The Taste of Words. The Flavor of Freedom

Hats off to Adult Religious Education Chair Kathryn Ozyurt who continues to faithfully lead one of UUFP’s pivotal programs! As was recently the case, there are occasions when Sunday Morning Forum facilitators need to reschedule due to unforeseen events. With ease and in cooperative spirit, Kathryn readily rose to the challenge to deliver an alternative presentation, when she learned that the originally slated speaker would be undergoing unexpected surgery.

In customary fashion, Kathryn presented yet another stimulating topic for discussion, this time based on award-winning novelist Elif Shafak’s TEDGlobal presentation: “The Revolutionary Power of Diverse Thought.” In this passionate, personal talk via vivid and sensory application, Shafak defines the “taste” of her motherland, Turkey, as “a mixture of sweet and bitter.” She believes a growing number of people around the world have similarly mixed emotions—feeling great attachment to their beloved native countries, but also experiencing increasing frustration, despair and anger due to political and religious polarizations.

Shafak states: “They [demagogues and illiberal politicians] want to divide us into tribes, but we are connected across borders. They preach certainty, but we know that life has plenty of magic and plenty of ambiguity. And they like to incite dualities, but we are far more nuanced than that.”

​So what can we do about this asks Shafak?  “From populist demagogues, we will learn the indispensability of democracy,” inspires Elif Shafak regarding the fate of our nations.  “From isolationists, we will learn the need for global solidarity.  And from tribalists, we will learn the beauty of cosmopolitanism and diversity.”  Shafak has experienced firsthand the devastation that a loss of diversity can bring—and she knows the revolutionary power of plurality in response to authoritarianism.  Zealously, she reminds us that there are no binaries, in politics, emotions and our identities.  “One should never, ever remain silent for fear of complexity,” Shafak asserts.

Each of us has multiple attachments, which means multiple stories. Summing up the criticality of defending diversity, Shafak shares one word or “taste” of significant meaning. It is “yurt,” which in Turkish means motherland or homeland. Interestingly, “yurt” also means a tent used by nomadic tribes. This global activist relates these definitions in that homelands do not need to be rooted in one place; they can be portable and taken with us everywhere. “I think for writers, for storytellers, at the end of the day, there is one main homeland, and it is called ‘Storyland.’ And the taste of that word is the taste of FREEDOM,” concludes Shafak!

​Freedom—a word that resonates with Unitarian Universalists, as we value diversity, inclusivity, and the free and responsible search for truth and meaning.

Finally, what was deeply personal to our Sunday Morning Forum facilitator in her selection of this topic is the etymology of her surname, “Ozyurt.” With “yurt” meaning home or tent, and “oz” translating as self, essence, core, true, Kathryn takes pride in her name (by marriage) speaking light as “the true home.”

We celebrate with Kathryn and her husband, Kadri, that their “true home,” their “tent,” is large enough to include our UUFP family—fellow faith sojourners who with them persevere on the trek toward peace, justice and freedom for all!

Can you taste the Vision?!