A Revelation

by Gülsen ÇALIK


I decided to write in English. I could have written in Turkish as it is my mother tongue, the language I was raised with. My first words were in Turkish. It's so long ago that I don't remember any more. It's possible that I never remembered it once I grew up but

my first word was probably "mama". This means "food" in Turkish baby talk. Yes, it sounds like mother in English but it isn't. It's possible that at a time when all nations were one, children called their mothers "mama" and meant both the mother and the milk

that came from the mother's breasts. That, too, I don't recall with any precision. It's all guess work. I'm just writing an introduction to my writing. The limited vocabulary of a Turkish toddler is not any more varied than that of a child of any other nation.

We are all instinctive beings at birth, guided by hourly hunger pangs and a need for love. That said, I shall get on with my musing:

Section One: I just had a revelation about ten minutes ago which prompted me to write these lines. I'm not going to edit my work so if you find great errors in thinking or in insight, understand that this is spontaneous writing, similar to letter writing or better yet, talking.

Here is the revelation:
My daughter Lale had a sore throat this morning and didn't go to school. She's been ill all week and this morning, seeing that she wasn't getting better, I urged her to stay home. I also gave her a Turkish "yemeni" to warp around her neck. Yemenis are pure cotton scarves that Turkish villagers wear on their head. I don't know why they wear it. To cover their hair or to keep their hair out of their eyes or to keep their hair from falling into the pot while they are cooking or perhaps to keep men away, as some Moslem rule dictates.

Anyway, when I was in college in the '70s, it was a fashion statement to wear these scarves wrapped around your neck. The yemenis usually have fancy beadwork around the edges and young women like them because they are so pretty and so I started buying them in the Covered Bazaar and wearing them. Although I was a city girl, I was assuming some kind of sisterhood with my Turkish peasant sisters and that made me feel "cool." (I know, I'm laughing too but it's all true.)

And then, this morning when I gave my daughter this scarf to wrap around her neck, I remembered the trips I made to the Covered Bazaar, discovering Turkey and Istanbul the way foreigners did. I also remembered seeing foreigners and wondering what they thought of my wonderful country which was so dirty and so polluted and so chaotic at times. I remember thinking, "Too bad they can't come to my home and see how I live, how clean and beautiful my home is." This is embarrassing but so true. I remember feeling really self-conscious about my people, how we rode in crowded buses and smelled like we had not heard of bathing or of deodorants; how upset I would get because the men would harrass women, trying to touch them, or whisper weird comments to them, trying to see if they could get anywhere with them. It was so inane and so absurd and so annoying.

This morning's revelation was that I, in my lack of experience with the rest of the world, had caught sight of Europe and America through their movies. In the movies, everything seemed so wonderful. People were polite to each other. Men kept their promises.

Women were always cheerful. Children, although mischievous, always ended up being fun. The roads were well-paved and clean. Nobody littered. There was no wierdness in the air. And everything had a perfect ending.

I couldn't wait to get there.

Section Two:
I'm here now. I've been here for twenty five years. I've lived in the worst neighborhoods in New York and I've lived in better parts. I've made many friends and I've enjoyed living here. And I've also realized (I think I realized that the minute I stepped onto the pavement at JFK) that the world is not that sharply divided in terms of dirty and clean, polite and impolite, fun and boring, or educated and dumb. America has as many embarrassing qualities to an unaccustomed eye as Turkey. So does Europe. When I see people picking their nose and driving a Mercedes, (I witnessed this in Germany and in New York), when I meet healthy-looking, so-called successful people with impoverished souls, then I remember poor people in other parts of the world who become so happy when they are fed. Today, I remembered how I had glamourized the United States through its Hollywood lens. And I realized that the body odor that I noticed in Turkish city buses is so unimportant when compared to the spiritual mal-odor that I sense from some people in the West. I feel truly blessed that I come from a background that gave me a profound insight into life. I'm not writing this to make Europeans and Americans feel bad for I know many Americans who deserve to be happy and are happy.

I guess I'm writing this to make a point: That happiness, joy, honor, dignity are qualities found all over the world regardless of appearances of wealth or appearances of beauty. When a person starts paying attention to deeper stirrings within one's soul and deliberately decides to think beautiful, powerful, enabling thoughts, a totally different world emerges inside and out. If we feel that we are at the mercy of time and circumstance, we will not be able to change our lives. But if we believe that we are individuals who have the intent and capacity to take control of the voice within, then our lives will be happy, fulfilling and successful.

I feel happy that I have been able to straddle both sides, experiencing Turkey, at first, and now finding out about the rest of the world. It's been lovely, it's been mostly fun. I'm still learning although I'm also concluding. My major find today is that the world has to be experienced one molecule at a time, without generalizations, without prescriptions and with no prejudice. I forgive all the nonsense I learned from grownups and teachers and peers who taught me about fear and caution and history and survival and protection. I am working on developing an incredible appetite for my own power within. That power knows no borders, no nationalities, no religious differences. It knows life and enjors it.

* * * * *

About Gülsen ÇALIK

Gulsen ÇALIK Gulsen Calik is a Turkish artist who claims
anyone can move anywhere in the world and make it her home.
Though she was born and raised in Istanbul, Turkey, one day, on a spontaneous note, she decided to pack most of her belongings and move to California.

She has lived in Bhutan, of all places, and claims that the spirit of Asian people claimed a cadmium yellow spot in her soul.

She divides her time between
writing, painting and taking care of her three lovelychildren, (the eldest of whom has already move out on
her own) and her garden, her cat Eskimo and her imaginary dog Snu.

Ms. Calik believes in the
afterlife but appreciates life on earth rather deeply and with tremendous laughter in her heart.


This issue is dedicated to contemporary Turkish artist Erol AKYAVA┼×.
ISIKBINYILI.ORG The Light Millennium
Winter 2001
Winter 2001
Winter 2001
©The Light Millennium magazine was created and designed by Bircan ÜNVER. Fifth issue. Winter 2001, New York. URL:

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