Whirling and twirling...

Trip Start Oct 15, 2007
Trip End Dec 20, 2007

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Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Our stay in Konya starts with pulling into the bus station to two young guys peering in the front window with these bright faces to find us.  Umut and his friend take us out to a unique sort of "pizza" place...a local specialty....fresh dough, thin crust, brick oven, and they are about 5 or 6 feet long and narrow (check out the photos).   We get 5 of them brought to the table with some Ayran, a tart yogurt drink and some spicy beet juice.  It's all delicious - I think there's no way all that will get eaten but an hour or so and a lot of conversation later, they're almost gone.    This guy Umut, spent 3 years getting his masters degree on none other than LONG ISLAND -  in fact the next town over from where I grew up.  He's engaging and totally into connecting and funny.  His friend doesn't speak English...he understands pretty much what we say, and he's nice to be around too.  They drop us at a hotel...we all drink tea together and talk for another hour and go to bed feeling really lucky to have made this connection.  Umut clues us in to everything we need to know about Konya...
So as I said, this month Konya is celebrating the 800th anniversary of Rumi's birth.  If you don't know who Rumi is I'll fill you in.  Rumi's real name is Mevlana and he is considered to be a great philosopher and a poet among Turkish people...and a lot of people all over the world.  He was born in Afghanistan but his father took him on this long trek over to and around Turkey, eventually settling in Konya.  Mevlana's most quoted phrase which you may know is...".come, come whoever or whatever you are...and (I'm going to paraphrase here ), even if you've broken a million promises in your life or you haven't been the best person in the world or come from a whole different belief system, culture, ethnicity, whatever...please come ...we welcome all".  That's a very liberal paraphrase but I think it addresses the point.  He was a very profound guy, and loving, with an open heart to all.   Mevlana founded a sect of Islam...the Sufis who practice Sema, or the dance of the Whirling Dervishes.  According to what I've heard, Rumi started whirling down the market street one day, his followers followed, and down the line we have the whirling dervishes who practice whirling as a form of meditation/communing with God.   So to celebrate Rumi's birth, the Sema is done in a public setting twice daily.  Although it is a spiritual experience, it can be witnessed in this large center, built solely for the dervishes, as a performance of sorts. 
Now I've heard of the Whirling Dervishes but I never really knew what they were about.  Well whirl they do...in long white skirt-like clothing...the thought is that whirling is deeply a part of nature....atomic parts whirl, planets whirl...everything practices a circuitous motion.  And when the body is set in that motion, one can attain a trance-like form of ecstasy.  It's all about letting go of the ego and opening to God and sending that energy through you and towards humanity.  They wear this tall white hat that is said to be the tombstone of their ego....and a black shroud that also represents ego and which they shed when they start whirling.   God moves through them from open upraised right hand into the world through lowered left hand.  So we watch the ritual...its fascinating, the music is captivating...even as audience I feel entranced...  But then every once in a while I step back from immersion and think about how far out this really is to me.  I mean it's another unique expression of an attempt to reach a higher plane of existence/ a closer to God experience...and it happens to involve spinning like crazy for long periods of time.  You can check out the video for a first hand view of the scene...I've only provided a sketchy description...of course there's far more to it than this.  
But one thing for certain...Rumi is cherished by the Turkish people....walking through Rumi's museum is a chance to see people deep in prayer and emotion.  His body, and the bodies of his family and some major devotees, is also preserved there.   It is a larger than life arrangement, as apparently was Rumi.
A few baklavas later it's time for another long bus ride...this time on the way to Goreme in the region of Cappadoccia.. got about 2 hours left... it's dark and another terrible movie is on - it's in Turkish so all I know is that a bunch of craggy looking guys in white t shirts are growling at each other and beating each other up while they grow their facial hair and sneer back and forth.  Not much interest for me there.  But the Whirling Dervishes...another story. 

PS I have some great videos of the dervish celebration...they;re just taking too long to load right now...ill have to send them later when i have a stronger signal...they're well worth it...
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