Wednesday, August 29, 2007

William on a Tower Top

Yesterday afternoon I returned to the City of Brotherly Love the first time in ten years. I drove through the familiar streets lined with typical Philadelphia rowhouses, old and often dilapidated. The churches here were numerous and looked imposing with their lofty timeworn Gothic steeples.

Broad Street, Temple University, old buildings, rundown storefronts, people with faces of all colors, and there appeared the city center with its shiny skyscrapers. Still, instantly recognizable was the City Hall with its tower and the statue of William Penn perched on top.

Walking around the historic city center I always feel the constant presence of William from that tower top, which is only fair considering that he was the one who founded the city. To me, that presence is a permanent fixture of the most beautiful part of Philadelphia, one that was there when we left and is still there when we come back.

Twelve years ago I had walked under the shadow of William, penniless and lonely, yet full of excitement and expectation. Now I came to see William in a new car, my wallet bulged with cash and bank cards, still lonely, but the excitement and expectation were gone, how and where I don't know. I don't even know whether I am better or worse off.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Passé, Alive and Well

The house in the picture was small and simple, painted in white and blue with a couple of olive shrubs growing in the front yard. It looked nice and bright under the clear Mediterranean sky, except that it was abandoned.

My friend Suat's family was forced to abandon their house when the island of Cyprus was divided. Being of Turkish extraction, they had to resettle in the Northern part of the island. Recently the political barrier was lowered enough to allow for visits between the two parts. My friend and his siblings had eagerly made a trip across the border to visit their childhood home, and taken the picture that was shown to me.

The attachment of my friend and his family to their old modest home, even though they currently own much more valuable properties, in a way parallels my feeling when, a few months ago, I made a little emotional visit to a place I had not seen since I was ten. I climbed the hill, sat down on a stone step, felt my heart sink at the sight of negligence while my eyes were registering the familiar details etched in my childhood memory yet oddly unfamiliar now that I was viewing them through adult eyes.

The past, despite being the past, still resides somewhere in our present, all alive and well. Like a dear old relative who refuses to pass away.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Moving Question

I can't help feeling sad each time I move, as if I were leaving a part of me behind.

Could it be that a wall, a door, a flower pot on the deck, a patch of sky visible through my bedroom window have absorbed elements of my soul and become an extension of my own self? Or could it be that my spirit has been subtly reshaped by everything that makes me a home, and I have become a part of that environment?

Mysticism aside, the pain of parting has made me, upon moving into a new place, keep telling myself not to get too attached to my new home. Which is impossible, of course, and I always end up feeling sad each time I move.

Still over the years the sadness in my heart has become lighter and lighter each time I turn my head for one last look at the place I've called home. I wonder if it's good or sad not to feel sad.

Sunday, August 5, 2007

The Performers

It always troubles me that people do not pratice what they preach, especially when it is God they talk about all the time and yet their actions reflect something quite the opposite. It seems to me that the more from the vocal chords the less from the heart.

When in church, I watch these people preach, lead prayers, sing hymns, and I tell myself I am watching a performance. Then I ask myself why on earth I would want to see bad actors perform while at home I can always turn on my TV, pop a disk into my DVD player and watch Matt Damon play Jason Bourne.

Then I have to remind myself that I go to church because of my faith in God, not because of people. But it is so hard to ignore such noisy performers around me.