The Museum

Here it is then, a bland cubic building on the edge of Selçuk. You pause outside to look for the tethered goat you passed earlier climbing a tree on the pavement. How did it get over the wall? Is this a portent? You’re here and not here. Your disappointment is a heavy raincoat. Sometimes feelings are a warm bath. This is a cold one.

Closing your eyes you picture Heraclitus walking along the straight track you’ve just taken. He’s heading for this village, an hour’s stroll from his home deep in Ephesus city. He comes here weekly for specialist foot massage. It’s a stone’s throw from his temple and also has good pomegranate juice. He’s wearing surprisingly expensive-looking sandals. And he’s gone. It’s late in the day and you decide to go inside, celebrating failure as a trusted friend. Something will come of this, and if it doesn’t then you missed the moment.

The automatic doors open and close with that reassuring sound of mechanical sliding, open, slight pause, close, meet in perfect vertical alignment, revealing white walls and a ramp, recently installed for wheelchair and buggy. After the disappointment of finding the withered fig tree at the entrance, you’re not sure you even want to be here, but you’re driven by the certainty that you’ll find him here, your lost one, your mentor, your perfect father of crazed acceptance, the weeping philosopher. It’s taken two days to get this far, tube, train, plane, plane, taxi, train, fruitless walk. You’re restless, incomplete, hungry.

Two uniforms are chatting behind the ticket desk. It’s late in the day and they don’t seem bothered. There’s not much incentive to make sales when you’re paid by the hour. They know every centimeter of this vestibule. This is their domain and they own it. They they spend more time than with their families. You apologise for interrupting and hand over the cash. No one asks for your ticket and you’re alone with the displays, with vessels and statues, and a bronze bust of a philosopher made 700 years after his death. It’s in the Roman style and he would dismiss it as idealised fakery of bearded ‘wisdom.’

There’s an almost silence, a soft electrical hum. You’re alone with pieces of pottery stolen from graves, stored and sealed to accompany the dead sister, husband, mother, child, not intended to be seen by anyone but their gods, so keep off. This is their stuff. You picture the flask in use and the wine it held and you feel disgusted to have this opportunity. You think about how archaeology makes theft acceptable. We break the seal and let in the sound and light of our civilisation and prejudices, to plunder their deepest secrets. Their secrets were his. Their lives, habits and rituals are his memories. Their certainties are his uncertainties. Your discomfort increases and you choke on something.

You clench your fists and move on. You’re following a route carefully designed by someone. They’ve thought about this, planned it over many months, perhaps with an architect. It flows irresistibly through these rooms. Who’s leading? Is it him? There’s no one else around. Another set of doors open automatically and you step outside into the fading sunlight. The early evening birdsong is intertwined with the rumble of a distant car and the bleat of that tethered goat. You pass a reconstructed floor mosaic and re-enter the building at the other end of the patio. This must be the journey’s end.

The space you now enter is carefully lit for dramatic effect. The entire room is dedicated to two glistening statues of the goddess Artemis. Their once painted contours have eroded, leaving a uniform pale gleam that reveals the fantastic detail in their making. They face each other. They look at each other. Beautiful Artemis and Great Artemis is the pathetic translation into English of Harika and Mükemmel. Words fail you too. They are magnificent and menacing, with elaborate headpieces and smashed faces. She is immense. And she is immense. You’ve met your match. Their torsos are covered with a myriad of perfectly carved bulls testes or small breasts, likely symbols of her power, no one quite knows, and why should they. Long buried in the sand and rejected by looters from the British Museum as too pagan for Victorian tastes, they now stand here in Selçuk, basking in this glow of artificial light. You turn slowly from one Artemis to the other. We are completely alone. As a superior being she celebrates your way of speaking as a rhythmic enhancement of language:

Beau beau-tiful Art Art-emis, Gr-great Art-emis, d-daught-ter of Zeus, I l-look for Herac-li-tus and I f-find you, his g-god-dess, y-you who he wor-shipped b-beyond all others. Your t-temple over there was c-called c-con-sidered by the p-people of then one of the s-seven w-wonders of the ancient world. I w-will worship you too, you too, you too. I f-feel your intense power. These f-fools, they are f-fools, have made a shrine for you here. They do not realise what they’ve done. This is now your s-sanctum here in the m-museum. I s-see this. I see you. I ack-nowledge you. I look for him and I f-find you.

You sink slowly to your knees, take a flask out of the rucksack, fill your mouth with water and, pursing your lips, blow a fine spray over their torsos, certain that wetting the bulls’ testes is what needs to happen. Replacing the flask, you find your phone, connect the portable speaker and choose the right song. The beat, it’s all about the beat, What God has Chosen (Jumpster Dub) mixed by Miguel Migs.

Somehow it got all twisted…..twisted…twisted…

Thank you God for givin’ me the heads up…..

Somehow it got all twisted….twisted…twisted….

You shift your weight from one foot to another. You dip, flip, pound and spin, slow, fast, slower, very slow in a clumsy, perfect and imperfect ritual for these goddesses, great and beautiful, in sync with the rhythms that you know so well. As the song comes to an end you slowly sink back to your knees. Your hands have slipped into a yogic prayer pose. You feel the tears come slowly. The wetting is now yours.

You’re interrupted by another uniform. He taps you on the shoulder. His grey eyes are unblinking as he strokes the edges of his beard.

What you do? Disrespect. Stop. No more.

No. P-please, I do respect. I know. I un-derstand. I see. I m-meet curator and explain, please?

No one with that name here.

The c-curator, she he who m-makes decisions.

Decisions are with me and this is how I find you.

This was for Ar-temis and Herac-litus. S-somehow it got all twisted.

You speak of Heraclitus the Greek in what is now Turkey?

Yes but I thought…

Your thinking is of no interest. This is how I find you.

You f-found me.

I find you.

 

Artemis two

Artemis one