Taking Our Hearts to Turkey


The apprehension to travel to Turkey takes root in the scorched soils of a social state that thrives in the recently cast shadows of the world. But I begin with this – there is a light on every shadow’s horizon. Each attack anywhere at any time exerts trauma – even for those outside the “blast radius” or on another continent. The trauma can transcend from another era and can even reach us from those events that have yet to be seen. Ya Basir.

My friend Sousan Abadian says, “…healing collective trauma necessitates cultural and spiritual renewal.” For travelers like us, this may mean that heroes are not those with guns, venom, and embargoes, but those who pause and peacefully huddle in the sanctum of their inner “board room.” Here we gather with our saints and our own inner voice to establish the underpinnings of stable love imbued reasoning. Any response to fear that is not founded on love is an unguided reaction – a boat without a rudder and a slack sail. We go nowhere, even when we go.

A while back, Kabir Helminski wrote, “…There need not be a conflict between inspiration and practicality, between other-worldliness and this-worldliness, between mysticism and social justice, between spirituality and sexuality, between our spiritual realization and our human fulfillment.” He said that we can bring the world of the heart into this world; that we an condition our bodies to serve the heart, and not the other way around.

Collective trauma rends beauty from beholders, the needy from the helpful, the good from the bad. At times like these, we all belong together. Yet we pull out the scales of thinking and say “if we go to Turkey, we weigh in the danger of nefarious operators and not returning to our loved ones” and “if we stay home, we weigh in a missed pilgrimage amongst a circle of friends for the highest cause that triumphs over fear.” All this thinking. The real nexus of faith (the real jihad) is between the teetering mind and the balance of the heart.

So often we return to this poem by Mevlana:

“Today, like every other day, we wake up empty
and frightened. Don’t open the door to the study
and begin reading. Take down a musical instrument.

Let the beauty we love be what we do.
There are hundreds of ways to kneel and kiss the ground.

Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing,
there is a field. I’ll meet you there.

When the soul lies down in that grass,
the world is too full to talk about.
Ideas, language, even the phrase each other
doesn’t make any sense.”

What is it that stands between us all – whether a friend and a friend, friend and foe, or our ego and true self? I observe the same beauty of a sunset in countries all over the world. I marvel at their cuisines, and music and adjoining oceans. I’ve shared the same sanctity of friendship ranging from the “Ching Ching Tearoom” in Georgetown to the bay window of Yesil Cami in Bursa. So I ask, why would I cut myself off from those countries in their time of pain and need for the healing presence of lovers? I once carried my burdens to Turkey and she comforted me – it’s my turn to nurture a place in the world that is in pain. We are inseparable in joy and strife. What stands between us and anything is merely a distorted vision of “us.” Ya Basir.

We’d know little of ourselves were we not understand the cradle of universal existence in which we lie. I cannot weigh risk with love – for one does not come without the other. I can explain to my family the foolishness of possibly never returning from a journey compelled by compassion and love – but I cannot separate compassion and love from foolishness. It has been said and implied by many that there can be no faith, where there is not doubt. I am this and that all at once – dreaming whether awake or sleeping – seen and unseen. Ya Basir.

Fear is the chasm between who we truly are and who we choose to remain – love is the bridge across the chasm. If we run from the edge of fear, we’ll never reach the bridge. In the affairs of real love (ishq haqiqi) there is true knowledge – perfect love seeks the imperfect human. There is no way to understand how to help ourselves or others if we cannot step onto the bridge.

“The blind man at every step is afraid of (falling into) the pit / he walks on the road with a thousand fears.” (Rumi)

Kabir continues, “…someone who can see knows the dangers and obstacles. That kind of seeing is to always look at this world through the eyes of the Divine and to feel an Infinite Goodness welling up within the heart. This is how we must see and this is what we are. With this awareness we will ourselves become and reflect to others the hope and the light.”

Hope is an action, and sometimes it comes with odds in how it fulfills us and others. Faith knows the state of hope’s outcome. We hope that the odds [of trouble happening] hold and sustain the faith that we’ll safely arrive home again. One might say, “we hope and pray that peace reigns as the steady state of humankind and that our trauma subsides” …this is quite different than saying, “I hope and pray that I’m not next.”

Dear friends, I’ll stand in endless ticket lines for love as a lover, but not waste a moment as a victim of fear. Ultimately I’ve no choice in destiny. I’ve nothing to do while waiting for outcomes but to remain active, to remain present, to love every moment not knowing whether it’s my first or last. This is what I wish for my children to do, until, if ever, and beyond when I return from wherever I go.

I hope we all go in peace in whatever direction we choose…I’ve faith that all directions lead to One love. Ya Basir – we are seen, even in times we cannot see.

Hadith: “Live for the things of this world as if eternity were before you; and live for the things of the next world as if you might die tomorrow.”