And Seeing the Light

In the past 50-years, I have traveled much of the world. I love travel. However, of all the places that I have visited, Burma/Myanmar had the most profound effect upon me. In in the past half year since being in Burma, I have wrestled with understanding the transformative experience that I had in what used to be called Burma. While I have loved all the other countries and places, those 4-weeks changed me.

Everyone to whom I have spoken and the dozens of articles that resulted from the trip have heard or read about Burma. Upon my return, I had a routine office visit with Dr. Marshand, my cardiologist. I told him about my transformative experience and asked why. He responded that I had seen the light. I got his diagnosis. I was seeing things more intensely. I was more driven than I was even back in the 60s during the civil rights movement. Nonetheless, I needed to figure out why I was seeing the light in my early 70s.

While working on some other writing projects, I had written about Steve Jobs' commencement address at Stanford in 2005 in which he talked about connecting the dots. I had used that speech in several articles even prior to Burma. Obviously, I liked and agreed with Jobs, but it was not until my return from Burma did I truly appreciate the extent of the connecting the dots as it applied to my personal life. Even then, it took me several months of wrestling with my experiences before I finally connected the dots. This is how Jobs put into words my experience.

You can't connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something -- your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever. This approach has never let me down, and it has made all the difference in my life.

Finally, all the pieces came together. This old man not only was driven but now I understood why. I am still driven a half year after my return. And as Jobs said, "This approach has never let me down, and it has made all the difference in my life." I do not expect my driven-ness to fade over time.

A good friend of mine, Ray Hewlett, was the one who gave me the link to Steve Jobs' graduation speech. He gave me the link two years ago, and I have written over a dozen articles about his comment about connecting the dots. I got his message about the dots intellectually. However, I now have gotten it emotionally and fully understand it. Therefore, thanks, Ray. You and Jobs have helped me understand more than merely Myanmar/Burma but life in general.


My wife even gave me a sweatshirt with Burma written on it. She hears about my being driven more than anyone else.

Al in his Burma sweatshirt

Since I cannot accept things at face value, one of the things that caused me to wrestle with again was the name on the sweatshirt. The word, Burma, obviously meant to be tied to the name of the men's shaving cream company of years ago and not to the country Burma, which is now named Myanmar.

Burma-Shave toiletries

Burma-Shave toiletries

Then I pondered why the company named their product Burma-Shave. I got the shave part of the name. Nonetheless, why use the name Burma, which is a country located in Southeast Asia?

Never satisfied until understanding something that I did not know, I looked up the etymology of the Burma-Shave name. Back in 1925, Clinton Odell, the owner, named his company, Burma-Vita. Overtime, the name finally went to Burma-Shave. However, back in the mid-20s, Odell sold a liniment or ointment over-the-counter to relieve pain. The company advertised that their Burma-Vita had ingredients that came "from the Malay Peninsula and Burma" hence the name, Burma.

That fact, I had never known...nor have most Americans. We all are used to Burma-Shave signs out on country roads advertising Burma-Shave. From the mid-20s to the mid-60s, Americans loved to read the Burma-Shave advertising signs on the side of the road.

Burma-Shave signs

Burma-Shave signs

 This Burma-Shave sign is a warning not to speed while driving.

This Burma-Shave sign is a warning not to speed while driving.

However, what intrigued me was that perhaps while in Burma or the Malay Peninsula I might have inadvertently come in contact with that special elixir used in Burma-Shave. That would further explain why I am so driven after spending a month in Burma.

Burma flag

Burmese independence flag

Visit the Burma Independence page to read more about this topic.

On Seeing the Light

On Seeing the Light

Visit the On Seeing the Light page to read more about this topic.

Connecting The Dots

Connecting the Dots

Visit the Connecting the Dots page to read more about this topic.