Thursday, January 15, 2009

Nazar değmek, nazar boncuğu

Envy is a sin against the 10th commandment. Otto Scott wrote that envy is as destructive to a society as a major earthquake is to a city. In tribal parts of Africa, where envy reigns supreme, the people live in identical round huts. If a man's crops are thriving, he'll sneak out at night and spoil his own harvest, lest envious neighbors accuse him of, and lynch him for, witchcraft. After all, if a man prospers, it can only be because he made someone else suffer.[1] In the west, capitalism began churning out wealth on an unprecedented scale only after a millennium of sermons preached against the sin of envy. As the Westminster shorter catechism explains in quaint, but perceptive and elegant language:

Q. 80. What is required in the tenth commandment?
A. The tenth commandment requireth full contentment with our own condition,[169] with a right and charitable frame of spirit toward our neighbor, and all that is his.[170]

Q. 81. What is forbidden in the tenth commandment?
A. The tenth commandment forbiddeth all discontentment with our own estate,[171] envying or grieving at the good of our neighbor, and all inordinate motions and affections to anything that is his.[172]

In Turkish folk tradition, the fear of envy appears as an anxiety about "the evil eye." The expression nazar değmek means to suffer from the evil eye, and the nazar boncuğu is a lovely glass blue and white bead that protects one from the evil eye.

Well, Jesus, peygamber İsa, also warns us to watch out for the evil eye. However, in the creative way in which this matchless teacher stood accepted notions on their head, Jesus warned us to watch out for our own evil eye!
Bedenin ışığı gözdür. Görünüz sağlamsa, tüm bedeniniz aydınlık. Görünüz bozuksa, tüm bedeniniz karanlık olur. Bura göre, içinizdeki "ışık" karanlıksaü ne korkunçtur o karanlık.
And we have some wonderful words to contemplate today.
  • beden -- body. bedeniniz -- your body.
  • Gör -- eye. Görünüz -- your eye.
  • ışık-- light
  • sağlamsa -- if healthy, whole, wholesome ...
  • aydınlık -- shining, filled with light.
  • karanlık -- is dark
  • korkunçtur -- how dreadful, terrible is ...
When you offer your friend that lovely Turkish greeting Gün aydın, you are wishing him or her a bright and shining day.

Apparently Jesus is telling us that the focus of our lives determines the quality of our lives. I worry about my culture, since its corporate dreams seem so obsessed with death and decay. Consider the most popular shows on TV -- CSI, NCIS, etc. Other societies on the verge of collapse had similar obsessions. And, as much as I enjoy that kind of television (only for the scientific part, of course!), I sometimes wonder how wise it is to invite so much darkness into my thought life!

Still, darkness recognized as such is relatively harmless compared to darkness embraced as the light. Ideology, Russian novelist Soltsenitsyn wrote, is that 20th century invention that made it possible for men to do -- routinely, dispassionately, and on an industrial scale -- the kinds of atrocities that previous generations could only commit in the heat of battle. C. S. Lewis warned us against the ultimate tyrant -- the one who wants to do us good, in his own terms. A regular dicatator has to sleep sometimes, and can get bored with tormenting you. The do-gooder, by contrast, has a self-image that is predicated upon his redemptive role.

May God have mercy upon us, and permit us to see things clearly.


[1] These parts of the world are kept poor by envy and the fear of envy. During good times, these folks barely subsist. During bad times, they starve. Zimbabwe used to be "the breadbasket of Africa." Then, a significant part of the population indulged in an orgy of unrestrained envy -- and now face starvation on a massive scale. They got what they wanted, and are now reaping the wild oats they sowed. But they can comfort themselves, as they bury their children, with the cheerful thought, "Hey, at least I got to stick it to The Man!"

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