Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Turkey? Me? Well, okay!

We must become ignorant
Of all we've been taught,
And be, instead, bewildered.

Run from what's profitable and comfortable
If you drink those liquers, you'll spill
The spring water of your real life.

Forget safety.
Live where you fear to live.
Destroy your reputation.
Be notorious.

I have tried prudent planning
Long enough, from now
On, I'll live mad.


Sometimes, in mid-winter, it's hard to believe that good as well as bad things really do happen. It seems as if every phone call brings bad news. And, it has been proven that more people die at this time, and that depression does increase, and the weather in my part of the world reflects that outlook.

So, when I was invited to participate in an all-expense paid trip to TURKEY, it came as not only an enormous surprise, but a reminder that grace really does happen. I never win anything! I don't believe in any sort of gambling, and have never even bought a lottery ticket, so my chances of winning are pretty slim. Imagine my surprise when three young men, all PhD students at UK, with whom I have worked on several interfaith projects, invited me and another community leader to dinner at a delightful Turkish restaurant, and after a lovely meal, presented us a brochure describing this ten-day trip, and told us we'd been chosen to go! Sponsored by the Istanbul Cultural Center, an Atlanta based organization that promotes interfaith and inter-cultural dialogue, the annual trips are offered to two small groups with tour guides and translator: Ephesus! Cappadocia! Ankara! Rumi! Whirling Dervishes!!

Now, I would never, in my wildest dreams, have imagined that I'd go to Turkey! First, there are no UU groups there (it's 99.8 % Muslim!); second, I didn't know anyone from there; and third, I didn't know enough about Turkey to know how spectacular and rich in Christian as well as Muslim history it is.

After the initial shock, I had an interesting array of reactions: guilt (what about the rest of my family?); suspicion (what do they want?); relief (I'll miss the GA and won't have to decide what to do about the security kerfluffle); unworthiness; anxiety; more guilt. But underneath these mostly negative, self-critical emotions ran a thread of child-like delight, wonder, and awe... that feeling you knew when a great aunt gave you the most perfect, absolutely beautiful stuffed bear, the kind with movable joints, a real treasure that your parents would never have chosen: Yes, I deserve this and I am special! I knew it! Somebody noticed! they picked me! Whoppeeeee!

It occurs to me that this joyful, childlike self is and has always been there, buried beneath layers of self-defeating muck. After ten years of Buddhist practice, she emerges more frequently than not. I love acknowledging her and letting her out, even though I know others will take up where I left off, and try to trigger my guilt, fear, anxiety, mistrust, etc. I will try to smile and wish them well. Because whatever they say, I am going to Turkey! Good things happen, probably at least as often as bad. Call it Grace; Call it karma. I promise to send a postcard.