Karin Karakaşlı: Joy & Sorrow

Karin Karakaşlı / photo: Jan Boeve

Text: Karin Karakaşlı
Translation: Ipek Uzman
RMW 2022

You choose to memorise at times, and at times the memory chooses you. If, at your free will, you’ve decided to dive into an ‘old you’, the memory is purified of its scorching moment. This comfort zone is not for the mind. Mostly the memories catch you unwary. Not chosen to be memorised, the odds running away, a memory sworn to take revenge of not only being neglected but denied corners the soul sneakily. Shows up through tricks of connotations and senses. Through a smell, a taste, a song, a word, a photo untaken appearing in front of your eyes. Through a tiny sting of a wound chosen to be forgotten.

Don’t forget me, may you don’t forget me – a song from the past. Stating don’t forget me is both a plea and a curse. Wanting your trace to remain is demanding what was lived. If one forgets, you are erased. Turning into dust is not the same as biting the dust. When ignored, you cannot die. Nobody mourns because your presence is denied.

God knows many memories I have that I want to escape from seeking to dominate me from time to time. But still, upon being asked to erase these memories from my mind, I cannot forgo even one of them. We learn by pain the most. Mistakes notched and notched. After the life lesson, the mind finalised its function by getting even with the crude emotion of what lived and was lived. The submissive pain we have in our hands now. Which teaches and heals.

A wound proves that you live. Showing not only your pain but strength. Some gone, some dead, some presence so natural without questioning lost. Then, everything shared in common turns into happiness in its unrepeatability, making you smile with sorrow.

In lands like ours, where history is built on make-forget, collective memory is the insurance preventing insanity. It records who died for the sake of what, was murdered by whom, what was lived on repeat. When aimed at your reality and sense of justice, the sole option at hand is to protect that memory of yours, which is your shelter at times and, at times, your hell. Because once a threshold is passed, everything turns upside down. The past does not pass in some lands, you might find yourself in between ghosts of an old time. Sure, you live your life, but the feeling something terrible might happen at any moment never leaves you alone. So much so that when you laugh out loud, lost in the magic of the moment, you feel uneasy thinking, ‘I laughed so much.’ As if laughter is something to pay for. As if it is only the right of the children immersed in games.

For me, this is the daily flow. An organism starts ordinary and turns into extraordinary at any given moment. Moreover, this extraordinariness, unfortunately, does not always emerge with its linguistic expression of exceptional, but rather in the petrifying form of the State of Extraordinary. Then you have happiness making you cry, pains making you smile. You stand somewhere between joy and sorrow, pain and happiness. You shed tears in gratitude by knowing how special happiness is and burst out laughing for a moment with the sharpness of indescribable pain.

When asked what I am grateful for, what I learned in life, it is to find happiness in little things. Joy as an excuse… Having happiness for no reason… A strange, ecstatic state of the playful spirit of a truant, as if you have spring flowers in you, the sea in your throat. A bit like love. Where when asked ‘What happened?’, you smile and say ‘Nothing, I am just happy’.

As a child, looking out of the window, I imagined a world I had never seen. In those years, there were postcards covered in glitters with Santa Claus. Chubby cheeks, warm smiling Santa Claus, coloured gift wraps, a snow-covered square filled with decorated Christmas trees, a lively marketplace, children sledging and laughing, socks full of sweets hanging over a roaring fireplace, fluffy blankets, angels, stars… Collecting those postcards, I would make up stories when I was bored. My only wish was to be there one day at Christmas.

I had wished well. Years later, as an adult, I was fortunate enough to be there at the end of December many times. The Christmas market is essentially a realm of kitsch. But these temporary paradises where all sorts of world cuisines mixed together, crowds rushing at hot cocoa and mulled wine against the cold, have something to do with happiness. Reminding the importance of little things. You can talk or be quiet. There is no hierarchy of children, adults, elders as nobody is running anywhere. There is space and time for everyone. A little bit of happiness for everyone…

But then hitting the reality again, that view outside the postcard. At the Christmas market at the foot of the church, there is a corner set up in memory of those who lost their lives in the truck attack on December 19th. Fresh flowers, lit candles, everlasting pain and revolt. The immensity of evil is striking. What a human can do to a human is unbelievable. We also know that people were massacred at the mosques during a festive prayer, that hospitals and schools were blazed away. War has no fronts. Nor a safe corner. Nor a hole to escape from the world of those who use their bodies as ammunition for suicide attacks, igniting hatred.

Thus, love is a political act. Labour is a tool of struggle. You are as much of a warrior as you touch someone’s life, making life beautiful for a moment with a random act of kindness. Determined to give life justice.

Oddly, to hope requires courage. While as a child, you hoped instinctively, over time, you build an armour of caution to avoid the pain of disappointment. But this is hope; it will not give up and let you go because you are afraid. Before you realise it, you feel the familiar warm wiggle inside you again. Before you know it, you are hoping again.

When talking about hope, early blooming flowers are mentioned. The poor impetuous creatures fooled by a runaway sun in the middle of winter, only to freeze. What kind of human arrogance is it that we think nature can be fooled. Yet some of those early blooming flowers are not fooled. They bloom wittingly. Taking the risk of freezing. As they are unable to stop blooming.

This is what hope is. Unable to stop to do. Jumping in without thinking ahead. Flowing with that one and only moment of magic. Unable to risk losing it as you don’t know when it will come again. Being more afraid of being unable to hope.

Nobody will be your cure. You will have to face your own soul. To say, ‘O spirit, knock on the door three times if you are here’. And at that very moment, you will burst into laughter. Collecting your pieces from that tragicomic realm where laughing meets crying. Never again a complete picture will emerge. You know, like the Japanese repair broken pottery by gilding the areas of breakage, your place of breakage will be as apparent. And even covered with gold dust. Turning trace into a trait. As yours, too, is the expression of this notion of ‘imperfect beauty’, the thought behind this tradition known as wabi-sabi. You know, that philosophy based on the idea of gaining value with its defect, simplicity, experience. As per, you are now much more beautiful and valuable than your former self. You are with a story.

Now you have a wish. A star to fall down on your shore. For the love of miracles. For the memory of our song. A sign of breaking the routine. Sunlight reflects on the mirror. A life with a story. Today tomorrow forever…