Beykoz, Istanbul

After five years in Istanbul, we continue to learn how much there is still to discover here. Now we have been to the Asian borough of Beykoz. Much of what we saw there was rural, and the topography and flora reminded me of Appalachia. I have nothing to say about the poverty and ignorance that might be suggested by this term; for me, Appalachia was always a locus for holidays, mostly at my late uncle’s place in West Virginia, but also in the form of bicycle tours. Travelling now to Beykoz, Country roads, I could think, take me home, to the place I belong! We got there by public bus from our European borough of Şişli.

Polonezköy, Beykoz, 2016.08.14

Polonezköy, Beykoz, 2016.08.14

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Pyrgos Island

The Turkish name of this island is Burgazada, and I discussed its etymology in an article about a visit in February of 2014. We stayed there again in October of 2015. During this August of 2016, on our last day on the island, I saw a fellow with the Greek name of the island tattooed on his forearm. Continue reading

All You Need Is Love

Would education solve the world’s problems? A meaningfully positive answer would imply that the appropriate education could actually be supplied to us, or enough of us; and yet education is not a drug that can be administered willy-nilly.

Tables for art entrance exam, MSGSÜ, 2016.08.02

Tables for art entrance exam, MSGSÜ, 2016.08.02

My thoughts here are occasioned by a friend’s remark yesterday (Istanbul time, August 1, 2016), to the effect that the current presidential election cycle in the United States shows the need of liberal education, of learning to think: and this learning should start in grade school. I responded as follows (this was on that social medium that I loathe): Continue reading

Thinking & Feeling

This essay is written as a distraction from current events, though I make some reference to them. I am prompted by questions of analogy provoked by

  1. the similes of Homer, and
  2. a recent theater review in Harper’s that mentions the parables of Jesus.

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War Continues

Earthquakes have aftershocks. In 2011 in Van, after the quake of October 23, a Japanese relief worker called Atsushi Miyazaki was killed when his hotel collapsed under the force of the quake of November 9.

Along with everybody we know, my spouse and I survived yesterday’s coup attempt in Turkey. This is happy news, but not, I think, surprising. A coup is not supposed to harm civilians, it is supposed to be supported by civilians. The main danger lies in the aftermath. At least that is what I understand from the 1980 military coup here, when hundreds of thousands of dissidents were rounded up. Many of these were tortured, and this is why an American friend of mine (some ten years my senior) used to ask me to resolve a paradox: how could this torture happen in a country whose citizens, in his experience, were the kindest people he had ever met? The point for now is that the arrests following the coup could not have happened with the suddenness of an earthquake, but were perpetrated over time (the military government sat for some three years).

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Life in Wartime

Turkey has given me a lot. My spouse would be enough; but life in Turkey offers various pleasures, and—for me at least—time to enjoy them. Hard work may be considered a virtue in the United States. Not so in Turkey. I am still driven to do things here, but perhaps only in the way that Thoreau was driven. He was driven to do what he wanted to do. One thing he wanted to do was write as follows.

I sometimes wonder that we can be so frivolous, I may almost say, as to attend to the gross but somewhat foreign form of servitude called Negro Slavery, there are so many keen and subtle masters that enslave both North and South. It is hard to have a Southern overseer; it is worse to have a Northern one; but worst of all when you are the slave-driver of yourself. Talk of a divinity in man! Look at the teamster on the highway, wending to market by day or night; does any divinity stir within him? His highest duty to fodder and water his horses!

For how many Americans is the highest duty to go to work to pay for the car that they drive to work?

We suffer in Turkey from the delusion that one head is better than two or more, at least when that one head belongs to the man who is driven to be president-for-life. We also suffer in Turkey from terror attacks, like the one last night at Istanbul’s Atatürk Airport. Continue reading


The following notes about C. S. Lewis, The Chronicles of Narnia, are from four emails that I wrote in the fall of 2015. The emails rebut various objections to the Narnia books. I have put my emails here, because I noticed that a friend on Facebook was wondering whether her daughter was ready to read the Chronicles, or perhaps to be read to from them. I do not wish to write much on Facebook, for reasons detailed elsewhere in this blog; so I asked interested persons to read me here.

Side of boxed set of The Chronicles of Narnia from 1970s

I started reading the Chronicles in the summer before fourth grade. They had been on a list of suggested reading supplied by my school. I do not believe I was corrupted by those books, or by any other books; but anybody may read below for signs to the contrary! Continue reading

One & Many


This essay—these notes for an essay, this draft of an essay—is inspired by Robert Pirsig’s first book. I have made sectional divisions where they seemed to occur naturally.


While we who work at universities may be employed by the state, our true work is to serve not the state as such, but what may be called knowledge, or science, or reason. This is a theme of Pirsig, which I take up here.

In the ideal state, there would no conflict between doing our true work and serving the state. This is a theme of Thoreau, whom Pirsig read during his motorcycle trip. In the Conclusion of Walden, Thoreau recalls an early leader of the French Revolution who romanticized illegal violence as requiring the greatest resolution and courage. Thoreau observes that Mirabeau missed the point:

A saner man would have found himself often enough in formal opposition to what are deemed the most sacred laws of society, through obedience to yet more sacred laws, and so have tested his resolution without going out of his way. It is not for a man to put himself in such an attitude to society, but to maintain himself in whatever attitude he find himself through obedience to the laws of his being, which will never be one of opposition to a just government, if he should chance to meet with such.

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Surgery & Recovery

On June 7, 2016, I underwent surgical repair of an inguinal hernia. I did not know what to expect. I did not know that I did not know: I did not consider that there was anything in particular to be prepared for. But there was.

Clock tower of Şişli Etfal hospital, from the fourth floor

Clock tower of Şişli Etfal hospital, from the fourth floor

The surgery itself was not such a big deal. It was a fascinating experience, but not one that I found myself wishing I had known more about ahead of time. Recovery has turned out to be something else. If a medical website says of recovery, You may experience some discomfort, it is practically lying. Discomfort was what I experienced, waiting in a chair, or on a gurney, for the surgery to take place. What I experienced afterwards was searing pain, at least in getting out of bed, with the rather insistent help of a nurse. Continue reading

Rock & Roll

The May 2016 Harper’s features a review of some books about the rock band called Guns N‘ Roses. I find this a bit odd, though perhaps reassuring, since I think I am too old for Guns N’ Roses, and yet Harper’s seems pitched at people who are at least as old as I. During the former editorship of Lewis Lapham, the magazine ran cigarette ads; now it runs ads for retirement communities, hearing aids, and mobile phones with large buttons.

Guns N’ Roses performing at the Los Angeles Street Scene, September 28, 1985 © Marc Canter

Guns N’ Roses performing at the Los Angeles Street Scene, September 28, 1985 © Marc Canter

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