Monday, March 27, 2017

Truth is a Prism

We think of lies and truth as black and white. Some people think of lies and truth as different shades of gray. Both are wrong. Truth and lies are both seen as light through a prism, fractured and of many colors like Joseph's many-colored coat. Even Joseph's story is as variegated as his coat.

Joseph's 10 brothers saw him as an arrogant jerk who had his father's favor. Yeah, Joseph told stories, stories Joseph saw as dreams that always left his older brothers bowing to him, stories that motivated his brothers to get rid of him and tell Isaac Joseph was dead. That was a lie, but seen in a more enlightened version, Joseph's older brothers sold him to slavers and let destiny determine Joseph's fate. Joseph was alive, his many-colored coat torn and bloody from the beating his brothers dealt him before throwing him in a pit, but Joseph would find out what it was like to bow down to men more powerful than he, masters who would buy and sell the arrogant jerk and force him to bow down. Joseph's brothers couldn't see that they were also in more powerful hands and Joseph's talents would lead to the dreams that Joseph foretold in his dreams.

That's the thing about destiny and fate, even though there are those who see the road ahead, they often do not see how we get from here to there, often fulfilling the very fate we worked so hard to thwart. It is the essence of the story where the beggar meets death at a certain hour on a certain street. Though the beggar never sees the whole story, the beggar is determined to avoid meeting Death by going to another city, turning the corner at the same hour on the same day he was told he would die, meeting Death who was as surprised as he when they met. The beggar dies, but not before Death tells him he was not expecting him because he lived in another city, the same city the beggar fled before arriving at the appointed place at the appointed time.

Writers use the same methods of telling lies and revealing truths, shining their light through a prism that reveals whatever lies and truths they choose to tell a story, and often a romantic story, such as Kurt Seyit and Sura, a Turkish romance set during the time of the Russian revolution that places an ingenue, Aleksandra Julianovna Perjenskaya, also known as Sura (Shura), at her first winter ball in Petrograd where she meets Kurt Seyit Eminof, a Russian first lieutenant whose family's service to the tsar goes back generations. Seyit's best friend is Petro, a wealthy Russian noble who has known Sura since they were children, and who has hated Seyit since their time at the academy because Seyit was stronger and better than Petro as a soldier, a wolf with the ladies, and a man, though he is the son of the Tsar's elite soldier, a Turkish Muslim who is therefore a peasant in Petro's eyes, a wealthy peasant, but in the end still a peasant.

Before the Bolsheviks rise and topple the old Russian order of Tsars and nobles, Petro kills a fellow Russian soldier when he panics. First Lieutenant Seyit, Petro's commanding officer, refuses to cover up Petro's cowardice and his murder, and Petro is forced to resign his commission and leave the army. Seyit gives Petro the option of resigning before he can be court martialed for the fellow soldier's death. Petro agrees and uses his family's money to take care of the soldier's wife and three children, leaving Petro with the knowledge that he owes Seyit his honor and his life. What Seyit does for his brother soldier fuels Petro with rage and a determination to get even at any cost, especially when Seyit and Sura fall in love.

Petro nurtures his rage and dishonor when he keeps the knowledge of Seyit's father's wishes with regard to his son's future plans for marriage. Boyar Eminof has decreed that Seyit may have his way with northern Russian women as long as he returns home and marries a Turkish girl when it comes time to settle down. When Seyit falls for Sura he doesn't tell her he cannot marry her because she is a Christian Russian. His father has decreed that Seyit may only marry a Turkish Muslim girl, a secret that Seyit keeps to himself because he is determined to marry the woman he loves, Sura, Aleksandra Julianovna Perjenskaya, a Russian noble woman his father will never approve.

In the midst of the Russian revolution, Seyit, who has been at the front lines of war, returns to Sura after he has been listed as killed in action, rescues her and her family from the Bolsheviks, and carries Sura off to Crimea to marry.

The thing about star-crossed lovers is the road to love is seldom paved with anything but trouble, death, and, in this case, lies and silence. Seyit's father dies before he can give his blessing, certainly before he is willing to even meet Sura. Adamant in his refusal, Seyit ends up burying his mother and father and must flee to Turkey, taking Sura with him, full of regret his father died without relenting and giving Seyit his blessing. Sura meets Boyar Eminof and is greeted with cold civility. She is Seyit's guest and is welcome to stay as his family's guest, but it is clear he will not welcome Sura as his daughter-in-law. Sura is a stranger, an unwelcome stranger Seyit could not honorably present to his family, though Seyit has told Sura he must prepare his family before he introduces her as his fiancee, a lie he can never undo in the wake of his parents' death or as his younger brother, Osman, dies in his arms from a Bolshevik's bullet. Seyit and Sura must flee or die as Osman dies in his arms never knowing that Petro's bullet kills his brother even as he believes he has killed the assassin, his comrade Mischa, another brother in arms, who has been cast as the villain by Petro who has been masquerading as Mischa with the Bolsheviks in Crimea even as he has used Mischa to cover his own tracks.

