The Syriac expression, “Karyo hliso,” carries messages of encouragement and courage in the face of loss.
In Syriac, karyo has two distinct meanings: First, it means plump, fat, and short; secondly, a heap of wheat after being separated from the chaff.
Just as karyo carries two meanings in Syriac, so also does hliso. The first is to steal, raid, extort, and rob. The second meaning is to be couragious, heroic, fearless, and active, even gallant.
In Syriac, although the correct translation of karyo is a heap of wheat grain, metaphorically it is not material, but rather it has to do with the development of our inner world. It is the heap of unchanging meanings, values, and virtues toward which our inner life seeks grow. For a genius and a wise man such as Bar Hebraeus to be troubled and saddened as he was, demonstrates that this karyo represents values or meanings without which it is impossible to live.The reader cannot imaging this kind of grief and trouble over a stolen heap of grain. Wheat can be replaced. The manner in which Bar Hebraeus uses karyo is philosophical and abstract. Rather than material, it is about the improvement of our inner world—directed toward the inner life and the logos that supports human beings.
The meanings of karyo that nourish the roots of the spirit and the inner life are: positive thoughts that offer aid to life, an approach to life that completes oneself and others, servanthood without attitudes of superiority, positive action, peace, the joy of life, human dignity, discipline, self-critique, self-confidence, a proper self-love, self-respect, self-valueing, self-control, altruism, mutual aid, solidarity, ethical consistency, responsibility, love of life, powers of observation, a mind for defining things, a system for evaluating, freedom, originality, productivity, art, positive change/development, transformation, maturity, kindness, mercy, truth, equity, sincerity, loyalty, good manners, and accordingly, becoming a genuinely civilized person.
In short, karyo is the humanizing factor, the useful nourishment that secures positive personal development. Ideally we should be able to describe these things with a single term carrying the ideas of meaning, value, and virtue. Perhaps there is no language in which “meanings, values, and virtues” are all summed up in a single word. We are forced to talk about this whole realm with similies, metaphores, and allusions.
Bar Hebraeus’ 13th -century expression, “I grieve and am distressed because of the heap of wheat stolen by the short fat man,” is not merely a complaint about the attitudes of that era. It also expresses a heavy rebuke, laden with critique and reaction to our own times. It is an allusion to worldly disappointment and dissatisfaction.
Bar Hebraeus, by this expression, delivers messages about the meanings of life. He emphasizes our internal dilemma, and the central point of our self-contradiction. He is talking about the contradictions and clashes between our ego and our spirit. He is explaining the war between the sides of darkness and light within us.
He introduces us to the selfish love which pulls us toward evil preference—a love that cuts us down, that holds us back from doing good, reigns us in, sabotages our life and our work; then he contrasts that with the unconditional love that compells us to live by prioritizing ethical consistency, according to enduring values—to give love and respect, to support the feelings of responsibility and belonging. He introduces all this, and in the process he delivers a warning.
In the process of warning, Bar Hebraeus directs us to the essence of life: not the love of power, but the power of love. This is both a call to an awareness of the means toward our goal, and also a call to the goal itself. He calls us to extract ourselves from self-conceit and from a world in which we live as captives to our ego, in order to encounter the pure essence within us. It is an invitation to be able to find power, love, and happiness, no longer outside of ourselves, but within. As in the example of the vine and the branches (John 15:1-5), this is the love of identifying with the goal and meaning of life. To respond to this calling is to make the effort to conclude the inner fight in spiritual terms.
According to Bar Hebraeus, the development of the inner life is a matter of the spirit, and everyone is responsible for their own spiritual development. The development of inner life is a journey toward a realm of knowing one’s own self and being resposnsible toward others. No one can make this journey without awareness of the internal dilemma (between the dark and the light side, the spirit and the ego). If they attempt it, the result will be disappointment and loss.
According to Bar Hebraeus, there should be no love in the inner being above the divine love that creates and directs life. Every one of our approaches to life in which we do not carry divine love in our spirit, leads us through narrow streets to a dead end. It will not bring us to success in the journey. In the management of life, the love of the Lord is necessary. When Bar Hebraeus speaks of grief and trouble, he alludes to what happens without that love.
There is a sincere reaction within this allusion. Bar Habreaus gives critical reaction to promote transfromation. The effect is spiritual awakening and development. It is necessary, and vitally important.
Bar Hebraeus’ use of karyo, brings to mind the Syriac church fathers, thinkers, philosophers, writers, masters, and all they produced in spite of ups and downs, in the processes of history—the avalanche of wisdom in their works, and the entirety of the the cultural herritage they left behind.
We believe that the seeds of virtues, meanings and values, like kernals of wheat burried in soil, are hidden within the depths of hearts and spirits. They cannot be stolen away. If we put in the correct effort and cultivate the soil well, the seeds will sprout again, and give a harvest. It is enough that what we address the hearts of our people in a sincere manner and and an honest method.
Karyo Hliso is a new understanding born from an effort to synthesize universal rational concepts with patristic thought. It appears that Malfono Yusuf Beğtaş has developed a new concept, inspired by Bar Hebraeus’ very sad expression, “Karyo Hliso”. The phrase expresses a philosophy and a rationality. When taken as an allusion to the problems of our own times, it takes on new life.
In the age of fast communications, there is a great need for updatıng Syriac philosophical concepts (which came into existence through life and its mutual influences), for taking literary ownership of them, with the purpose of offering contributions to societal insight, and for a posture of Karyo Hliso.
This posture is a stance against the loss of the essence and spirit of meanings, which the Syriac, like a bridge built of materials with specific weight and unique qualities for its own times, carries to our day.
The Syriac Language-Culture and Literature Association
Mardin - Turkey