Category Archives: Turkey

Ahtamar Island

During a mathematics conference, I visit the ruins of a monastery on a remote island in an inland sea. I am moved to consider the relation between introversion and, if not mathematics, then monasticism. On the origins of Christian monasticism, I look at several sources, notably Gibbon (see the References); and Maugham, on a hermit on an island of the Torres Strait. Since the monastery on the island was Armenian, in what is now Turkey, one should consider also the treatment of minority populations in Turkey. I acknowledge the issue only here, suggesting Wikipedia pages (linked to presently) as a starting point for research. Old books on my shelves are not much help; my own experience, not much more, at least not in a way that lends itself to being written of here, though I know for example that Turkish politicians will openly treat imputations of their own Armenian ancestry as an insult.

We visited Ahtamar Island for a second time on Wednesday, August 23, 2017. Thus we saw again the remains of the Church of the Holy Cross. This Armenian church was consecrated in 921 and presumably desecrated in 1915, if not earlier; now, since our last visit, though officially a museum, the church would seem to have been reconsecrated, to judge by the new altarpiece, featuring an icon of the Madonna and Child.


Altarpiece, Church of the Holy Cross, Ahtamar Island

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Edirne

This is about a May Day trip to the second Ottoman capital from the third. In the latter, the government has been suppressing May Day demonstrations in Taksim Square since 2013. That year, the suppression may have helped provoke the Gezi Park protests, as I suggested in “May Day One Month Late.” I reported on the following year’s suppression in “Madness, Stupidity, or Evil?” This year (2017), labor unions held a legal May Day demonstration in Bakırköy, further west in European Istanbul, as reported by the Anadolu Agency (which as far as I know is owned by the Turkish state). My wife and I just got out of town.

Selimiye Mosque, 2017.04.30

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Nature and Death

Thoughts on mortality and the evolution of the universe, occasioned by a funeral and by Collingwood’s Idea of Nature and Plato’s Phaedo

Cebeci, Ankara, 2016.05.17

When the husband of my second-grade teacher died, I wanted to pay my respects. My father took me to the funeral home, where I hid behind him as he greeted the family of the deceased. My teacher was not among them. When invited to view the body, I looked over and saw it, lying off to the side in an open casket. I had never seen the man when he was alive. I declined the opportunity to gaze at his lifeless form. Until I came to Turkey, this was my closest approach to the materiality of death—except for a visit to the medical school of the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque. There, as part of the laboratory program at St John’s College in Santa Fe, students viewed dissected human cadavers.

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Freedom to Listen

“It’s a free country, so shut up!”

On Thursday, February 16, at Bosphorus University, a talk on the subject of freedom of speech was given by a Guardian columnist who was a history professor at Oxford. This was Timothy Garton Ash, who observed that freedom of speech and of the press had been severely curtailed in Turkey. For a defender of the regime, the accusation might be belied by the speaker’s freedom to make it. Academics can still come from abroad and give their critical talks. However, as Professor Garton Ash detailed, many Turkish academics have been fired from their positions; many journalists have been imprisoned; other journalists cannot get their articles published. Continue reading

Şirince January 2017

Having enjoyed spending a January week at the Nesin Mathematics Village in 2016, this year I came back for two weeks. My spouse will join me for the second week. Meanwhile, here are some photographs from this amazing place. Continue reading

Thales of Miletus

This is about Thales of Miletus and what it means to study him. I am moved to ask what history is in the first place. It is a study of the freedom in which we face our conditions. Thales had his way of understanding the world, and we may benefit from trying to learn it.

“The Thaleses of the future are meeting in Didim, September 24,  2016”

“The Thaleses of the future are meeting in Didim, September 24, 2016”

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How to Learn about People

A chance encounter with a Medieval definition of God, used as the title of a sculpture, leads to an ancient plane tree and to more consideration of what can go wrong with public opinion polls.

Ancient plane tree of Bayır, Marmaris Peninsula, September 9, 2010

Ancient plane tree of Bayır, Marmaris Peninsula, September 9, 2010

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Happiness

If only tangentially sometimes, this is about living in Turkey, especially under the ongoing official state of emergency.

Aristotle, Marx & Engels, and Collingwood

Aristotle, Marx & Engels, and Collingwood

A blog article on Medium recently struck me for its treatment of science. Dated October 3, the article is called The Purpose Of Life Is Not Happiness: It’s Usefulness, and its opening section is as follows.

For the longest time, I believed that there’s only purpose of life: And that is to be happy. Continue reading

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

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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