Thanks to Carl Sagan.
It is funny how things morph and change over time. In addition, equally interesting is the coincidental happenstance that ties those things together...things that occurred with many decades separating them. This also raises the question why? I will let my two grandchildren, Jack and Owen, to determine why. Why is their operative word. In the meantime, it is enough for me to observe these chance linkages. Perhaps Jack, Owen, or their generation decades from now will be able to explain why.
Sagan used an illustration in one of his programs addressing the issue of time. It was a true story about an older French aristocrat who had just built a new château. He and his landscaper were talking about how he wanted his landscaping to look. He wanted one particular type of tree. His landscaper told him that the tree would take too long to grow...meaning that the old aristocrat would be long gone before the trees even came close to their maturity. The aristocrat's retort was interesting. He said, "Then start planting today."
I was so struck with the old aristocrat's seemingly logical disconnect mixed with his ardent command that I wrote to Sagan for the actual transcript from that Cosmos episode. Within a week, Sagan responded to my request by saying that my storyline was as good as the transcript. Therefore, I should use my actual description when writing about the aristocrat's response. I did so...nearly thirty-five years ago.
A couple months ago, I returned from a month in Myanmar/Burma. I love to travel and have seen much of the world. However, I have much more still to see. I went to Myanmar to learn, to see, and to experience that emerging nation, which has been living isolated from much of the world during the second half of the 20th century.
I took several thousand photos along with videotaped interviews and interesting sites of Myanmar. I have posted on my website several dozen articles about that country and several interviews with of people from Myanmar. In addition, I have as many other articles waiting to be posted. It was the best trip that I have very taken. Consequently, I returned from Myanmar a changed person.
Dr. Marchand replied that it was my endorphins. While I am not a cardiologist, I know that much, but I wanted to know why. Therefore, I asked why my endorphins were functioning at that level. He knew that my question was not merely something about which I was just interested in passing. I wanted to know what happened in Myanmar that had changed me.
The next couple of minutes could have been a scene taken from a suspense movie. It was intense. Dr. Marchand paused and looked directly into my eyes without saying anything. It was one of those occasions in which the silence was deafening. When he knew that I was listening, he said quietly, "You have seen the light." Another moment of silence filled the air in the examining room while we looked at each other. Probably, fifteen seconds passed without a word. Once he could see that I got his message, he said that he would see me in six months.
I will never forget that moment nor Dr. Marchand's explanation. I wrote an article about that experience and emailed him a link to it. A couple days later, he called me about his diagnosis of my seeing the light. He wanted to make sure that I got his message by trying his comment to other thinkers like Confucius.
For the next several weeks, over a dozen articles appeared on my webpage, another dozen already written, and are queued up waiting to be posted. The first article was about the morphing within my mind of the civil rights movement in the States and the human rights movement in Myanmar. I was at Sule Pagoda at a protest rally in Yangon just prior to returning to the States. While observing the rally in Yangon, the civil rights song, We Shall Overcome, rang in my ears. Experiences a half century before in America co-mingled with the present in Myanmar. I plan to return Yangon hopefully this summer with Joan Baez who sang that song a half century ago.
Tyson too received a letter from Sagan. I went to my safe deposit box but cannot find the letter. However, I know that I have saved it. It will be only a matter of time before I find Sagan's letter in a file folder.
Then, like an emotional tsunami, it all came flooding upon me. I am seeing the light more clearly. All of a sudden, I see that I am now that old French aristocrat. I am 71-years old, but my remaining numbers of years are not as infinite as I thought they were when I was young. I have danced with death a couple of times already. While I hope to outlive George Burns and make it past my 100th birthday, someone who is a betting person would not put too much money on my getting to 100. It is also not likely that Myanmar will become a mature and a fully functional democracy in what time I have left here one earth...even if I outlive George Burns. Therefore, plant now.
Planting for me is writing about Myanmar and doing what I can to help that country. Therefore, I am that old aristocrat mirroring his comment, "Then start planting today."
This is Carl Sagan's website.
Visit the Burma Independence page to read more about this topic.
Visit the On Seeing the Light page to read more about this topic.
Visit The Mentors and Me page to read more about this topic.