No.4 September 2000

Being, Between

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Much is made of the fact that Istanbul (and the entire country of Turkey, for that matter) forms a bridge between Europe and Asia, East and West.  Reams of material have been written about the political, economic, and sociological ramifications of that fact.  The focus is always on the various material; i.e., economic, political and social advantages of being a connection between two cultures.  I want to change the focus and approach things a little differently.  I want to look at the meaning and value, for a place as well as for individuals,  that are inherent in the mere fact of being a bridge. 

Turkey is a bridge between East and West, true, but it’s important to remember that a bridge is neither one of the places it connects, but rather a place (as well as an ontological condition) in between.  A bridge is a space like that of the threshold between two rooms.  The important thing about standing on a threshold is that you’re definitely in an ‘in between’ place -- you’re neither in one room (the one you came from) nor the other (the room you’re about to enter).  ‘In between’ places are, by nature, ýll-defined, fuzzy;  their outlines are blurry.  (Oh, dear.  I can almost hear you shifting in your chair.    I seem always to be nudging you into the realm of metaphysics, don’t I?.  I’ve sworn dozens of times to give it up, but I just can’t seem to manage it.  Please, dear reader, I hope you will forgive me . . .)  Being ‘in between’ can provide the impetus for all kinds of transformation.   Being ‘in between’ means being in a state of fecundity, of potentiality.   Being ‘in between’ is a positive condition.  This may be hard to grasp, conditioned as we all are to think in terms of something being either one thing or another thing, and it may be the reason why I’ve yet to read even one word about the ontological implications of Turkey being a bridge.  Its being ‘in between’ means that Turkey itself is the included middle that I wrote about last time.  It also means that Turkey should never, ever apologize to the East nor especially to the West for not being quite like either of them. 

 The Latin word for ‘threshold’ is ‘limen’.   Anthropologists Edith and Victor Turner coined the term ‘liminality’ to refer to the state of being that pilgrims find themselves in while they’re enroute to whatever holy place they’re headed for.   Pilgrims are indeed in a ‘liminal’ state. Say, for example, you’re a duchess who decides to go on a pilgrimage.  Once you’ve set out, your former condition is no longer relevant.  Just imagine it – no matter what title, status, possessions, wealth, reputation, or influence you have “back home,” once embarked on the way of the pilgrim, those things count for nothing.  In other words, they lose all of their former significance, all of their former meaning.  The only thing that counts is your being (or lack of it).  Probably a lot of readers can relate to this condition since it certainly applies to foreigners.  It’s also interesting to consider the fact that it applies to Turks who moved to Istanbul from other parts of the country, too.   All of these people form a liminal group, a group whose antecedents count for far less than who and what they are right this moment.

To return to considering the implications of a geographical place being a bridge, now that we know something about the ontological condition of people who are in a liminal state we can easily consider some of the implications of an entire country or city being in the same state.  Liminality is the source of endless creativity and is inherently a condition of ceaseless transformation.   The meaning, the value and the sheer beauty of Turkey is that it is precisely itself – an absolutely unique place in all of space/time, and its sole task is to strive to fulfill its own utterly unique potential.  Perhaps in a way that other countries are not, Turkey is perennially poised on the threshold of its own future.  (Moreover, on a certain level (I am not referring to geo-political levels here) its future is neither in the East nor in the West.) Another thing this means is that all of us who fall into one of the two categories Ý referred to before – those of us who are foreigners or those of us who are newly arrived in Istanbul from another part of Turkey – are on precisely the same wave length, as it were, as the place in which we find ourselves.  We’re all beings poised on the threshold of our own futures living in a country that is in the same condition.  We’re aligned.  The very fact of being aligned with something means that each thing supports the other on a deep, deep level, a fact that may be important for persons who consistently feel themselves to be foreign, disenfranchised, and ‘Other.’    Living here can actually help us do something meaningful with our life.  

 It is for reasons like these that I think living in Istanbul is not, nor will it ever be, the same as living in, say, Jersey City, New Jersey.  Notwithstanding the cement, the bureaucratic morasses, the cheap facades, the increasing commercialism, and the incessant striving for baubles, status, and cash, Istanbul has a soul that still persists.  Anyone who’s interested has got to get good at sweeping all those distractions away.  The alchemical gold is still here.  You just have to work hard at clearing levels of meaninglessness away from it to see it.  It isn’t the kind of place where everything is set out clearly and neatly on display, like trinkets in a bazaar.  It’s the kind of place where when you find something, you need only lift it up a bit to find more waiting.  There’s always something more there, waiting to be discovered.  While most contemporary women have uncovered themselves here, the true being of this place is such that it is always veiled and having to be penetrated.  Personally, I find that a reason to get up in the morning.  

No.1- April 2000 No.11 April 2001 No. 20 July 2002 No 29 April 2003
No.2 June 2000 No.12 May 2001 No. 22 September 2002 NO 30 MAY 2003
No.3 July/August 2000 No. 13 June 2001 No. 23   October 2002  NO 31 JUNE 2003
No.5 October 2000 No.14 July 2001 No 24 November 2002 NO 32 JULY 2003
No.7 December 2000 No.15 August 2001 No 25 DECEMBER  2002 NO 33 August 
No.8 January 2001
(No. 8 Ocak 2001 - Türkçe tercume
NO 16 September 2001 No 26 January 2003 No 34 September 
No.9 February 2001 No. 17 April 2002 No 27 February 2003 No 35 October 
No.10 March 2001 NO 19 JUNE 2002 No 28 March 2003 No 36 January 2004

No 37 February - March 2004 No 38 April 2004

 

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