direct access to the street, we hope that we can use it to create a relationship with our readers. We’ve just installed a picnic table and planted six big trees outside on the sidewalk. It’s door-less for now, so it would be interesting to gauge the dynamic when the team is working there. We’d also like to create more events in the space and as we are turning bi-annual and starting to think of our online presence, we are looking at how to use the space in such a way to generate content for the online platform as well as other projects in the works.
The Outpost magazine is published twice a year from Beirut. The magazine has been nominated for Best New Magazine in 2012, as well as Best Magazine Design alongside New York Times magazine and Bloomberg Businessweek in Magpile’s Magazine Awards.
The Outpost can be purchased at The Outpost store in Mar Mikhael, in bookshops across Lebanon or online.
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