Alaçatı, Ceşme, Ephesus, Şirince, Turkey.
Tag Archives: Blog
You are more than a word. Unlike a word, you are not static—you evolve like the very Earth you’re spinning on. Unlike a word, you are not solid—you were born 75 percent water. Unlike a word, you cannot be defined with an entry in a dictionary—you redefine yourself with each thought, with each action. Don’t let yourself be contained in the limits of a word, and don’t let others either. The ones who have been replaced with a label, condensed to a noun meant to divide them from you. If we must be put into words, let them be verbs. I breath, I dream, I hurt, I hope, I love, I live, and I bet you do too. If we must be put into words let them have life. Let them be human.
The world of today is a culmination of histories, the stories of the people before us. Some of its most beautiful artifacts their acts of defiance against the ways of yesterday. One day our present will be woven into that fabric—our stories its threads, our legacy creating a world for the people of tomorrow.
There has only been one you in the history of this world. And the current arrangement of stars and planets and the particles upon them has only happened once. That means each of us in this very moment are specifically and particularly equipped for sharing something of unique and intrinsic value.
Art, in whatever form it may take, is a mode of empathy. Shaping and sharing the ideas and visions unique to us helps us to really see while looking and hear while listening when others do the same. Vulnerability – through words and movements and notes and brush strokes – is something to be cherished indeed.
So whatever your medium or method, make it honest and sincere and weirdly individually you. I promise I’ll try my best to do the same, and to remember that if I have the freedom to express I also have the responsibility to listen.
Those disrupting the pattern with the art you create, the words you speak, the life you lead, the way you use your freedom—I appreciate you and your bold acts of defiance.
Most divisions that exist—between people, places, ideas—are imaginary.
…They exist only because we’ve chose to make them so. They dissolve in just the same way.
Only as as powerful as we as we allow them to be.
Somewhere between spring and summer as the water of the Bosphorus is waiting to warm and the clouds in the sky are waiting to part. Somewhere between Asia and Europe as the ferry’s passengers are on their way home at the end of the day or on their way out at the start of the night. There is a quiet eagerness in the air, sensing that the wait won’t be much longer now for summer to reach the city. Maybe two weeks, or three, but for now we’re waiting, waiting. In the rows of wooden seats people are mumbling about precisely that. The ferry is the old kind..the kind that rumbles and creaks as wind sneaks through cracks in it’s welded metal walls. Not like the new kind that’s sealed tight light a spaceship and glides over the waves instead of rolling with them. The strings of a violin are being put in tune. The volume is being adjusted on an acoustic guitar. Nobody notices until the notes meet in a melody. And the strumming of the violin and the plucking of a guitar become a time portal to the present moment. And all of a sudden we’re no longer waiting – we’re here – on the ferry, in the midst of a city split between two continents, where you can stand in one spot and travel a hundred different journeys in the course of a day, like the whole world is spinning around that very point. This is a moment too, and a precious one at that. And the musicians making the music have an open guitar bag at their feet. And no matter how much change the passengers place inside as they pass by at end their day or start their night, at the end of the spring and the start of the summer, couldn’t possibly amount to the value of this moment.
It’s all we have.
We all keep something of field journal as we travel through life. In it we chart maps, we make observations, we note the things we know to be true.
We collect moments and press them like flowers in its pages. We place a stamp to mark the place we call home. We transcribe lines of music to capture the songs that we sing.
In many ways our field book looks like a dictionary, containing the definitions of the things most powerful to us. Things like ‘love’ and ‘strength’ and ‘freedom’. We make two-columned tables of concepts we believe to have clear opposites, like ‘good’ and ‘bad’, ‘right’ and ‘wrong’. We make lists with titles like ‘who I am’ and ‘who I am not.’
We bring this field book along on all of life’s adventures, pulling it out of our pocket and adding a new line each time we encounter something we’ve not experienced before.
In these books, we are taught that our strokes should be quite firm, notes quite permanent, definitions quite solid. That we should be unquestioning of its contents and secure in what we know to be true. That there is strength in the wielding of a pen.
But the problem with pen is that it’s permanent. And if we are paying attention, it is inevitable we will encounter things that don’t fit into the categories we’ve made. Things that push the line between ‘good’ and ‘bad’ or that contradict entirely the definitions we’ve kept for longer than we remember: That to love does not mean to own or to keep. That seeming acts of goodness can also be self-serving and selfish. That almost nothing can be condensed into just ‘this’ and ‘that.’
These encounters are a test of our ego. Because to recognize they exist is to recognize we were limited in our views, that there’s something more there, or that we were wrong all together. And I believe our reaction to these encounters is everything. That there are too many people in high places with pens clenched tight, unwilling to go back, re-read, and re-write. Unwilling to take a step in a different direction. Unwilling to sing a different tune.
But if you ask me, there is something stronger than the wielding of a pen. Something much more suited to the the filling of a field journal, to the note taking of life.
