The ancient holiday of Nevruz/Nowruz (نوروز in Farsi) is coming up either this weekend or next, depending upon who you ask. Being very curious about holidays and the like – as well as being super excited to jump over some bonfires – I asked a Turk I knew about the celebration of Nevruz in Malatya. I ended up with this Turk’s view of Nevruz:
I don’t personally believe this story, but some Turkish people do. A long time ago, I don’t know when, the Turkish people were actually stuck in a valley surrounded on all four sides by tall mountains. The Turks couldn’t pass over the mountains for a long time. They were stuck there, in this mountain valley.
Yesterday evening, after a long day of orientation, my fellow Fulbrighters and myself were invited to attend the 50th anniversary celebration of the Peace Corp in Turkey at a diplomat’s house. Honestly, nothing really puts you in the mind set of feeling like a boss – at least from my own limited experience – like attending an official State Department garden party, complete with the press chief for the embassy, whiskey and wine on the rocks following freely, bountiful appetizers, and a podium that actually had the U.S. seal on the front of it.
When I was younger, I was obsessed by the idea of being anywhere but where I was. Why stay in New Jersey, I would think to myself, when there was almost an infinite amount to be seen outside of my known world. My imagination was also spoiled when I was little – my mom, or dad, or brothers would read to me stories of Greek myths, Tolkien, and His Dark Materials. My entire world view was based on the idea that sitting still in one place was almost sinful.
To need to explore seemed like a default state of nature to me. By the time I reached high school, explorers and drifters had become heroes of mine. Almost eight years after first learning about Ibn Battuta, for instance, I am still hard pressed to think of someone who I admire more. I mean, the man spent the second half of his life traveling from Morroco to Mecca, down the East coast of Africa, back to Turkey, and then all the way to China. Oh, and he did it in all in the 14th century – and got rich because of it! Who could pass up the chance to explore in the face of the amazement of something like that?
I like to think that I have made the most out of any chance to explore so far in my life. I have been to 4 continents, the Arctic Circle, and I have lived in Turkey – even if it was only for 2 months. I definitely have not let chances pass me by, but I am afraid. I graduate in two months and after that, if I manage to find a job, my dreams of long-term traveling seem to be mostly dead. I am waiting to hear back about the Fulbright Grant, which would allow me to live in Turkey for another nine months (perfect amount of time to have a kid a bail), but that isn’t certain. Unless I want to commit to living abroad for years – like my brother – my years of exploration seem to be quickly running out.
Except, they aren’t. There is always another frontier to explore, although I never realized it. As cheesy as it may sound – if it does sound corny, I can’t really tell – that last final frontier is the future. Although I may never be able to explore as much strictly temporal space as Ibn Battuta, it does not mean my life has to be any less interesting.
I have no idea what will happen in my life. Even tonight, I know only vagaries of a plan – meet with some friends, go to a party, hopefully get Pizza City. That’s the thing, though! Legitimately every action I can ever take is a journey unto itself, with every outcome possible and unknown.
That’s not just exploring, that’s a full on adventure.
Suck it, Ibn Battuta, my life can be just as bad ass as yours… even if I don’t travel more than 75,000 miles before steam power (damn!).
I was taking a piss the other night in my perfectly well lighted, but typical dingy and disgusting college bathroom. Aside from the splattering noise of my piss hitting the sides and the water inside the porcelain bowl, all I heard was the noise of the TV from the neighboring room and my roommates drunkenly laughing. I didn’t hear any sounds of animals from outside, or the wind, or even just the sound of natural silence – why would I? I live in a fairly large college city, I should, and do, expect this.
Slowly (it was a long piss) my gaze left the bowel and traveled along the wall to the electrical outlet above the sink. Blinking in the socket was the small orange light demonstrating **aside, is demon and demonstrate from the same root? Should check that out** the circuit was still alive and flowing. Staring at that small, slightly flickering but always constant, light it hit me hard – I barely live in the world. The world as I know it, and most people in general, isn’t really the world – it’s just a further extension of humanity.
I think, for me at least, this is no where clearer than New York City. There is nothing natural about that city, nothing organic about it besides the organic growth of the city itself; that, in itself, is astounding. We refer to cities growing organically versus a planned city, but there is still nothing organic or natural about cities. Don’t get me wrong, I love cities, and I especially love NYC, but that is not the world in the slightest – it is the compounding and extension of millions of people. Not only people directly involved in the growth of NYC, but the billions of people in human history who have helped to develop what it even means to be human.
We say we are animals, and that we are still part of the world, but we really aren’t. We have divided the world into the natural and the human, heavily so. So heavily, in fact, that people need to set aside times in their life to experience ‘nature’ by going for hikes, or walks, or going fishing. Even then, though, it is still as if we have never experienced the real natural essence of the world.
Last summer, I was in Turkey for two months. While there, I went for a hike in the world’s second largest canyon – and fuck, was it amazing and beautiful. Looking back on it, though, that canyon is still fully within the realm of belonging to humanity now, not the world. Why? Well, simply because it is completely enshrined by the humanity around it – food vendors, bus stations, restaurants, camping grounds, etc. I am not complaining, I am just saying that this natural wonder ceases to be natural. It is instead just a wonder of the world that has been engulfed by humanity.
It is astounding. Thinking of life like this, I fully expect to never really leave humanity, or to truly experience nature. Any nature left, now, seems like just the leftovers of the world – something we looked at and said, to ourselves, “Well, we should probably try to preserve something.” It is bittersweet. Thinking like this, I realize how much we are just products of those who came before us.
At the same time, it is fully reasonable to wonder “Have I ever been outside?”