My Swan Song
And My Family’s Swan Song

Others before me have had their swan songs. However, this is my swan song. The origin of swan songs came from ancient Greece around the third century. As Percy Bysshe Shelley reminds us in the West, “We are all Greeks.” Therefore, we all share that background. In the naissance of the Western world, they believed that swans would sing their most melodious songs, κύκνειον ᾆσμα, just prior to their deaths.

Over time, the term, swan song, has expanded to include issues beyond death. Events like mastering some contest in the world of sports, writing, or scholarship were added to the definition. Therefore, this essay deals with the latter mindset, even though I have danced with death successfully twice. That being said, I have no medical reason to view this essay as a foreboding swan song.

I just returned from my third trip to Myanmar in the last six years. On each visit, I have left enriched my Weltanschauung. Additionally, I possess a much clearer understanding of who I am, especially after this recent trip. What drives and motivates me hasn’t changed directions. However, what changed is its intensity. While I am a liberal, I have written about not being liberal enough. Each trip moved me further to the left than I was…especially this recent trip.

Let me clarify my enhanced Weltanschauung. The most important mentor in my life is Bobby Kennedy. He is the one I wish to emulate the most. His paraphrase of George Bernard Shaw has been my signature since they were an add on to emails decades ago, “Some men see things as they are and say, why; I dream things that never were and say, why not.” Additionally, this ripple effect quote also is viewed by me as one aspect of dreaming.

Each time a man stands up for an ideal, or acts to improve the lot of others, or strikes out against injustice, he sends forth a tiny ripple of hope, and crossing each other from a million different centers of energy and daring those ripples build a current which can sweep down the mightiest walls of oppression and resistance.

When one looks at my love and concern for my family in Myanmar, one can see how much Bobby has affected me. We all need to send ripples out to make this world a better place than we found it.

Additionally, before I die, I want to leave my mark in the world as do most people. The only question has to do with what type of mark. Our lives are spent developing our marks. Many people wish to be remembered for power, possessions, or wealth. For me, those marks are a waste of the precious few moments of time that we have in this world. There must be something more important than acquiring things and control. Once one person gets possessions, that person will then want more of either or both. An alternative to acquiring, at least for me, relates to being remembered as one who helped others as we journey down the yellow brick roads of life.

This is my teaching moment in this essay. We are leaving a mark not just for ourselves but for the others around us. You and I will be remembered for good or ill. Buddha said, “When you wish good for others, good things come back to you. This is the law of nature.” Or as St. Francis said, “It is in giving that we receive.” Inadvertently, I paraphrased both leaders in my invented saying, “It is in giving that we get.”

The swan sings

However, this is my swan song. My swan song morphed into a magnificent swan song of my family and me in Myanmar. What a wondrous song we sang on an elephant ride, ballooning over Bagan, wandering through the cave of Buddha, playing games in the blue house, etc.

However, the greatest swan song was enjoying my granddaughters sing Auld Lange Syne as we ushered in the New Year.

We celebrated New Year’s Eve in the Nyaung Shwe Restaurant where I prepared my new dessert, Bananas Bo Bo Gyi. It was my crème de la crème in my culinary efforts over the decades.

Our family swan song was the greatest swan song…until my next visit to my family in Myanmar.

PS. Then there was my swan song with the group that Sandy’s father was a member of in Lahore, Pakistan. In the next couple of weeks, I will be writing about that intriguing event, which morphed my drive to help students in Myanmar into also helping students in Pakistan. Two swan songs occurred on one trip during winter break from my teaching in the States. It doesn’t get better than that.