Another Personal Parallel Essay
Like many of my articles, this one is a follow-up to my previous essay about Tyson and me, sharing several similarities with each other. This is about the English poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge.
After finishing the Tyson essay, my mind drifted back to my Mt. Lebanon High School years. Students were required to memorize a hundred lines of poetry or prose each semester while in high school. We could decide which poem or prose to recite, but I still hated that assignment. Since high school, I have grasped the benefit of memorizing all those lines.
One of my selections during my senior year was the first and last stanza of Coleridge’s poem, Kubla Khan Or, a Vision in a Dream. A Fragment.
In Xanadu did Kubla Khan
A stately pleasure-dome decree:
Where Alph, the sacred river, ran
Through caverns measureless to man
Down to a sunless sea...
And all should cry, Beware! Beware!
His flashing eyes, his floating hair!
Weave a circle round him thrice,
And close your eyes with holy dread
For he on honey-dew hath fed,
And drunk the milk of Paradise.
Despite disliking memorizing poetry or prose, Coleridge painted a fascinating picture of Xanadu with his words. This is what I imagined what Xanadu was like.
Since high school, I have read about how Coleridge created his masterpiece, Kubla Khan. This also explains the strange title, Kubla Khan Or, a Vision in a Dream. A Fragment. Coleridge was using opium at the time. In a semi-hallucinogenic state, Coleridge said that he had created several hundred lines of that poem in his mind. After he came down from his euphoric experience, Coleridge started writing his poem.
After Coleridge finished line fifty, someone knocked on his front door. Hearing that knocking caused him to awaken from his dream, which caused him to stop writing down what he had composed in his mind. At the end of the poem, he added this postscript to explain the additional title. “This fragment with a good deal more, not recoverable, composed, in a sort of reverie brought on by two grains of opium, taken to check a dysentery, at a Farm House between Porlock and Linton, a quarter of a mile from Culbone Church, in the fall of the year, 1797. S.T. Coleridge.”
There actually was a Xanadu. The remains of Xanadu (another spelling, Shangdu) are located in Inner Mongolia. In the 13th century, Kubla Khan, the grandson of Genghis Khan, was the fifth Great Khan that ruled the Mongol Empire. Kubla Khan was also the first non-Chinese ruler to conquer all of China and named his reign the Yuan dynasty.
Marco Polo was the first Westerner to write about Kubla Khan and the city of Xanadu. When Kubla Khan met Marco Polo, he hired Polo as his foreign emissary to Burma, Vietnam, India, Indonesia, and Sri Lanka. He lived and worked for Kubla Khan for nearly two decades.
Thanks to Marco Polo, Coleridge had some idea of the palatial Xanadu. I started thinking about my Xanadu years ago due to Coleridge. While in college and graduate school, Bobby Kennedy became my mentor. I have lived by Kennedy’s saying, “Some men see things as they are and say, why; I dream things that never were and say, why not.” Blend Colerigde’s Xanadu and Kennedy’s dreams together, and you can understand my mindset.
Two decades ago, I added a section to the Articles page of my website called Dreaming Dreams. Merely dreaming is a waste of time. At eighty years of age and having done the dance with death twice, I know my clock is ticking. Before I run out of bricks on my yellow brick road of life, I dream about creating a small utopian experiment.
My Xanadu is on a lake with mountains in the background. It is the setting where I can bring together all my family, whom I met during the journey down my yellow brick road. I have met many people that I love and hold in high esteem. They come from various countries throughout the world. Some live in Asia, the Middle East, Europe, and America. They possess different ethnic backgrounds, cultures, religions, and beliefs. They will make up my Xanadu experiment.
Okay. Some of you who are reading this will think that I am not realistic. You are adding up all the millions of dollars it will cost me when I invite dozens of families to create my Xanadu. It will be expensive simply to fly them here. There is the cost of the lake and the land around it. I must provide housing and life’s necessities for all my family members as residents of Xanadu. It is a colossal task at eighty and with my very limited assets. If you were betting on my realizing my dream, it would be a pretty sure bet. However, I’m still dreaming and trying to complete my dream.
One herculean task is to assist Ti Ti, my granddaughter from Myanmar, with getting a student visa. That means I need help from someone in the State Department to address the behavior of some employees at the US Embassy in Yangon, Myanmar. I have tried for two years and failed, but I need to talk with someone at the State Department in Washington. Each time I try, I am told to contact the embassy. Every day provides me with the possibility of talking with someone at the State Department. I have all the necessary documentation to prove my case, but I can’t talk to someone overseeing our overseas embassies.