I’m at the opera in 21st century Istanbul.

What I’m watching is like a revival of legendary wisdom from the 13th century. I’m looking at death on the stage across from me, the death of humanity and the surrender of souls.

You are the Gracious One; you are the Merciful.
I present my hand to you, God.
I have no remedy for you anymore.
I present my hand to you, God.

The souls of the bodies do not stand up even after the unabated applause of the awestruck crowd and the cries for more. Seemingly for the first time, an opera ends without the usual curtain call. And a part of my humanity searches for meaning among the applause.

It’s hanging there, surprised by looking at a stage that has embraced the meaning of Yunus Emre.

I think of Yunus’ sense of language, his wisdom, how he touches the heart, how he makes the audience question and search for humanity in an opera that combines music and dance. His uniqueness comes from what all those civilizations and personalities that passed through Anatolia left us with, namely the wisdom of Anatolia and its harmony with other cultures from other parts of the world. It seems like a borrowed outfit, but see how harmonious it looks, never appearing tedious. I’m looking, and I’m thinking…

The world of meaning that Yunus created and lived by, his surrender as he said, “You are the Gracious One; you are the Merciful,” his sense of unease as he said he walked burning, how he hanged onto the branches of compassion and yearning, and his arrival and its meaning: It could not be anything other than the mindful comprehension of someone from the 13th century.

His description was clear when he said, “If I put my hand in the water, I will feel its ardent flow.” I’m trying to comprehend; I’m thinking. It’s like a poet who says, “Even to an ant, I still have some work to do.”

The emotions that Yunus felt and transferred, the pain, the love, and the sorrow: Do I feel them because he felt them once? Is it because no one since him has yet found the meaning he was looking for. Is my humanity still struggling to find answers to these questions? Or is it because the power of the words and meanings are specific to Yunus?

The same powerful harmony exists in the works of Rumi, Hacı Bektaşi Veli, and dozens of others who passed through this land, but I do not know why I admire the spiritual finesse of Yunus the most. His search for meaning and value seems like a basic lesson about not just what he sees but also an awareness of existence and the feeling of being in the moment. I take the lesson he presents over and over, looking at the lives in front of me, at the motionless bodies and humanity, to make sure I place it near my heart.

My palms hurt, so I stop clapping.