Literature is the most important canon that expands the intellectual horizon of humanity, and literary works are the aesthetic products of this canon.
My book titled ‘’Tasroro u Buyoye d-Sabro // The Warrior and the Solace of Hope’’, which I penned in the Sertā variant of Syriac, is also a work that emerged within the framework of this literary canon, aiming to keep the spirit of a tree/tradition with deep roots alive.
Based on the adage, "Every person is both the architect and executioner of their own inner world," the meaning of "Warrior" as used in the book is a good architect. A person meditates on how to be a good architect. A warrior is a person who, on the stairway of life, learns to orient his love of life toward the benefit of society while balancing foresight with wisdom, caution with courage, power with strength, moderation with enterprise.
I was very excited to have presented my newly published book on Tuesday, 21 September 2021, to the monastery of my horizons, the Mor Gabriel Monastery in the precious of person of Mor Timotheos Samuel Aktaş, Metropolitan Bishop of Turabdin. For a beam of light permeates a person out of every literary book and literary thought. Literary writings proceed from people and find their way back to people. They open up the human spirit and broaden one's horizons. They push the limits of thought. It tames reactivity, puts people through processes of spiritual and mental renewal, recovery and transformation. The discipline of literature and the books that emerge from it is the best discipline to sow people's hearts with the seeds of universal fellowship and spiritual unity.
St. Mor Aphrem (306-373), famously known by the title of "The Sun of the Syriac People", has this to say on the topic: "Books are like mirrors. A pure eye will see in them the shape of truth. Light befits the eyes, as truth befits thought. You must choose light for your eyes and a book for your thoughts. If you do not read and tap into books every day, know that your demons will beat you and you will have loafers for company."
This fundamental truth articulated by Saint Mor Aphrem is uttered thus in the verse of Mor Ishok of Nineneveh (613-700): "Knowledge of the truth grants the heart wellbeing. It boosts people with joy. It provides great and interesting counsel. It enlightens the eyes."
As ordained by these two precious historical writers/personalities, Syriac scholars and writers have created a unique literary tradition through their intellectual productivity and literary activities. This tradition has contributed to the development of thought, strengthening of actions, opened the door for help and solidarity, and made great contributions the world of morals and wisdom. These intellectual contributions which provide harmony/order/stability between the worlds of spirit and meaning, body and matter, whisper the secret of righteousness, goodness, morality, and beauty to us, the travelers on the road of life. Because no one knows better than them that a civilization cannot progress without books/literature. Just as they believed what they knew, they had devoted themselves to that conviction. Since they had seen long ago that there could be no progress without books, they did what was necessary in this regard through their literary productivity.
From the outset, literature has functioned as the most effective force in the transformation of intellectuals and society. Within this context, literary works possess attributes that do not lose relevancy. The following words by famous French writer Albert Camus (1913-1960) are case in point: "Where there is literature, there is constant hope."
I can say that the intellectual approaches discussed in my book and this notion of hope expressed by Camus have steered and illuminated my civil activities, which continue with a long-standing responsibility. In the past, while carrying out my multidimensional service/duty in Mor Gabriel Monastery (the intellectual approaches in this book), my only source of motivation was always this hope which Camus spoke of.
Like other monasteries in our geography, Mor Gabriel Monastery, a center of science and knowledge for the Syriac language and people, as well as all of humanity, past and present, has whispered and continues to whisper the secrets of literary wisdom to me, just like everyone else. The spiritual understanding/depth buried in this monastery taught me not to harm people, who are God's living temple, or the universe. It reminded me to love and cherish. Moreover, it loudly proclaims "the principle of diligence, responsibility and harmlessness," the essence of our human nature.
In the flow of life, we are sometimes carried away by the fallacies of the ego and we deliberately or unintentionally put ourselves in difficult binds by abusing our freedom. That positive spirit in the depths of the monasteries that develop the means and method of getting out of these binds is the discipline keeping altruist and collective consciousness alive. The reason why monasteries exist is to keep this spirit alive by aspiring after virtuous meanings and purposes. There is no free-riding in monastery culture. There is a sense of responsibility, diligence, and productivity formed by inner discipline. The perception in the intellectual background of persons/saints who founded the discipline of monasteries and monastery life was always that "Periods of education/worship that arise from discipline, which strengthens the spirit of self-control, and times of intense discipline necessitated by inner service create strong people. And strong people create easy times. Easy times create weak people, weak people create hard days..."
Hence, "Şumloyo/Maturation" reasoning is a formula for life that wards against spiritual drought, both in thought and action. Especially for vigilant minds that have spiritual awareness. For this reason, the governing thought behind the functioning of monasteries has always been "Şumloyo" reasoning. This reasoning lifts people up from opposition to consonance, and as proven by experience time and time again, the road to success leads through the exaltation of this reasoning.
According to this reasoning, knowledge is a divine light that illuminates the human mind/spirit. Knowledge, shaped by love, is productive; it sprouts and bears fruit even from a root of deadwood. And the most difficult knowledge is self-knowledge, self-discovery.
If knowledge learned from books is internalized, it turns into inner discipline. The more love and knowledge a person has, the more humble he is. The more humble a person is, the more he protects himself from the sickness of conceit and vanity, and the more he accepts others as they are. The more he uplifts human dignity. In other words, by reading and learning (continually) we actually educate ourselves. We ascend to a higher level.
Mevlâna Rumî is undoubtedly one of the people who best describes the higher levels to which humanity will ascend, the distances it will cover, and their quality and quantity. In this respect, he says, "If you cannot smell the perfumes in the flower garden, look for the flaw inside yourself and in your nose, not in the garden. Both stones and pearls lie at the bottom of the sea. And praiseworthy things are always surrounded by flaws."
Yes, we have to read in order to grow deeper and rise. We have to read in order to increase our perception and understanding. We have to read in order to understand ourselves and life. We have to read in order to transform our fixed opinions. We have to read in order to be informed. We have to read for a healthy/fulfilling life. We have to read so that we can discover other worlds/thoughts/attitudes. We have to read in order to be hardworking/productive. We have to read in order to give constructive criticism. We have to read in order to stop marginalization/ostracism. We have to read in order to stop scorn. We have to read in order to avoid disputes. We have to read in order not to be domineering. We have to read in order to learn respect for humanity and everything in the universe. We have to read in order to be able to view everything from an equal distance. We have to read in order to leave a better inheritance than the one we received. We have to read in order to open the eyes of our hearts. We have to read in order see people's faces as well as their hearts. We have to read in order to strengthen our will and discipline... And we must uphold reading culture for many other reasons.
"Though we might not come ashore, we must read, always read so that we do not sink to the depths!"
Malfono Yusuf Beğtaş
President of the Syriac Association of Language, Culture and Literature
Süryani Dili-Kültürü ve Edebiyatı Derneği Başkanı / Mardin
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