Beyond Comprehension


Hello sweet reader,

Soo good to be back with you again.

We are just back from an amazing trip to Turkey, where we had a memorable experience in lots of ways. The people we met, and there were many, were universally warm, friendly, kind and helpful. That part (the people part) was, and always is, the best part of any trip for me.

Due to its strategic location at the crossroads of important trade routes, empires, cultures and religions for millennia, Turkey is very, very rich in monumental man made structures to visit, some standing and some in ruins – a tourist’s paradise!

Indeed, it occurs to me that if, over the centuries, all those kings, warriors, sultans, and priests hadn’t built all those palaces, castles, temples, mosques and churches, (using all that cheap slave labor), we tourists would have nowhere to go. We’d have to stay home and read a book!

And speaking of books, the image just below is the remains of the facade of the library at Ephesus, which was, in the 1st century BC, the 2nd largest city in the Roman Empire, boasting a population of 250,000 people.

"Red" light at the end of the tunnel...


One of the very interesting tidbits about this particular library however, completed by the Romans in 135AD, is that the archeologists tell us that it was connected by a tunnel to the whorehouse…REALLY, NO KIDDING!

Can’t you just hear it? “Honey, I’m just going to pop down to the library for an hour. There’s this hot new book by Socrates I want to check out…wait a minute, I AM SOCRATES!” (He lived there for a spell).

Now THERE is a concept: the library connected to the whorehouse. Think of all the struggling libraries everywhere – starving for visitors and running huge deficits. Overnight, they’d be hubs of activity. With all those new members, plus a small toll to use the tunnel, their financial woes a thing of the past. But at what human cost?

"Group Poop"

Compared to the Greeks though, the Romans were prudes: This next pic, also from Ephesus, was of the…yup, you guessed it – the town latrine. Now the Greeks, who as you know, were renowned for their open mindedness on matters of body and sexuality, shared this facility between men and ladies – no walls, no stalls, everybody together – a social event so to speak (group poop?). The Romans, a bit more circumspect, weren’t having any of it: They put up a curtain between the sexes.


Why, you may be asking by now, am I telling you this, and in this way? Well, for me, the connection which segues this lighthearted look at a 2000 year old  library and latrine to a very modern men’s bathroom at the Hagia Sophia in Istanbul was an incident which occurred at the latter, an event which offered me a very unpleasant opportunity to witness a way, WAY darker side of life for some women in Turkey, and for many too many women in other parts of the world. It made me profoundly uncomfortable and I have been turning it over and over in my mind since then because of what it revealed, hence its import for me.

I want to share it.

Hagia Sophia, (in Latin, Sancta Sophia), dedicated in 353AD, was a church for a thousand years more or less, then a mosque, and now a museum. It is huge and totally spectacular, considered one of the wonders of the ancient world (this world too, actually). Because of this, it’s a “don’t miss”, and was jammed with tourists on the day we were there, as it always is.

Laura and I both had to pee, and the line for the ladies was really, REALLY long. The men’s line was basically nonexistent. So far it sounds pretty normal, right? I kept Laura company in her line while we waited, so I know exactly how long the wait was: 20 MINUTES.

Then I went into the men’s. The urinals were occupied. The stalls were empty.

When I was washing up, a Turkish woman, scarf on head, came inside and headed for a stall. Nobody cared. Hardly anyone even noticed her. I did. It was clear she was in real trouble. She really, really needed to go RIGHT AWAY. There was no way she could wait 20 minutes. Who among us hasn’t been in that situation? Who cares if she went into a vacant stall?

Well, the bathroom attendant – Turkish, 30ish, cared…a lot. He cared over the top. He basically lost it, and went berserk. His was not a “this is the men’s room, please leave” kind of command. This was from deep inside. He was profoundly and personally offended on another level completely. This was about something else. This was in the domain of religion and deeply rooted cultural code or dogma for sure. He screamed at her, grabbed her, and threw her out of the room, as though she was lower than a dog. Indeed, most of us wouldn’t treat a dog in the way he behaved.

Wow!! What a contrast from that shared bathroom at Ephesus 2000 years ago!!

In parts of Turkey today, particularly in the South and Southeast, arranged marriages, many forced, still take place without the consent of the teenage girls (or the boys for that matter), who have been “promised” by their fathers. The girls are obliged to obey. The consequences of not doing so are most dire.

How dire? As dire as it gets.

If you are unfortunate enough to have the wrong set of parents,

and if you have the temerity:

to date (let alone fall in love with), and sometimes even “Facebook” with a boy of whom your father doesn’t approve…


to refuse to marry the stranger to whom your father has promised you at age 2…


to try to save your own life or that of your children, by leaving a husband who may be beating you or your children to death…

Your family will divorce, cut you off, and ostracize you completely, considering you as nothing more than a prostitute. It will be as though you are dead to them.

