Monday, June 28, 2010

Shut up Belinda Carlisle, heaven isn't a place on earth.

Let's see where were we? Crisis of faith, that's it. Yes, riddle me this universe; if everything has a reason, why, oh why, would it strike you as "the right thing to do" to take an 18 year old boy who hasn't even started living yet? What possible explanation could there be to dish out this kind of pain for his friends, for his close ones, for those who knew him peripherally, and for his parents. His parents, I ask you. What, if I may be so blunt, is your fucking problem?

I have my issues with death. That's putting it mildly. It freaks me the hell out would be closer to the truth. But still just barely grazing the surface. When it happens for no reason, to a kid for God's sake, well, I can't help but understand those who turn that previous exclamation around and forsake God. I don't know why this affected me so much. But sometimes these events do. When I was in high school a friend's older sister died. This past week one of my sister's closest friends, a boy who I remember being 14 and giggling over Chinese food in our dining room, passed away in his home. I cling firmly to the belief that everything happens for a reason because I think my world would crumble if I didn't but this happened and what was faith supported on an already shaky foundation took a pretty brutal beating. Let's just say that particular metaphysical structure is no longer standing.

I have never seen my sister cry like that. That alone started ripping up my insides but the amount of pain and loss that filtered through various sources in the face of this event basically broke me down too. Which is what kind of set off this entry. I don't sleep enough or at all anyway and that night, I stayed up all night. What made it worse was my mom and I, along with another lady- my mom's friend, were off to Brussels at 8 am the next morning so I had to be up at 6. I finally just gave up on everything and watched the glow-in-the-dark hands of my watch creep until the moment when my mom softly knocked on my door.

Then we went to Brussels.

Random? Yeah, I know. However, we had our reasons. Mercan Dede, the musician and artist I've previously discussed (here) had a concert there and since my mommy is his bestest buddy, he invited us to come attend. Here's the brief description of what it was from the website:

To celebrate two of the European Capitals of Culture 2010, Essen/Ruhr and Istanbul, the Goethe-Institut is pleased to present a unique gala concert, performed by the Mercan Dede Ensemble and featuring three very special guests.
For “Sounds of Love”, Mercan Dede brings his eclectic ensemble together with three artists from the fields of literature, music and dance, creating a blend of different disciplines, traditions and artistic styles. The best-selling author Elif Shafak will read excerpts from her recent novel, “Love”, while the young musician Karsu Dönmez and the dancer Kadir “Amigo” Memis will add their unique touches to this magical event.

It sounded like such a wonderful opportunity to see him and to hear his music and not to mention, my mom's friend is probably Elif Safak's biggest fan. I'm not kidding. She's read everything by her, attended Q & A's, gifts the books to everyone, and she's basically her muse. Elif Safak is the author I've also previously written about; she wrote the tale of Rumi and Sufism and sort of inspired me to learn more about Sufis.

After a sleepless night, we were at the airport and in the midst of my mental crisis of faith, my mom and her friend giggled and laughed and whispered and talked and exclaimed all the way there. I swear, they were like a couple of teenagers. Teenagers high on that gas they give you at the dentist. When we got there they couldn't stop laughing at everything and anything. They shrieked and guffawed and had so much fun after a while I think my brain just couldn't fight them anymore and just kind of bemusedly took them in(at this point it was putting up a mighty battle with everything else swirling in there too). But I mean it, they laughed. At. Everything. The hotel name (Amigo. Really, the Amigo Hotel in Brussels, okay that's pretty ridiculous), the fact that a huge, blacked out van came to pick us up at the airport, the giant wooden fruits in our bedrooms as art, and figurines of Tin Tin and his dog Minou trapped in glass cases in our bathrooms. Did you know Brussels was the land of Tin Tin? I did not. I hate Tin Tin. I hate his stupid yappy dog, I hate the twin professors, and I hate that I can't remember any of his cases and story lines because I was so wrapped up in hating French and hating learning French I blocked them all. They might have been interesting, I remember he went to Egypt but nooo, he had to be annoying and French, sorry Belgian, and whiny and I had to hate him. We found the Tin Tin Emporium. It was filled with Tin Tin. My mom and her friend also dislike Tin Tin. And he was EVERYWHERE.