Petro's father has already discovered Petro's alliance with the Bolsheviks and has disowned him, though Petro's mother hands over the money and jewels to protect her son before he leaves to hunt down and kill Seyit and his other brother at arms, Celil, another boyhood friend and comrade of Seyit's. From that point on, the rest of the story of Seyit and Sura is a tapestry of lies, silence, illusions, masquerades, and violence as they move from the violence of the Russian revolution into the seething cauldron of Istanbul as the Turks fight for their freedom from Great Britain, plunging Seyit, Sura, Celil, and Petro into a world where violence, lies, and masquerades surround them once again.

The point is that even among the Turkish Muslim citizens of Istanbul in the neighborhood of Pera where Seyit and Sura find a home, Seyit's regrets about disobeying his father's wishes regarding marriage and his silence about what he still feels he owes his family and his allegiance with the Turks create a trap that swallows the love he feels for Sura until all that remains is betrayal, fear, and silence as Seyit plunges into the Turkish fight for independence from the English, putting his own life at risk and further destroying what is left of the relationship between he and Sura. Petro is glad to be able to widen the gulf between Seyit and Sura even as Sura hangs onto the belief that love will keep them together and she will be Seyit's wife in truth even as the Turkish Muslim girls see Sura as nothing more than Seyit's mistress and not his wife. Uncle Ali, the manager of the hotel where Seyit and Sura live, urges Seyit to do right by Sura and marry her, putting his regrets about not receiving his father's blessing behind him, assuring him that Sura will not ask Seyit to make good his promise to marry her out of pride and the certainty that Seyit will make things right. There is no need to wait for news of Sura's mother and younger sister because there is no way of knowing how long that will take. Seyit must honor his promise to Sura and marry her and not leave her in limbo waiting for her family, the right time, or whatever else crops up to do the honorable thing.

The problem with waiting is that at some point you have waited too long. Seyit proposes to Sura, the wedding date is set, Uncle Ali's family pitches in to make the wedding a success, but Seyit's rebel actions and Petro's friendship with the local commandant of the garrison at Pera result in Seyit being captured as he meets with the Baroness, a lover from Petrograd Petro used to sow doubt in Sura's mind and force a wedge between them, to tell Baroness Lola he is marrying Sura and Lola needs to move on with her life. Lieutenant Billy, with Petro's help, captures Lola and Seyit and makes it look like Lola and Seyit have gone away together leaving Sura waiting for a wedding that will never come.

That's the biggest problem between Seyit and Sura, the lies and half-told truths that Petro and Lola and others use to keep Sura and Seyit apart. It doesn't help at all that Seyit keeps Sura in the dark about much of his life, telling Sura she must believe in him no matter what to prove her love even as he goes off on another rebel mission or to put an end to past relationships or cover his half-truths before Sura finds out the truth. Seyit sees his actions as protecting Sura or keeping her from finding out what she already knows, that Seyit went against his father's wishes to be with Sura. Seyit tells the truth as he sees it, but never all of the truth because he believes that women need to be protected and only he can keep his woman, his true love as he calls Sura, protected as long as she never learns the whole truth, the reason behind his action, whether that is defying his family or aiding the Turkish rebels against the occupying English forces.

Everyone is telling the truth -- as he or she sees it -- but the truth is never the whole truth, just the truth as each one sees it, the truth that is in their own best interests.

Seyit was brought up to believe that a man's word is law and that he is protecting Sura even as he gives her a version of the truth that will protect her from his father's wrath, his rebel activities in Crimea and in Istanbul, his romances with Russian women like Baroness Lola, Petro's love for Sura, and Petro's nefarious activities. Petro lies to keep Seyit from discovering he killed Osman and worked for the Bolsheviks to protect his family's business and wealth, his alliance with Lieutenant Billy and how he steals from his own people to feather his next and pay off Lieutenant Billy, then later to keep from Seyit that he killed Baroness Lola and that he used Lola to set up Seyit on the night before his wedding to Sura. Petro lied to Alya to keep her from telling Sura he set up Seyit and was working with Lieutenant Billy when he killed Lola when she threatened to tell Seyit he was with the Bolsheviks and had Seyit's family killed, killing Osman before he could tell Seyit about Petro siding with the Bolsheviks and murdering their parents.

