More thoughts on Istanbul and the Eastern Mediterranean


“A person's life consists of a collection of events, the last of which could also change the meaning of the whole, not because it counts more than the previous ones but because once they are included in a life,  events are arranged in an order that is not chronological but, rather, corresponds to an inner architecture.”

~ Italo Calvino, Mr Palomar

I think this quote from Italo Calvino describes some of the ways I'm beginning to see things differently as I get older; God is allowing me time to make so much outer and inner refashioning and reshaping of faith and understanding. That's a grace I am so thankful for.

The trip to the Eastern Mediterranean continues to impact me spiritually in major ways, and on many levels, and I'm finding it difficult to assimilate and process it as well as do the normal posts so bear with me ! I do hope at some point to write several more posts about following in some of the footsteps of the Saints Paul,Timothy and John in Ephesus and Paul in Malta and Athens; on Mary's house near Ephesus and the Eastern Orthodox churches we visited too, in Turkey and Yalta and Odessa.

Travelling these past years since retirement has given me wonderful opportunities to visit places I never dreamed of seeing, but I also realise how provisional my knowledge of the world is, and how, despite my efforts at reading and understanding, I am ignorant of huge chunks of history and culture, and how little I know of the complexity and interplay of vast sweeps of religion, spirituality, politics and history through the ages. 

The Hagia Sophia of Istanbul above so clearly visible from our ship as it sailed up the Bosphorus. 

Below on the left, is the radical grandeur and astonishing beauty of the Blue Mosque & the Hagia Sophia on the right.

We approached Istanbul early in the morning as we sailed up towards the Black Sea  and we were so close to the shoreline that we could clearly hear the sounds of the call to prayer from the minarets. 

One of the Minarets from the Blue Mosque with speakers

It put me in mind of this poem by Jane Hirshfield.

 Three Mornings

In Istanbul, my ears
three mornings heard the early call to prayer.
At fuller light, heard birds then,
water birds and tree birds, birds of migration.
Like three knowledges,
I heard them: incomprehension,
sweetened distance, longing.
When the body dies, where will they go,
those migrant birds and prayer calls,
as heat from sheets when taken from a dryer?
With voices of the ones I loved,
great loves and small loves, train wheels,
crickets, clock-ticks, thunder—where will they,
when in fragrant, tumbled heat they also leave?

~ Jane Hirshfield

Postcard from Istanbul

There is a portion of reality which is offered to us without our making any special effort beyond opening our eyes and ears, and this we call the world of pure impressions. But there is another world built of structures of impressions, which, though hidden, is none the less real.  If this other world is to exist for us, we need to open something more than our physical eyes, and to undertake a greater kind of effort.  But the measure of our effort neither confers any reality on that world, nor takes it away. The deep world is as clear as the surface one, only it asks more of us.

~ Jose Ortega y Gasset from Meditations of Quixote, 1914 adapted from a translation by J.W. Jeaffreson

and so I turn to the one of the great poets of love and gratefulness, Rumi 
as read by Coleman Bark

Text of the poem

What was said to the rose that made it open
was said to me here in my chest.

What was told the Cypress that made it strong
and straight, what was

whispered the jasmine so it is what it is, whatever made
sugarcane sweet, whatever

was said to the inhabitants of the town of Chigil in
Turkestan that makes them

so handsome, whatever lets the pomegranate flower blush
like a human face, that is

being said to me now. I blush. Whatever put eloquence in
language, that's happening here.

The great warehouse doors open; I fill with gratitude,
chewing a piece of sugarcane,

in love with the one to whom every that belongs!

Poem by Jalaluddin Rumi

More about Coleman Barks:  translation ©2005 — Coleman Barks
                                           See also- The Soul of Rumi - A New Collection Of Ecstatic Poems

I love this poem below taken from a post on the spirituality of imperfection and the wisdom of the second half of life's journey, by my friend R.J. in this post at his wonderful blog, "When Love Comes To Town." It's by Shelia Banani.

Life's Rainbow

by Sheila Banani

Beginnings are lacquer red
    fired hard in the kiln
    of hot hope;

Middles, copper yellow
    in sunshine,
    sometimes oxidize green
    with tears; but

Endings are always indigo
    before we step
    on the other shore.

These lines above are lovely metaphors that echo some of the profound human experiences we all experience but find hard to articulate as we journey through life It reminds me too of this extract from  Wordsworth's Lines Composed a Few Miles Above Tintern Abbey which is a poem that could equally describe many beautiful places anywhere in the world.
And I have felt

A presence that disturbs me with the joy

Of elevated thoughts; a sense sublime

Of something far more deeply interfused,

Whose dwelling is the light of the setting suns,

And the round ocean and the living air,

And the blue sky, and in the mind of man:

A motion and a spirit, that impels

All thinking things, all objects of thought,

And rolls through all things.

Pinterest Artist unknown

(photo credit: Turkey Welcomes You Facebook page)

I've made a start on making slide shows from my Facebook album photos from the cruise holiday this month to the Eastern Mediterranean. This first one shows Istanbul mainly of the Blue Mosque, Hagia Sophia and The Grand and Spice Bazaars with some comments.  Click on the central arrow.

We didn't get the time to watch live Sufi Swirling Dervishes on this trip so here's a video from You Tube instead. 

I have been immersed in two episodes from the  BBC 2 series here on the Ottomans: Europe's Muslim Emperors, on Sunday evening on BBC 2 at 9pm. It has three episodes, fronted by journalist Rageh Omaar. Annoyingly it clashes with Downton but each episode will still be available to watch on i-player for three weeks !
I found the Daily Telegraph review here inconsistent as one minute it says it was a disappointment and the next it says it was utterly compelling !! Personally, I think it is excellent. 
BBC World Service Radio also had an excellent three part series earlier this year on Turkey and the New Ottomans and it is still available to listen to from here.

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