Thursday, October 18, 2012

One calamity is better than a thousand counsels

Bir müsibet bin nasihatten iyidir. “One calamity is better than a thousand counsels". I learned this Turkish proverb during my recent travels in Anatolia. It seems to me to be an excellent maxim for life, and one that has personal bite, in the context of some of my recent adventures and misadventures, the full recounting of which I'll reserve for a future book.
     We derive the English word "calamity" from the Latin 
calamitas, meaning "damage, loss, failure, disaster, adversity, misfortune." 
     The Turkish proverb has double meaning. Faced with a calamity, we are out of the realm of words and abstract concepts, down in the chop and rawness of physical events. Even as we struggle to get through the crisis, what life is throwing at us requires us to think about how we need to act and behave in order not to get ourselves into a similar situation, or to get around it if it is brought upon us by others.
     Again, in the face of real calamity, ordinary time stops and ordinary calculations fly out the window. We may need to move at light speed, or alternatively, be content to subsist for a while in a state of suspended animation. We can't go by the clock or the book, the way we did before. This can give a curious and salutary sense of permission even when we suspect we are being punished: permission to stand outside and above the regular round of appointments and duties and requirements.
    It's been said that illness is the Western form of meditation. Calamity may be a universal gateway to transformation, if we are able to recognize the educational opportunity, seize it, and break through rather than break down.

Photo: Getting a little too close to Medusa in Anatolia

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