A pencil is versatile: a tip that can make marks both light and heavy, shaded or scratched, and an end that can erase them all together. A tool which embodies that what was true does not define what is true. That who we were does not define who we are. That a story can change in an instant.
Because to move through life with an open mind is to fill page after page without being too attached to the contents of any one of them. To be amazed and intrigued when something calls for our notes to be re-evaluated and re-defined. That the sign of curious heart is a field journal full of words and scribbles and sketches and very few solid lines..cover worn and pages crinkled from the constant practice of being pulled from a pocket and flipped through forwards and back.
To live is to change. That’s why I choose pencil over pen.
“The miracle of your mind isn’t that you can see the world as it is. It’s that you can see the world as it isn’t.” -Kathryn Schulz, from her TED Talk “On Being Wrong”
It has been said that humans are the only creatures on Earth which can place ourselves in situations that don’t exist. That could mean fantasizing about the future or thinking back on alternate routes we might have taken in the past.
Does it mean we are the only creatures which can experience regret? Or the only ones who can experience hope? Does it mean we are the only ones who can envision a world that is better than it is now or a life different from the one we’re living?
I think it may mean we are the only creatures who tell stories, for whom the line between what’s fact and what’s fiction is often quite fuzzy.
One of my favorite films goes by the tile Big Fish, by Director Tim Burton. It’s the story of a man telling the story of his life, and the story of a son grappling with the definition of truth. Because, you see, this man’s stories are whimsical and fantastic and strange and beautiful, driven by hope and fear and dreams and love rather than logic or practicality. The characters don’t always have names and locations don’t always correlate to a specific point on a map. Time slows down and time speeds up and jumps from past to present to future and back. The lines aren’t straight and the pieces don’t fit together with perfect angles and this the son resents. And this he struggles to understand, until he follows the footsteps of these stories himself and realizes that fiction may indeed be closer to the truth than fact.
Because – after all – we don’t see the world as it is, we see it as we are. And all we ever know and all we can ever tell is the story of our lives as we know it, and the stories of the events and places and people that have intersected with ours.
And those stories don’t always have a clear beginning. Or if they do have a beginning it’s not one we can pinpoint and often occurred long before any of the characters even existed. So there’s nothing left to do but pick a spot and start telling from there. And inevitably we have to hop back and forth into earlier and later times to get the details right. But that’s okay because life isn’t so easily segmented into moments than can be traced like a connect-the-dots. And unless you’re looking at a clock, I’m quite sure that time doesn’t move in a straight line either, and certainly not at a constant speed, at least not from where I’m looking.
And now I’m reading a book, the first book translated from the Kurdish language to English. I’ve been reading this same book for months now, and I swear that the more pages I read the more pages add on to the end. I pick it up and put it down and read other books in the times in between. The timeline is upside down and rightside up and its settings don’t exist and it contradicts itself and admits that it really makes no sense at all. And the entire book is about imagination. And it’s one of the truest stories I’ve ever read.
We are creatures on strange journeys, guided and followed by hearts and minds all our own. And as such, we are storytellers.
“I believe that all strange journeys begin with a step in an unknown direction. To become an imaginative creature you first need to take a step and follow a route without knowing where it goes.”- I Stared at the Night of the City – a novel written by Bachtyar Ali, translated by Kareem Abdulrahman
I once met a boy who could stop time. Capture a moment and hold it in the palm of his hand, focusing in on the details that might otherwise have become faded and creased as memories do, or lost in time all together left behind somewhere along a mountain range.
I knew a girl who could teleport people to dreams and far away places with the words that came from her pencil. And another who could turn anyone else into the most fascinating person in all the world. She’d do it by asking good questions and listening hard and then she’d watch the person transform before her very eyes.
Do we have super powers? As a matter of fact, I believe that we do.
And if there’s one superpower I’d like to harness within myself, it’s the power to become liquid.
I think the first inclination for many is exactly the opposite—to be solid, like a stone, rolling through life. Over time, the world around them chips away and smooths their edges, shaping them into something that only slightly resembles their previous form. But the process is slow. And the balance is off. They knock down more than they allow to knock at them.
What I’m talking about is a state that’s more fluid, a relationship with the world that’s more dynamic.
Liquids are gentle in their movements but powerful in their impact. They fill the empty spaces around them, both shaping to their surroundings and shaping them. And on the way, their components are ever-rearranging, ever-evolving, defying definitions and simple explanations.
To be liquid doesn’t mean totally losing one’s self and the core aspects of one’s identity in the journey through life, for liquids mold to their environment but never lost their substance; they are comprised of the same components, yet things can mix with them, add to them, make them better. And to be liquid doesn’t mean being powerless to affecting the environment around one’s self, for what’s really more gracefully powerful than an ocean wave?
Rather, to be liquid takes imagination—a superpower in itself. A willingness to pretend, to make believe, to become something new, even if just for today. To listen, to observe, to appreciate, to change. To make all things possible.
Liquidity is life itself. And to harness that would be a superpower indeed.
“I wonder if we have endless parts of ourselves to leave behind or an infinite amount of ourselves to paint over with experiences and people,” I heard you ponder to yourself the other day, at this point in your journey.
