The Principle Of Hope – 2010
‘that strange crowd called everyone’
You choose your own country, not your geographical one of course, but your daydream nation, your dream world.
You choose your own forefathers, your own comrades, and your own friends to accompany you in your head as you go through life – Picabia, Dylan, or Lautréamont. And you may add, I am not of my father’s kin, but of the river of dada: Our horses were galloping along the shore, as if they fled the eyes of men. And say, not a single moment too late, the walls are closing in on me, it’s either too hot, or I’m wearing a few layers too many. And follow Oktay Rifat’s advice, take part in a movement of ventilation, strip off a few layers, come to life.
You choose what you do. Every morning, when you wake up, look in the mirror, observe how your mass fills the mirror frame, see how the void around you presses down on the shoulders and follow how you move even as you stand still, you realize what you really do.
You wake up one day, go over and sit at your desk, sense a crow land on the balcony railing. The crow caws across the sky, towards the rooftops, away from the balcony edge – its cawing drowns the sound of the few cars passing by, an insomniac lunatic talking to herself and the first ferries setting out. You shudder: the crow’s caw contains everything about the crow, and you think to yourself: So when I speak, my voice contains everything about me. What is the crow’s everything then, what is my everything?
“that curious time we have become accustomed to call always”
The past lives on in the shadow of everyday life, but there are times when it retakes centre stage with the lucidity of the present.
Some events of the past never completely disappear, they are never erased, and they gradually become the raw material of the mind. The event is re-judged, reviewed and redressed by the forces, desires and deficiencies at the crossroads of which it stands.
A sunny afternoon in an Istanbul suburb. Two children, now almost young, are walking home from the train station. They understand the world, but they are not sure whether they are a part of it. The younger one is perhaps more relaxed. The older one answers the younger one’s questions.
They climb the hill, the head of the street on which the apartment block they live in is visible from the top of the hill. The younger one has no doubt: soon we will be home.
But walking down the hill, the older one stops. Not with a sudden gesture, but he stops. The younger one knows there is a reason for everything the older one does, so he waits. But then it becomes difficult not to say anything: “Come on, let’s go.”
The younger one looks around for a moment to see where they are, to see the picture in the middle of which they are standing: A wide dusty pavement on the side of an asphalt road, the occasional car or bus passing by, a greengrocer’s at the foot of the hill, the rail track and trees on the right and further beyond, the sea, on the left two or three-floored apartment blocks, luxury blocks, villas. An open sky, the sun, a cool breeze, nice weather.
The older one does not even look at the younger one. The younger one has already begun to speak in a soft voice, but he tries to speak even softer sensing the weight and seriousness of the moment. “We’ll come here later,” “Not much to go till home,” “Just keep going till we get home.”
The older one turns to the younger one, and forces a smile, in obvious discomfort. Perhaps he says, “You go,” perhaps he says nothing. But his choice, his intention, his thoughts are clear to the younger one.
The younger one begins to walk, leaving the older one behind. He walks until he goes past the greengrocer’s but before he has walked up half the second hill, he turns back to look. The older one was still there, in the same exact place.
Motionless, almost taut, intensely focused as if to prevent a fluid that fills him from exploding through his thick skin. The younger one thinks, feels. What goes through his head. What is too much for him. Why did he not want to continue.
The younger one is sure he can see the expression on the older one’s face, how a lock of hair falls on his forehead, and his mouth below his sweaty, thin moustache, not making the effort to shape into an intelligible expression.
The older one returned home hours later, as if nothing had happened. Nothing had happened, after all. Standing in the middle of the pavement for minutes, perhaps hours, isn’t against any written rule.
The younger one, on the other hand, continued to think about what had happened. About the older one’s stopping, and the reasons that led to his stopping. He then felt: He hadn’t done this, others had done this to him.
“that strange sum we tend to call everything”
Marshall Mc Luhan, in Understanding Media, points out a subtlety in the myth of Narcissus: The young Narcissus has fallen in love with his reflection in the water, but he does not know that it is his own image in the water: Narcissus has fallen in love with himself as someone else, the reflection, extension, repetition of his image. This love blunts his perception and he isolates himself from the outside world. He has found one thing, and abandoned everything else –this dual order that at first seems to be in perfect harmony, will lose strength and disintegrate in time.
Now the past and the future flow in the same river. In a house somewhere, a child wakes up to the sound of sirens and runs to the living room to stand at attention. Another child, somewhere else, is distressed because he has ended up on one of the outer edges of the geometric mass formed by students formed into ranks in the ceremonial ground, and he is worried that the deputy headmaster harassing other students ahead of him, with his gravity-defying upcurled eyebrows, might next turn on him. In a sports hall, a PE teacher, commands all the students to lower their tracksuit bottoms, he will carry out an inspection of underpants. Somewhere else, in a large town, a man who has never feared anything, still continues to hide the impairment of his hand.
Let’s go back to the beginning. You see what you want to see. You hear what you want to hear. You can embark upon creating everything afresh. You can hit the brakes, or drive carefully. As Picabia says, our heads are round so that our thoughts can move around.