Needles to say, we did not buy anything there. I did however get me some delicious steak and pommes frittes and about a suitcase full of chocolate. Hey, it has endorphins, it was for a good cause; to make me feel happier.

Since we were in Belgium, I insisted they take to get beer. Before the concert, we ended up at a weird little cafe restaurant that I found, and finally, after an entire day of me stubbornly demanding beer, we sat down and enjoyed some. They giggled and laughed all through it. First when my mom's friend ordered the same beer as the table next ours and the bewildered waiter told her it wasn't beer at all. Then, when we got our beers (she finally decided to take whatever the table on our other side was having and I randomly picked one from the menu) hers was so thick and dark and heavy it was like Guinness with bread soaked in it and mine was this weird, honey-ale. My mom had coffee and everyone, including the waiters, watched us snort and giggle over beers and take pictures. As we left, I think the waiter was shaking his head and muttering to himself.

And then came the concert. So my whole big thing on this trip was that I wanted an answer. A sign, a clue, anything to help put my mind at ease and calm the roaring in my brain and behind my eyes. It was beautiful. The music with the backdrop of Istanbul and the small segments with guest artists; a modern dance/breakdancer and a girl singing and playing the piano, as well as dervishes that took some creative liberties with their spinning. The first set of dervishes included a man and a woman and the girl's hair was long and uncovered so it spun with her and she had two layers of skirts which undulated up and down and in the dark, the man's gowns glowed and it was the most peaceful, hypnotizing thing ever. I love watching dervishes, they make me feel calm and I could've watched just them for hours. Their movements were so smooth and fluid that you wouldn't get dizzy no matter how focused you were on them.

Then came Elif Safak's reading. I felt my mom's friend breathe deeply next to me. All the stuff going on stage was pretty heavy and it tested the emotions because since there were no words, they had to use movement and images to express the main point of the concert; love. Ms. Safak read two parts from her book. One was about finding love and the second was about losing it. The first part already twisted something in me because part of the reading was the story of Leyla and Mecnun. It's a love story about the deep connection between these two people (brief digression: also why Eric Clapton chose that particular name when writing "Layla" for Patty Boyd) and the fact she kept saying my name in conjunction to this happy, content woman who was filled with love was kind of jarring. I can't remember the second section word for word and I don't want to go hunt for the book right now but the simple message of that particular part was this; though you may lose love and it might hurt more than you would believe, it doesn't end, it doesn't go away. When someone leaves us, dies, that same someone in another name and another body in another place is born because the soul is forever. After she finished the dervishes came out again, this time there were four and they did the traditional whirling, one arm raised up to take from above and one reaching down to symbolize giving below. In the midst of this, a little boy came out. His jacket had his name, my youngest cousin's name, printed on it, and he joined in the spinning, as the middle, the center to the four grown ups. He turned and turned, keeping his balance and making sure his feet were doing it correctly; one anchoring him down as the other guided his movements. He bookended the readings, he was new life. He made me cry.

After this we were pretty drained and deservedly imbibed in some wine at the reception. After the general free-loaders left, we got to stand around and chat with Mercan and the pianist who was the sweetest 19 year old girl. Pushy stage mom though, gah. When he brought over Elif Safak my mom's friend almost fainted. She turned from this confident, sensible woman into a meek little girl in front of her hero. She got to talk to her and so did I, and apparently Mercan had told Elif about how her book inspired me to maybe study Sufism and how my job is the same as her main characters'. It was a such a good, pure connection of people and we even gave them a ride back to their hotel, the NH Atlanta, which my hilarious mother decided sounded like a space shuttle. It kind of does. At least the huge black van came in handy. We all felt pretty giddy by the end of the night and it wasn't even all the wine. Heads racing we slept for maybe 4 hours, if that, before heading back home to Istanbul.

