Congratulations us! Reports from friends and family of election celebrations sound positively epic. I think the appropriate word for the giddiness and elation I’m hearing is civil civil in Turkish. It’s certainly interesting to be viewing it from afar.
On election day I went to a biopic on the life of Ataturk at the theater. Its created some controversy because it depicts him in what Turks see as a very “human” light. The cult of personality around Turkey’s revolutionary founder makes even the most nuanced depictions of his alcoholism or scorn of religion something of a scandal. That evening, I sat in a cafe with Kenan and his friends as they discussed the movie and the US election. It was wild to hear them talk about how “dangerous” they see certain information to be to Ataturk’s image. If this election cycle has shown anything, it’s that we are certainly not above micromanaging and obsessing over every minute detail of our political leaders lives.
And now it’s over. Aside from a massive symbolic victory, I’m going to very curious to see what happens next.
In the mean time, the strangely normal yet bizzare life I lead here continues. Today I went wedding dress shopping with my friend Nur, her mother and Kenan. I had never been in a bridal boutique before. (weddings are where it’s at these days I guess.) We all dutiflly donned plastic booties over our shoes to shuffle around and ooh and ahh over immensely poofy, rhinestone encrusted dresses. She looked great in all of them but after two boutiques they still hadn’t made a decision and so Kenan and I begged off. After a full day of looking, they returned empty handed and despondent.
Minutes ago they just got a phone call that “the ideal dress” they couldn’t find the right size for before has been found. Another symbolic victory in this little corner of everything.
This afternoon I was reading Bill Moyers’ conversations with Joseph Campbell. Campbell claimed rituals in the west have lost thier tranformative power because we don’t give them the energy they were given in the past. The result, accoring to Campbell, is the new realities created through ritual acts — or celebrated by those acts — are not formed as well. As I understood him, Campbell would say (or would have said) life as a part of a married couple is qualitatively different from life as single person. The marriage ritual celebrates this change, makes it difficult to not notice our world is changing, and helps create some of those changes.
I believe Campbell would argue the large number of marriages that fail in the west can be somewhat attributed to the fact we don’t have a ritual that adequately educates and prepares us for the transformation, then helps us create the best form for our new reality.
Not sure how buying a dress fits, I would be looking for ways to bail after the first store, but appreciate the opportunity to share what I’ve been reading and to read what you’ve been living.
Thanks for sharing this Steven.
I really agree with Campbell, that perhaps we don’t know how to treat our remaining rituals with enough care or preparation.
I find that part of the legacy I have inherited as a Western hippy Quaker child is the “tradition” of inventing my own rituals. I really appreciate and value the creativity and imagination this inspires in everyday life, but at the same time it can feel self indulgent. Why would I take on/invent a ritual that’s uncomfortable or challenging to me? And ultimately aren’t most of the more meaningful rituals challenging and uncomfortable at first?
Turks live in such an interesting middle ground, as a decidedly Westward-leaning Eastern culture. I know my generation here feels the pull of “free single living” just as it also sees the still ingrained marriage tradition. Their struggles, especially within a collective culture, make me wonder whether comfort or challenge for them refers more toward their relationships with their families and culture rather than their personal fulfillment.