Flying is heaven

'Uçmak', or flying, is a word that comes down to us from the three-thousand-year-old history of the Turkish language.

According to Turkish mythology, Göktanrı, the Sky-God, rewarded his slaves with 'uçmak'. In other words, before it was a verb, 'uçmak' was a noun. And it meant 'heaven'. As the famous medieval Turkish poet Yunus Emre says in one of his lovely verses: 'I asked the yellow flower / Will you enter Heaven? / And the flower said, Oh Dervish / Heaven is the City of Man.'

But I didn't know any of these things yet when I was a ten-year-old boy in the eastern city of Uşak. And when I saw an airplane high in the sky I wondered what it must be like to fly and I tried to come up with an answer to my own question. One day my father told me, “In Heaven people will be able to fly!” From that day on, every time I looked up into the sky and saw a plane passing overhead, I imagined all the journeys, long or short, that I would make to Heaven by flying, and of course I was filled with a great longing for that place. It was 1967 as I remember. A plane passed overhead and showered us with pieces of paper. Thinking that at least one of those pieces of paper was a letter sent from Heaven especially to me, I waited for them to fall to the ground and lost my way in the streets as I ran in the direction where they were blown by the wind. But my real disappointment was when I began to see that every piece of paper I picked up was exactly the same as all the others. It seemed our government was again embroiled in some tension with Greece and had sent its citizens a flyer on the subject of Cyprus. From that moment on, the word 'uçmak' lost the meaning 'heaven' that I'd been carrying around in my genes since time immemorial, and I began instead to dream of getting on an airplane as soon as I grew up.

Did I grow up?  Of course I did... But it took a long time. Exactly forty years later in September of 1997 I flew to Japan; without sleeping a wink, of course. The only thing I did during that whole fourteen-hour flight was to gaze from outside on the world where I'd been living and breathing for forty years, and to think and think and think. I became closely acquainted that day with the earth and its climates, its sun, its wind, its rain, and its time zones, and I fell in love with it all over again. It was a journey spent pursuing all the dreams I had stored up over the years, and correcting all the misperceptions. Digital cameras had not come out yet, and I used up exactly two rolls of 36 exposures each just trying to get a picture of Siberia through the clouds. What a hoot!

In later years I flew all over the place, north, south, east and west. When the check-in clerk asks me now if I want a window seat, it no longer makes any difference to me, because 'uçmak', the verb, is part and parcel of my life, as in 'I fly, I flew, I have flown'.  As for the noun, that's still a place I'd like to go some day...

And flying with Turkish Airlines? That's a 'heavenly' noun way beyond any verb as far as I'm concerned - for its service, its comfort, its punctuality, its personnel and its fresh new design.