“First we will help ourselves. Then maybe God [will].”

If there is a word for Istanbul, maybe Turkey, it is contradiction. This place is a breathing heavy heaving contradiction. On the intake it is beauty and modernity, sea, sky, relic; tradition, grit, glimmer, Islam. As the eyes adjust though, the exhale stirs those inevitable renderings and colors their second face. Here, too, there is quiet and impunity, a grim poverty beside a gross wealth, bureaucracy and apathy. Things are possible here that are rarely considered civil in other places. On the street, there are refugees tearing a single round of pide amongst them and a covered women stumbling into a white Audi in stilettos nearly trips over them, disgusted. Here, the bottom of a hill is old, sometimes tenement, with trash and clotheslines for cover, and then its top is vapid, vainglorious mansion-ry. Mini skirts and hijabs share sidewalks; restaurants observing the holy month sit beside booming bars; Ataturk nationalists and Erdogan share a constitution. Educated women attempt to foster educated girls, and other educated women tell them it is a futile exercise. There is a place for tradition and there is fear of the contemporary identity, but it is explored nonetheless. Fought for even. Suppressed. It is useless to presume anything of anyone. They are all straddling Asia to the east and Europe to the west. They are all trapped, or searching.

It is hot and deodorant is not a common discovery. The traffic is nauseating, the train smelly. People close windows and look over their shoulders in cafes when discussing politics. There is fear.

What can I make of this place, these people? Some of my history may center here but my reality is removed. I am seeking a kind of truth but it will not be entire. So to narrow my view without obscuring it, I’ve signed up for a philosophical symposium honoring Aristotle’s 2400th birthday in the place he once lived, Assos. It happens to be beautiful. Let’s see.