Lieutenant Billy knows that Petro fears Seyit and does not want Seyit to know his part in the murder of his family or his alliance with the Bolsheviks or that he set Mischa up to take the fall and uses that to keep Petro in line because he has the letter Lola wrote to Seyit with proof of it all. Lola could have told Seyit at any time, but she believed that Seyit would get tired of Sura and come back to her so she kept the truth to herself, except the truth about her relationship with Seyit before he met Sura so she could use the truth to poison Sura against Seyit, the same truth that Petro used to drive a wedge between Sura and Seyit so she would turn to him and marry him instead. Even when Petro, certain that Seyit would never marry Sura, tells Sura that he has been in love with her all along and kept the truth about Seyit's family's wishes about marrying a Turkish Muslim girl to protect her, Sura thanks Petro and tells him that the only man she will ever love is Seyit. In the end, once Seyit is marrying Murvet, a Turkish girl from a conservative Muslim family, Sura runs to the Pera hotel to forgive Seyit once again. Ayse, Uncle Ali's daughter who is convinced Seyit will see her once Sura is out of the picture, puts on Sura's wedding gown and waits for Seyit in his room, climbing into Seyit's bed when she sees Sura coming to forgive Seyit for leaving her at the altar, tells Sura she is waiting for Seyit and that he went out to get something to drink. Ayse is telling Sura part of the truth (she is waiting for Seyit) but not all of the truth, just enough truth so that Sura will see that Seyit has moved on without her and Seyit will finally see that Ayse is the right girl for him.

Ayse has used the truth as a weapon many times before. She see Sura as no more than a mistress when she would be a wife to Seyit once Sura is out of the way, even though Seyit does not see it that way. He loves Sura, but cannot seem to stay out of trouble long enough or uninjured long enough to go through with the wedding he keeps planning and missing. Seyit finally sets Ayse straight, but that doesn't stop Ayse from telling the truth as she sees it, even when her father marries her off to his sister's boy, Hakki, or after she tells the truth as she sees it to her sister-in-law, Murvet, after Seyit marries her, putting Sura behind him as he moves forward with a life free of drama and trouble by marrying a Muslim girl as his father always wished, a woman who will treat him as the law, even though he must live with Murvet in his mother-in-law's house with Ayse. Murvet wants Seyit's love completely without Sura being a part of their past or their future, urging Seyit to go to the docks to say goodbye to Sura and put her once and for all in the past and say goodbye at last.

Every twist and turn in Seyit and Sura's story is motivated by the truth as someone see it, but truth all the same. Sometimes it is the truth a self-serving girl like Ayse uses to cause trouble even as she revels in the destruction and pain she causes as long as she can prove to Seyit he made a mistake not choosing her. Lola uses the truth as a weapon to push Sura out of the way so Seyit will come back to her, though her relationship with Seyit was never more than a casual sexual relationship. Petro uses the truth to further his own aims and to separate Seyit and Sura and end up with Sura as his wife, besting Seyit at last. Valentina, Sura's older sister, tells the truth when she tells Sura that Seyit will break her heart and that Petro is the man for her, a man she has known since childhood and a man she would've married had she never met Seyit.

The truth is often as much as a weapon as it is enlightenment and truth is seldom just white light to brighten the darkest corners. Politicians use the truth to hurt their opponents and to guide voters' choices, though very few politicians tell the whole truth because that might end up with voters making their decisions based on the facts and not propaganda. The government uses truth dressed up as propaganda and as a weapon to guide public opinion in order to muster soldiers and other governments to support their actions even when those actions will end in violence and death. The English saw the Bolsheviks as heroes during the Russian revolution because they stood up and tore down the Russian monarchy under the Tsars even as they decried the Turkish people as rebels and murderers for fighting against British monarchy to turn British soldiers out of their homeland, even from Australia throughout the British Empire, in order to govern themselves just as the Ottoman Empire fought the British Empire after hundreds of years of struggle that resulted in the lines between their empires were drawn and redrawn over and over. Every empire and country uses truth from their perspective to justify their right to rule and strip away the wealth of the land they conquer, from the Americas to the South Seas and from Canada to South Africa and everything in between. The truth can be a handy tool and an even handier weapon. It depends on the perspective. It doesn't take a historian to see how every war is the result of someone's truth.

I said in the beginning truth is a prism, but in reality truth is a multifaceted jewel refracting light and aiming it a direction that benefits someone. Where you are in the path of the light will determine how much of the truth you see and how you see that truth. Seldom does anyone get to see the whole truth, merely enough to validate your truth or cast doubt on someone else's truth. Everyone get something in the end, even if it's a glimpse of the many-colored light refracted from the prismatic effect of one of the facets of the truth. All we can do is hope and pray we are on the right side of light in the end.

That is all. Disperse.