The screams from the shop keepers in the bazaars sound like the sufferings of parrots. I listen attentively. I shut my eyes to only allow one sense in: sound. I want to saviour each sense separately. Individually. Like a rich dish of many things, I want to taste each item in isolation.
So I shut my eyes. There are the familiar shrieks of the store keepers advertising their wares, competing with each other. To grab attention you must shout the loudest. You must be the brightest bird of paradise. The pluckiest shrillest (and most annoying) parrot! And then there are the languages. The babble of the hordes. A rich assortment of tongues. Turkish, Kurdish, guttural Arabic and in lesser amounts – Russian, German, French, Hindi, Yiddish, and of course English. The lingua franca of commerce between tongues is English. When shopkeeper converses with foreign customer it is in English they haggle and barter. I can hear the voices of women – higher pitched, screaming in delight. I can hear the pseudo fake-imitation Hollywood accent of the young man as he tries to ingratiate himself with the American couple:
[young guy] “This is cool, check this out…” – and out roles reams and reams of beautiful fabric
Haggling with the shopkeepers is an art form. It’s like making love. You must be patient and whatever price they quote you must dismiss it with an insouciant brush of the hand and suggest a price that is half the amount. You must be prepared for lengthy bartering, lengthy discussions, and in between all this – many cups of turkish tea. At the end of the price haggling, when all parties have agreed a price, you will leave with a warm embrace as good friends, and a promise that you will return.
…and you will return to the same shopkeeper. Why? Because we humans are sincere creatures and it would not feel right to go someplace else. In the West if you want to buy something you just pop into a shop, pay and leave. Not here! Life is warmer here. People are warmer. Things are less clinical but also more chaotic. Which world or mind to embrace? The cold, clinical, efficient and progressive mind that achieves a sort of greatness from sheer dog headedness. Or the warmer, less organised and fumbling mind that achieves no great feats.
The sun beats down on my head like hammer blows. I take shade breaks under the awnings. The river of people is immense and seemingly endless. I find myself walking against the current. Humanity is so vast that I wonder where these people have come from and whether we can all live under the same starry roof. So vast is the number of shoppers that I suddenly realise what a blight and disease mankind is on the earth. These hungry mouths must all be fed. They need water. But most important of all they have wants. They want things: new clothes, fancy kitchen utensils, phones, entertainment devices, and luxuries. These things must come from somewhere. From the earth! How can it be?! Is there enough for everyone? What happens when it all runs out? I must get out of this mad rush as my thoughts are taking a turn for the worse. I head for the cool and relatively crowd free port area. On the way there I think about the school of thought that say’s we shouldn’t worry too much because man will and can find solutions to all his problems. That no problem is insoluble. That yes there will be problems but man is such a creative and ingenious creature that he will find solutions. Suddenly I am overcome by a feeling of warm optimism. The dark menacing cloud that had so clouded my thoughts has gone.
Man can achieve anything. He is a creature of genius. Yes there will be problems. But yes with science and reason ŵe can overcome them.
But for how long? 99% of species that have ever lived have gone extinct.
But then so what?!! Why does that bother me? I’ll be long gone by then and it won’t matter. But why should I care for the faith of the human species anyway? I only have to care for myself, my friends and family. The future faith of the human species is too mighty a concept – too large a grouping – for me to be concerned.
Here I am in Istanbul and I am thinking about mankind’s faith! How dim-witted of me.
At the port I decide to get on board a boat for a 2 hour cruise around the Bosphorus strait. The sky is blue. The sun is warm and golden. The breeze is delicious and the sea is a beautiful azure blue. I relax and watch the gulls swerving above me playing. I listen for the boats propellers and when they switch on I watch the foaming white flotsam and jetsam exhaust. Are we not all cast by life upon this seething bubbling mass of white water? What are we to do?
Relax and smile and watch The Greatest Show on Earth.