Bombs.

March 22, 2016

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Saturday morning, around 10 AM, I am about to go teach a class when Berkay walks in the teachers’ room his head down staring at his phone, he starts reading out loud, in Turkish, the other teachers in the room stop in their tracks, I hear Taksim and patlama… bomb and Taksim which is pretty much my neighborhood. I wait until he finishes

“What was that?”

“There was a bomb in Taksim.”

“Where exactly?”

“I don’t know.”

My friends… I think.

I was sitting at the computer in the room so I immediately look for news, all the people I know pretty much live in Taksim, my stomach turns. I find something, 20 minutes ago, near Demiroren shopping mall… 5 dead maybe, many injured. The news go around like wild fire, there is a sense of dread and horror growing fast in the room, my feeling of unease turn into pain, tears roll down my cheeks. Goddamn it, it is so fucked up. All this violence, all this hate, all that madness spreading like molasses getting everything sticky and gross. I get my phone, call my friend. He is OK. Emotions run high. Everyone is upset.

I have to go teach. I walk in the room, the students look relaxed. I am so upset, they look at me, they ask what’s wrong. I tell them. There is a moment of shock. Then, the phones come out. Then the same shock on their faces. I stand in front of the class and I try to keep it together and I cannot, I excuse myself and go out for a to calm down. When I come back, I ask them what they want to do.

“Just sit down” One says.

I propose to look at how to prepare for next week’s speaking exam and I start to write and explain and smile stupidly then it all comes back up like sour milk and tears again come to my eyes. One girl gets me a glass of water another gets a kleenex. They are so kind. We decide to watch a movie. It’s an animation film, pretty thing with nice colors and happy faces. It pacifies us for 40 minutes.

I will never forget their faces. The imprint of grief, pain and sorrow. My day is a succession those faces, 9 more classes like this where I would confront 6 to 12 faces. It was even more heartbreaking with teenagers, as they look at the world we are giving them and the hopelessness they feel is palpable. It rips me apart.

At the end of the work day, the road back on the bus was eerie. 3 people on the bus to Taksim on a Saturday night. Normally the bus gets packed, people standing up, dressed up, ready to party, talking and laughing. This is a silent bus ride that we made with only one more passenger coming on board. When I get off at Sishane, its totally empty, no one, no cars, no sounds. Istanbul has gone silent. 20 million people silent. You cannot imagine.

I go home. Start looking at the news, it is really weird and somewhat unreal as there are very few notices about the bomb, if it had taken place in a Western city, FB would be filled with flags and messages of grief and sorrow. In the main news I saw that a plane had crashed in Russia, that stole the headlines I guess, who cares about another bomb going off in the Middle East? I leave a note on my page, so my friends and family know I am OK.

My head reels with the headlines filling the news world. All this death, all this hate and now, all this fear. The school will be closed tomorrow because of fear of new attacks, everyone stays home because of fear of attacks, everyone is so sad and shrinking into a trembling hope that no one they love will get hurt.

After a while doing this, I decide to go out. Fuck this, I am not staying inside as a hounded, wounded creature. I grabbe my camera and go out to feel the air. Outside, as I said, it is impossibly quiet. No one on the streets, only the corner store is opened but the owner is there with 4 big guys, as if there to help in case of troubles. Up the street a flag. The bright red, crescent moon and star Turkish flag. I’m sick of flags. I’m sick of nationalism. I’m sick of borders and all the intrinsincly unfair business of passports and who can go where. We need a flag for humanity, no, for Life, something to rally under no matter what color, creed, religion or sex or elemental compound it is made of. Something to remind us that if one hurts, we all hurt. If we destroy we all lose. If we abuse we all suffer. Something to remind us that this circle of empathy that we keep so small around our little precious world of posessions must grow to encompass the whole earth. All living things, plants and animals.

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Up on the boulevard I have a revelation. I suddenly remember that while riding my bike all over the North American continent I had this keen awareness that death could hit anytime and I was cool with it. I was cool with it because I was living every moment of my life as deeply and fully as I possibly could. I was cool with it because every moment blessed me with such beauty, gifts of communication or simply gifts of the coursing of the sun and moon in the heavens. I needed so little as everyday brought me more than I could ever imagine, wish for or create. Right here right now in Istanbul, I must live like this too. Not be scared that something might happen. Because one thing is clear for me: we all have a journey and a time to die. When it comes, it will be perfect, it will be ‘the’ time to make that transition, continue the journey into the unknown. It is a beautiful thing. I see it as a liberation. It is a surrender to the perfection of it all, it is faith in life, in the Universe.