I guess I got my sign. First from that last part of the concert. Secondly, on the plane back I was reading a book called, "Holy Cow," by Sarah MacDonald. She's an Australian journalist living in India because of her husband's job, and feeling a little lost, she decides to explore the country and its beliefs. She covers them all from Hinduism to Buddhism and even Judaism and Christianity in India. Now I thought this was just going to be a silly, fun book about a foreigner in India surviving. I quickly realized that wasn't it and nearing the end, she winds up in Pakistan with Sufis. In one sentence she described Sufism as the Kabbalah of Islam. It's a lot of mysticism and it celebrates God through the belief that love is what drives us all, as expressed by poetry and music and dance. Though, traditional Muslims shun and even forbid it. This is what drew me to Sufism. It's the worship of life through love. My religion, Islam, is not in very good standing with the world and it gets tiring trying to defend something when there's so much evidence to damn it. Who freakin' bans a section of your own religion, come on. Let's open the eyes a little, remove the blinders... It's especially hard because I have a boyfriend that spent a year in Iraq and got to witness the abhorrent actions of people who claim they're propelled by God and religion. He even turned a skeptical eye to my newfound interest in Sufism because he said he met some not so nice ones. It's hard to connect these beliefs with actual actions and people who sincerely think they're doing what their God expects of them. I kind of empathized with the author because she had nowhere left to turn because with every faith comes all the hypocrisy and I kind of feel like that too, especially with recent events. I grew up in Turkey in a Muslim family and in a country that used to pride itself on upholding the Muslim beliefs of welcoming and hospitality. But even that's getting warped and the world doesn't see us as an example, it sees, well, to put it lightly the villains in Arnold Schwarzenegger's True Lies. Though I do love that movie, "psychotic terrorist," is generally not what I like to associate myself, let alone my belief system, with.

Maybe this is my sign? I like getting notes from the universe and the fact that some are provided give me faith I guess. It could be coincidence but so what? I can choose what I want to read into. Even if it's literally a book I'm reading. Or music I'm listening to.

Every summer I find a new band and record to obsessively listen to and fall in love with. It just works out that it happens every summer. Last night, I stumbled across this year's winners while I was out browsing in cyber space. I love Scandinavian sleaze rock. Hardcore Superstar, Backyard Babies, Hellacopters, all those punk/metal/glam bands from northern Europe who know how to write a catchy riff. It's probably my favorite genre and I was looking for more when I found Crazy Lixx and Wig Wam and maybe Crashdiet (who my boyfriend had recommended a couple weeks ago but I just got around to checking out). The songs made my heart stop. They were pure, musical love. I loved every silly lyric and inane chorus, I enjoyed their terrible band names and cliched double entendre song titles, and I spent all night listening to them over and over again instead of fretting about being awake. This is what makes me happy.

One of the albums' name is New Religion. I think that's a sign right there. Not a subtle one either.

Haha, I guess music is my religion. Which makes sense given what best illustrates the celebration of Sufism.

Today, i took my grandmother to get her radiation treatments. The usual group of people were there and by now we all know each other by sight. Except a new lady. She's a little elderly and a little nervous but she hides it behind friendliness. She asks everyone why they're there and blesses them and even tries to talk to the Libyan women who don't speak Turkish and don't want to have anything to do with anyone. But this lady never lets up. She and a regular get in to a whole big conversation about how good energy is what everyone needs. They agree that you can't let all this stuff get you down, keep your chin up, your energy positive, and God will be good. It's humbling to see these women who have to put up with so much shit sit there and be in perfectly happy moods praising Allah for their good fortune. I do believe in the power of energy but sometimes it seems too good to be true. If you wish it, it will happen. I guess I need to trust the universe a bit more before I can give in so completely. I like in Turkish how we have the words gecmis olsun for any malady or event. It means let it pass but more eloquent. When my grandmother came back out, I wish it to both women as we leave and add a silent plea to my God and to my universe to take care of them and my anneanne (grandma) too.

We drove on the same road back we've taken probably over 20 times now. But today's the first time I noticed a particular sign at the side of the road. No joke, it said Mevlanakapi; Mevlana gate/door/passage.
My mommy and Mercan.

Canan abla and Elif Safak('s profile).

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