I met this garbageman when I was vagabonding around Istanbul in order to collect teaching tales with my friend and mentor @atakanmerdan.
When I noticed the garbageman, he was bathing in a ray of light while sitting on a park bench with closed eyes in order to allow the orange sun of the orient to replenish his soul.
The reflection of his warning west made the pearls of sweat on his forehead look like they were liquid gold, it was obvious that he was exhausted from his heavy labors.
I stopped and observed him for a while until he eventually felt my gaze.
When he opened his eyes he smiled at me with everything he had for what felt like a long time.
Without saying a single word, his aim wandered slowly around the park square in which we were standing.
It was as if he was taking my eyes on a journey to show me the fruits of his labor: a litter-free piece of his beloved home Istanbul.
He eventually ended our visual bond by nodding in a dignified manner and I tried to emulate his gesture in order to express my gratitude towards him for taking such great care of his corner of the world.
Even though our encounter was brief and wordless, I felt that the garbageman in Istanbul taught me something that I and my people have forgotten: Real heroes don’t wear capes.
My generation has suffered from a decay of values that resulted in us admiring idols in regards to how much they have rather than how much of themselves they give to their families and to the world.
Real heroes and heroines rarely drive around in red Ferraris, they take the bus early in the morning when the sun is still sleeping.
They don’t wear the finest clothes, they rather dress themselves in faith, courage, diligence and love.
Their hands are not soft, but they can do what needs to be done.
They can’t articulate themselves as eloquently as the people from the movies, but they speak the truth when they open their mouths.
They rarely have much to give, but they always give everything they have.
And maybe that’s all we all need to be.
I’ve met this woman in a mosque while I was collecting stories from Muslims in Turkey in order to learn more about the human condition.
The cathedrals of Istanbul intrigued me to the degree where I couldn’t help myself but visit them daily in order to understand what it is about these holy places that make them holy.
I would often sit for hours on the warm carpets inside these mosques in order to understand the rituals of the pilgrims.
I would watch them, clean themselves in the dwells, put off their shoes, and enter the cathedral’s main halls.
Once in, they all looked up in awe of the 108 feet tall hall until they would find a spot in which they could pray undisturbed.
I was fascinated yet utterly confused by what I was witnessing…
Why no shoes?
Why the cleaning?
Why were people dressing up?
Why the spectacular architecture?
In the midst of my confusion, I discovered the woman in blue, and in my reaction towards her beauty, I found the answers that I was looking for.
She was the only person in the entire cathedral that wore a blue scarf and from afar she looked like a sapphire.
Something interesting happened when I sat next to her; I was suddenly hyper-aware of all the things that were wrong with me.
All of a sudden I noticed that my hair was wild and messy and I noticed a stench on my turtleneck and since I shot a movie earlier that day, I noticed all of a sudden that I smelled like a bag of old sports socks.
Why didn’t I notice these things before?
A light bold went off in my head and I realized that beauty is a gateway to betterment.
A judge that highlights that which is ugly or in need of cleaning/cleansing – both internally and externally.
I shared this story with you because I wanted to ask you to strengthen your covenant with beauty in order to help you to cleanse yourself of everything that is unworthy of your divine potential.
Dress like your ideal future self, make your home an expression of the best of you, cleanse yourself of your vices, and don’t let a day go by where you don’t make room for nature, poetry, art, cinema, architecture, or music.
Beautify yourself and you will beautify the world.
“The younger generation these days come into the ancient temples only to take pictures with their cell-phone, but the larger meaning of the old mosques eludes them. These places were built for us by our ancestors in order to help us to think about ways in which we can improve ourselves and become better Muslims. The new generation has lost touch with its old one, they care more about money and fame. This degeneration of values is dangerous, they forgot that the things that matter most are God, family, and righteousness. I’m worried… how can a generation who has forgotten its past have a future?”
I’ve met this gentleman in the famous mosque Hage Sofia while I was collecting stories in Istanbul with my friend and photographer @onursryz.
One of the reasons why I traveled to Istanbul was because I wanted to learn more about the Islamic world.
Growing up in the west, all I ever heard in the media about the Islamic world was about how “evil” it was and how primitive the Muslims were who lived in it.
However, it was always difficult for me to buy completely into the idea of “them” as the “bad guys” and “us” as the “good ones”.
… After all, I had a father who was born into Islam and a mother who was born into Christianity… so I always felt torn between worlds, not fully belonging to either one of them.
And with one foot in the orient and one in the west, I was always oscillating between “good” and “bad” guy, depending on who I talked to.
Teachers like the one in the picture above, however, helped me to bridge my two heritages and realize that we all have more in common with each other than we think…
My message to you today is simple;
Don’t allow the media to form your beliefs about good and evil for you, instead, go into the world by yourself so that you can find your own truth.