An Idea-lised hap­pi­ness with Farid Che­hab


As the launch­ing of Farid Che­hab’s new book* nears on July 12 a ques­tion kept pop­ping up in my mind: How can I in­ter­view him and make it worth­while to read? The prob­lem was easy to solve, I have his cell num­ber, he calls me “friend”, we hang out to­gether, what­sapp of­ten enough… So where was my dilemma? You see, I have been in­volved and en­am­ored with the book from day one. I am re­spon­si­ble for the English ver­sion, which will be pub­lished now that the French ver­sion has been in the mar­ket since Oc­to­ber 2015, and I know ev­ery twist and turn in the book from work­ing so ex­ten­sively on trans­pos­ing it as it was be­ing writ­ten from one lan­guage to an­other.

So, the an­swer was sim­ple, to make the in­ter­view chal­leng­ing, I was go­ing to play the devil’s ad­vo­cate.

So far, the press has been in awe of the book, and it is easy to un­der­stand why. Filled with thoughts, ex­trap­o­la­tions, hints, anec­dotes, and a hoard of other things, the book stands as a tes­ti­mony for the life, ca­reer but also con­cep­tual mind of Farid (OK, I am drop­ping the pre­tense of call­ing him by his last name as I only did so once via email ex­change and that hap­pened be­fore we even met in per­son).

One of the first el­e­ments that at­tracted my at­ten­tion was the name of the book “Of Hap­pi­ness and Ideas”. In a world of Oprah Win­frey and Dr. Phil, hap­pi­ness comes from shed­ding a few pounds, or own­ing a pet, so the word has been bas­tardised, and in­deed what kind of hap­pi­ness does he harp on when he speaks, I ask: “I thank­fully have no pre­ten­tion of ap­proach­ing hap­pi­ness in the way ev­ery­one looks at, I do so only via ideas; in my ca­reer I no­ticed ev­ery time I was fid­dling with ideas or was sur­rounded by peo­ple who were, there was ex­u­ber­ant joy and hap­pi­ness around me, so it was enough for me to go from that an­gle.”

June 2016

Well, yes, it is easy to be happy to call home a semi-in­dus­trial du­plex in a hip build­ing, what’s there to nag about? The blue eyes sparkle and the smile flashes in re­turn, “oh, hap­pi­ness is not in the ma­te­rial things. As soon as you put the ma­te­rial as­pect as a bench­mark some­one will come and top you; you bought a boat? Some­one just moored an even big­ger boat next to you, and you’d feel sad and de­prived.” This re­minded me of the first meet­ing I ever had with Farid in a café in Jounieh where he was show­ing me names of business peo­ple in Le­banon, “Look at those, they are ten times richer than I am. But it’s OK, you can’t have ev­ery­thing!” he added non­cha­lantly re­ally mean­ing that part.

“Ma­te­rial com­fort is not the aim, and I know for a fact that liv­ing in wealthy ma­te­rial cir­cum­stances does not bring in hap­pi­ness, most of my life, I have been too busy crack­ing ideas to en­joy the ma­te­rial wealth they brought, and frankly, even till today I have to be very care­ful with my ex­penses when I travel, and trust me I am by no means a wealthy man.”

And the house? I in­sist. “Well, the house is a min­i­mum re­quire­ment for some­one who has been toil­ing all his life. I am not an in­vestor, I do not be­lieve in Re­turn On In­vest­ment that my money brings. I ac­tu­ally de­spise money. The only thing I con­cen­trate on is the cre­ative mind.” But does it pay the bills? “Yes, be­cause I speak not of cre­ativ­ity for the sake of cre­ativ­ity, rather I link it to on­the-ground pro­duc­tiv­ity in a big­ger eco­nomic cy­cle.”

Well, when Farid said “toil­ing all his life”, he meant it, as the book de­tails trade-offs at school be­tween his ge­nius at draw­ing against ice creams and sand­wiches. Should you wish to know how this landed him in hot wa­ter, just read the book (hint: erotic draw­ings were part of that!).

“Let us say I shall di­vide this be­tween cre­ative ideas and in­dus­tries, any in­dus­try. My job is to sell an idea, which means to push

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