AND, if you STILL have the courage to persist, you will ACTUALLY BE dead to them, and to everyone else too, because there are still instances – more than we would like to believe – of so-called “HONOR” killings.  Your father AND your mother will arrange your murder. If you run, they will track you down.

When the laws  in Turkey were more lenient for murders committed by youngsters 18 or under, and the jail terms were less, your parents would instruct your brother to kill you. But when recently, in their effort to put a stop to all this, the Turkish government (to their credit) removed  your young brother’s favored legal position, your parents found another way to salvage their “honor”.

So simple: Instead of losing 2 children (you to your grave and your brother to jail), your parents will lock you in a room and apply maximum pressure on you to kill yourself (“jump from a bridge or a building…whatever works – we don’t care…”), thus sparing your brother from a jail term. Nice, huh?

Unbreakable bond??


All this is done in the name of preserving the family’s “honor” in the community, which is why they call this monstrosity “honor killing”. According to a June 2008 report by the Turkish Prime Minister’s Human Rights Directorate, in Istanbul alone there is an “honor” killing every week, and 1000 such reported in the last 5  years. Since it is obviously the families’ intention to cover up these crimes rather than expose them (after all, they KNOW who the killers are), imagine how many of these crimes remain in the shadows. The Istanbul Branch of the Human Rights Association warns of a recent surge of violence against women, including murders and suicides.

Turkey is not alone in all this. There are plenty of similar stories and grisly statistics from all over the globe, including North America and Europe.

Brave men in Saudi Arabia doing their job


Because I am always so conscious of trying to resist being in judgment of others, (after all, if I judge others, who’s gonna judge me?), I have been trying for weeks to find the slightest shred of  “honor” in all of this. Heck, never mind honor, just some kind of “understanding” so I can file this somewhere, anywhere, in my consciousness and move on, but this time I’ve failed.

All I can find is horror, revulsion, and incomprehension. Hence, the title of this post.


Practice tip:

Now, as for my customary practice tip at this time? HA!

How can I, who don’t know where to put all this myself, or where to go with it, possibly offer you advice?

My friend Daniel had a suggestion though, which feels right to me.

He suggested: “invite your readers, the men AND the women too, to search inside themselves and honestly scrutinize their own attitudes towards women and themselves; to discover if they are comfortable with what they find there. I think that is a great idea, so there it is.

A really serendipitous event occurred for me this week, which may help you do this. We were privileged to spend an evening with Julia Butterfly Hill and listen to her reciting some poetry from her brand new book of poems and stories called “BECOMING”. (BTW, the poems are wonderful).

Many of you may have heard about Julia due to her well known and unbelievably courageous 2 year tree sit in Luna, in Northern California, which action saved a grove of old growth redwood trees from destruction, and brought the attention of the world to this issue.

Julia demonstrates and lives at the highest level of personal and professional integrity of anyone I have ever met – often at enormous personal risk.

She wrote, and read this poem to us. Perhaps it will serve to guide you in your own inquiry into how you see and behave towards women, and if you are a woman, into how you see yourself.

Dear reader, Please respect, and be kind to, yourself




Women And The Earth – Julia Butterfly Hill

You are afraid of my darkness

because that…

is where

the magic is held.


You cannot control it,

so you destroy it

and oppress it

and use a book written long ago

as your excuse

and then blame it on the women…

the loss of the Eden which is me.


See, I am the Goddess…


See, I am the Goddess,

the part of your God

that you wish to get rid of

because I hold the magic…

in the dark, moist caverns

I lie and live and thrive.


I am the womb

of life’s gestation.


I am the darkness

that holds the space for the light.


We could not see the stars

without the night.


Those green shoots,

the children of tomorrow,

they are held within

my darkest depths

until they are called forth.


I am the understanding of balance.


I am the knowing of gods and goddesses.


I am the Great Mystery

and it is this uncertainty

that scares you.


I would rather grab hands

with thousands,

run off cliffs

to be swallowed by the sea,

than to give up

the magic

that is me.


I will be consumed by the fire

that you thought would kill me,

and I will come back

stronger than before.


I am the phoenix

arising from that flame.


And I will hold the hands of thousands,

emerging from the seas,

wetlands, deserts, prairies,

caverns, mountains, and trees…


and I will call forth

the magic

that is me.







About Michael Scott

Michael Scott is a life coach, author and teacher in the San Francisco Bay Area. After spending 35 years in business - coaching found him - and he's never looked back. Michael uses his coaching training and experience, in the service of his clients, as their constant and loving guide towards joyous, fulfilling lives which are genuinely their own. He lives with his dear wife in Sausalito, CA.

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