And at this point in mine, I’m pondering the little pieces of my heart left behind wherever I go, some bigger than others. And you saw a moment the other day where I felt their empty spaces. And I guess that can happen when you live like we do. Diving in head-first to the world around you – letting it bend you and shape you and permeate you – is ible to put a strain on your heart. And what a beautiful thing that it does.
At the same time your heart gets to feel this incredible sense of fullness that it wouldn’t get to otherwise. And you get to feel this immense fascination and curiosity and wonder and love for life that you might not be able to explain. And your mind and your strength and your courage and your dreams, they’re all kind of sparky. And sometimes you can’t remember which of your dreams were dreams and which were life. And that makes it worth it, I think. Worth it in every way.
But back to your pondering—
I’m beginning to believe that the more pieces of ourselves we paint with experiences and the people we share them with, the more multi-faceted we become. By interacting and interlacing with the world around us we give ourselves depth and color and complexities and substance.
In that sense, the more we uncover in life around us, the more there is to uncover within ourselves.
In that sense, we’re infinite.
“…two pieces of random blue sky pieces that don’t seem to fit anywhere.”
It is said that nothing happens until something moves.
A smile in return to the tip of a hat, shared stories with the person in the next bus seat, a penny left behind on a sidewalk..right side facing up.
I’ve been thinking lately about this idea of contact points, which are the most fitting words I can think of to describe the way we move and touch the world around us, how we interact with the people and moments we encounter along the way. Each one leaves an impact, big or small, positive or negative.
Sometimes those impacts are big, and those are the ones that people recognize and remember after we’re gone. But what I think are even more intriguing are the small ones, the ones that most people don’t notice, and sometimes we don’t even realize we’ve left behind. Those contact points, those small impacts, are untraceable..unattributable to one particular individual. Instead, they become a part of the world around them.
A moment in it’s unwritten history.
A note in a song.
Maybe that’s what comprises the energy of a place, that intangible thing which makes you feel at home in a far-away land. The songs woven into it. And we, as a part of that place, are the leavers of notes. The writers of melodies.
Like a firefly on a calm night, sometimes beauty appears in an instant in front of my nose with a warm glow too lovely and too close to even think about reaching out my hand to touch it. By the time I do it has dimmed and faded back into the breeze with a trail of twinkling light. If I should chase it, it will send me jumping through the grass in my bare feet stumbling over bumps and stones as it flickers through the air above me. If I should enclose it in a jar and hold it in my hands, its light will surely dwindle the longer I pretend it is mine to keep. But if I should sit patiently and appreciate its presence in the fleeting moments it makes its light seen, maybe it will land and stay a while and share the sky with me. And we can wonder together if those stars which dot it are made of the very same things as we.
Wherever you may go, for whatever you make take—be it memory or a story or a moment captured in a photograph—leave something in its place. A bit of good. A piece of your heart. A dream. A wish. Something only you are capable of sharing.
So often travel can be a one-sided experience..consumption of places and the things and people they hold. Life on the other hand is about balance..a give and take at each turn. So when you go somewhere—be it for a day, a week, a month, a year—go not to travel, but to live.
Be a part of that place and the people who make it what it is. Live like the locals. Roll up your sleeves. Earn your keep. Observe without judgement. Listen without a response already written out. Skip the research. Forgo expectations. Instead, let those places and people define themselves to you. Give them the chance to tell their own story, then contribute a line of your own.
Curiosity will get you far..further than you ever imagined. An open heart and open mind are keys to unlocking the possibilities of a place..and the possibilities within yourself. Because exploring this world is both a responsibility and an opportunity. One to add depth and color within ourselves, and one to leave strokes of those colors behind in the places we’ve touched and the ones that have touched us.
If we are freedom, we should set another free. If we have power, we should should empower somebody else.
…Sometimes giving someone the gift of your unexpecting, unjudging, undivided attention is freedom in itself.
A gift we can give, no matter how much is in our pocket.
Reality has a way of mirroring expectation.
…What we put forth is what we get back.
Expect to find beauty and beauty you will find. See the light in others and light they will share.
In a house carved into rock in ancient times I thought about how the shaping of our identity is not so different from the process of hands chipping away at stone, creating within it a place to call home.
We all begin with an outermost layer shaped by the contexts around us—the should’s and the shouldn’ts, the cans and the can’ts, the words we’re told we are and are not. As we move through life we chip away at this shell, identify its weakest points and let fall away the parts that don’t hold. What’s to be found beneath is not unlike crystals—the multifaceted pieces of our soul developed under pressure..the unique bits that define us and comprise the gifts we have to share with the world. Chipping away even further we reach our core—the innate and intrinsic components that make us human. If we get this far I think we find that our innermost pieces are not so different from the person next to us..or the person across the word. We are all made of the same materials, just arranged in innumerable different and incredible ways.
I can’t say for certain as I’ve only just cracked the surface, but I’ll keep on chipping away till I find out.