The Source Of Life: Not Water, Not The Land
According to the holy books, life as we know it began with Adam and Eve getting curious about the taste of the forbidden fruit; women began to give birth, men began to cultivate the land. Were they not living a life of ease in the Garden of Eden, happily with all the fruits at their disposal; would it have mattered if they lived without the taste of just the apple? But this is an urge essential to human nature. Because according to a certain mindset, the human is an incomplete project, and the adventure of humanity over millennia is the story of the longing for its own completion; and the greatest activating force in the process is curiosity.
But the loss of that primal peace must have created a deep trauma in humans, hence the long-standing desire to violate the borders of given knowledge, which has always been found dangerous. You know the story of the Tower of Babel. To reach the mysteries of God, humans begin to build a tower touching the clouds; but God gets angry and diversifies their languages, and suddenly, nobody understands what anybody says. Thus, the construction cannot be completed, and eventually, the tower collapses.
In literature, cinema and the arts, we often encounter the character of the scientist who has lost his way in the search for knowledge, whose soul has been stained by vanity and power, and who has been forever cursed in his deal with Satan for more.
Another similar example is the story of Dr. Faustus. In the tale told in Medieval Europe, a scientist of this name sells his soul to Satan in exchange for infinite knowledge. One of the works in which this parable with many versions is best told is a play by Christopher Marlowe, a contemporary of Shakespeare's. In the end, Faustus ends up in hell for his curiosity. However, Goethe, in his take on the story centuries later, finds the character Faust worthy of redemption for his endless longing for knowledge. But after that, in literature, cinema and the arts, we often encounter the character of the scientist who has lost his way in the search for knowledge, whose soul has been stained by vanity and power, and who has been forever cursed in his deal with Satan for more. Perhaps the best known of these works are Frankenstein, and Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. One tells the story of a doctor who endeavors to be God and creates a human from scratch, and the other, the tragedy of another doctor who succeeds in dividing his own personality to create a second one – again, a separate human. In yet another Medieval tale, the English poet Geoffrey Chaucher tells about a gentleman who is curious about the limits of his wife's patience and submission. As the gentleman marries a poor girl, he gets her to promise that she will obey all his orders without question. Some years later, they have a daughter; he takes the girl from the woman's arms and sends her away to a secret place, telling her that he will have the girl killed. When later they have a boy, he does the same for him. The poor mother bears both sorrows with patience, but the curiosity of his husband would not be satisfied. Can his wife stand yet another? He tells her that he wants to remarry, and brings in her daughter, who is then about to turn fifteen, as the prospective bride; and he tasks his wife with preparing the nuptial chamber. When the mother sees her daughter at the night of the wedding, she is unable to cope: even though the man tells her that it was all a spectacle, the woman collapses and dies. A character in another of Chaucher's stories says the following, warning about the dangers of curiosity: “A husband must not be inquisitive / Of God's secrets, nor of his wife. / So long as he can find God's plenty there, / Of the rest he needs not enquire."
In our folk culture as well, there are many sayings and warnings about being overly curious; such as such as the tale that tells about the dangerous results of wandering what is inside the fortieth room. But let us not forget: as a university, it is our job to be curious: “To follow knowledge like a sinking star / Beyond the utmost bound of human thought” as in Alfred Lord Tennyson's poem “Ulysses” – “To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield”.
I'd like to end with the wish that “May your curiosity never fade!”, and I greet you with the verses of a Scottish poet along the same lines.
Bizim de kültürümüzde de fazla meraklı olmanın zararları konusunda deyişler, uyarılar yer alır, masallarımızda kırkıncı odanın içinde ne olduğunu öğrenme isteğinin tehlikeli sonuçları anlatılır. Ama unutmayalım, biz bir üniversiteyiz ve işimiz merak etmek, Alfred Lord Tennyson’ın “Ulysses” adlı şiirinde dediği gibi “bilgiyi batan bir yıldız gibi insan düşüncesinin en uzak ufkuna kadar kovalamak… / savaşmak, aramak ve asla yılmamak.” Son olarak “Merakınız hiç sönmesin!” diyor, sizleri İskoçya doğumlu bir ozanın benzer duyguları anlatan dilimize sizin için çevirdiğim dizeleriyle selamlıyorum.
may have killed the cat; more likely
the cat was just unlucky, or else curious
to see what death was like, having no cause
to go on licking paws, or fathering
litter on litter of kittens, predictably.
Nevertheless, to be curious
is dangerous enough. To distrust
what is always said, what seems
to ask odd questions, interfere in dreams,
leave home, smell rats, have hunches
do not endear cats to those doggy circles
where well-smelt baskets, suitable wives, good lunches
are the order of things, and where prevails
much wagging of incurious heads and tails.
Face it. Curiosity
will not cause us to die–
only lack of it will.
Never to want to see
the other side of the hill
or that improbable country
where living is an idyll
(although a probable hell)
would kill us all.
Only the curious
have, if they live, a tale
worth telling at all.
Dogs say cats love too much, are irresponsible,
are changeable, marry too many wives,
desert their children, chill all dinner tables
with tales of their nine lives.
Well, they are lucky. Let them be
nine-lived and contradictory,
curious enough to change, prepared to pay
the cat price, which is to die
and die again and again,
each time with no less pain.
A cat-minority of one
is all that can be counted on
to tell the truth. And what cats have to tell
on each return from hell
is this: that dying is what the living do,
that dying is what the loving do,
and that dead dogs are those who do not know
that dying is what, to live, each has to do.