It was a beautiful moment of clarity, it washed away the horror of the day, like clear crystal water running on the skin on a warm sunny day. I could breathe better. I walked on, taking in the sights, the feelings, the energy of this beloved city.

On such a day, I realize how fear subtly glides in your mind. A weird looking guy instantly becomes a live bomb in the overactive mind. I watched these thoughts go by. Absorbing them.

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Around Galata, there are maybe 10 people. A couple of tourists, young European girls trying to take selfies with the street dog who wasn’t sure if he should escape or stay. The usually bustling restaurants are completely empty of customers. Most shops are closed, their metal blinds boarding the places like small fortresses. Up Galip Dede, it is empty too. Up at Tunel Square: 2 people. You must realize that this is Saturday night, and this is one of the partiest cities in the world and this place is the partiest neighborhood in that partiest of cities… only a few and most of them Turkish and all of them men, there are no women out tonight. I saw maybe 3 foreign couples walking on the deserted street.

Tunel square: empty

Tunel square: empty

I continued all the way to the bombing site. There was a circle of men, all in black paying respects to a tiny memorial, a white tarp had been affixed in front of the blown door, the upstairs windows are blown apart too. Tiny votives shivering in the night breeze pay tribute to the gone souls. There are some flowers and stark black and white signs that say that we will not be scared, that we stand together facing terror. I feel tears, it is as if the area has held pain within itself for us to feel. I stand there and look, absorb. Send a prayer to those who died here today.

the memorial on Istiklal

the memorial on Istiklal

I am glad I came. I can breathe better. The situation is not better but I am, as if I had loosened some sort of bounds around my whole being. We must live, stand, face whatever it is that confronts us. There is always learning in that.

It has been two days now since the bomb exploded here. This morning it was in Bruxelles. FB was covered in notes and thoughts for Bruxelles… We must learn to love ALL our fellow human beings. We must refuse discrimination, separation of any kind. As long as we separate, we will kill each other, we will spread hate and destruction to others who are just like us. I don’t care what you say, there are no right and wrong sides. When you kill, you kill. We must aim for the good of all, not only for ‘our own’ people but for all people. I would actually extend this to all and everything. We must be the shepperds of this earth.

We need to make BIG changes. All of us. What will it take for us to understand what is at stake? What will it take for us to realize the possibilities? We could feed all, heal all, educate all of the billions living on this earth.

We need to stop making bombs, war machines, guns and weapons and profit from such business. It should be seen as despicable,unbearable, unacceptable acts, not unfortunate “that’s just the way it is” ones. Stop making arms and selling them and the scope of most wars would be reduced to disputes, yes I’m over simplifying but not really…

We need to recognize the mad drive for power, for greed and control is a disease and those suffering from it should be cared for. We are much quicker and willing to assert an artist’s mental malfunctions, when in the mean time we accept the murderous and illegal actions of our governments as if they were normal.

We need to revisit honor, ethics, and the values the ancient Greeks upheld as innate instead of accepting the idea that a human being is only the sum of his chemical reactions and following that, has no ability to uphold any responsibilities. And speaking of responsibilities, we need to stop blaming external factors and put our hands in the dirt. Do the work. At home, at work, on the roads, (you could start with checking that road rage and your sense of self-entitlement and forgive another instead of being that screaming, middle finger flipping, purple faced jerk? could you for example curb your judgments and try to have some empathy when someone is not like you,or doesn’t do what you expect? Can you abstain to spread hate, racism and any sort of fear based reactions? How about considering the possibility that in fact, you actually don’t understand what is going on? Have humility? Can you just be a tiny bit more patient? A tiny bit more tolerant? A tiny bit more loving? It is a step by step journey and it doesn’t involve uncontrollable elements like geopolitics and governments it involves opening one’s eyes and kindness.

That is a tiny something we can do to change this mad world.

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