Best and Worst of Times

Best and Worst of Times

The best and worst of times

During my winter break from teaching in 2013-2014, I spent a month in Myanmar, also known as Burma. That singular trip was the most transformative experience in all my years of overseas travel. While I gained greatly from my trip to Myanmar, it created a long series of haunting questions for me throughout 2014.

The haunting began while in Myanmar. However, I was able to avoid addressing it due to traveling all over the country, visiting pagodas, and talking with the locals. When I came back to the States, I had to address that first question. Interestingly, I had an appointment with Dr. Marchand, my cardiologist, for a routine heart checkup. My heart was fine, but I was wired. However, I asked him the first haunting question. Why was I so driven and engaged? His response was both simple and profound. I had seen the light.

Talk about a cathartic experience. I left Dr. Marchand's office renewed and empowered...until several weeks later when I heard another haunting question. This time the question was about the light that I had seen. What was the light to show me?

A friend of mine had given me a link to the commencement address that Steve Jobs gave at Stanford in 2005. I watched that address and wrote an article about it several years ago. I understood about connecting the dots. However, while having lunch with that friend early in 2014, I talked about another haunting question. I could not explain why going to the protest rally at Sule Pagoda caused me to see the light. As I addressed that lurking question, I started to put the dots together. My experiences in Myanmar related directly to my experiences during the civil right movement in the 60s. Again, another catharsis. I understood Myanmar but also a raft of other dots started to connect.

I felt both relief and freedom. I was happy and understood my life. Nonetheless, another haunting question soon arrived. This question came via the singing of Pete Seeger and the writing of Saul Alinsky. There is in life often a tension between the darkness and the dawn, which the singer and reformer expressed. Alinsky wrote, "We must believe that it is the darkest before the dawn of a beautiful new world. We will see it when we believe it." That insight carried me for another month or so.

Alas, another haunting question. I did not understand the moments of soaring when events occurred, which were followed by the question why. I would attempt to resolve a question and agonize over it until it was resolved. That would produce a respite for me until another question begged an answer. The entire year was a sequence of questions with a month of pondering before gaining understanding.

The sequencing between the good times and the bad times allowed me to accept and comprehend much of 2014. As suddenly as Dr. Marchand said that I had seen the light a year ago, I saw it again thanks to Charles Dickens' opening sentence from A Tale of Two Cities, "It was the best of times, it was the worst of times....":

It Was the Best of Times thumbnail It Was the Best of Times It Was the Worst of Times....

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Going to Hell in a Handbasket thumbnail Going to Hell in a Handbasket And the Tibetan Mask
Doing the Dance Again thumbnail Doing the Dance Again How to Address Both New Dances
 I Know Who I Am... thumbnail I Know Who I Am... And Have Found Two People Who Understand Me
Take Your Passion and Make It Happen thumbnail Take Your Passion and Make It Happen Flashdance Follow-up
Responses to Paris thumbnail Responses to Paris Both Are Vital
Want to See What I'm Wearing for Halloween? thumbnail Want to See What I'm Wearing for Halloween? A Profound Question
Pandora Provides Hope... thumbnail Pandora Provides Hope... Don Quixote Provides Determination
The Campbell Cookie Jar thumbnail The Campbell Cookie Jar The Tie In Between the Past and the Present
Doubling Down... thumbnail Doubling Down... To Make Dreams Come True
The Old Pine Table thumbnail The Old Pine Table An Object of Renewal and Rebirth
It's Confession Time... thumbnail It's Confession Time... And It Isn't Sunday
The Mahogany Bench thumbnail The Mahogany Bench A Place for Dreaming....
The Little Wooden Box thumbnail The Little Wooden Box An Updated Pandora's Box
A Great Dancer with Death thumbnail A Great Dancer with Death A Sobering Experience
Putting the Pieces Together thumbnail Putting the Pieces Together The Joy of Coming of Age
The Tulip Pitcher thumbnail The Tulip Pitcher A Picture of Springtime
Songs Can Make the World Go Around... thumbnail Songs Can Make the World Go Around... Peacefully.
The Felt Picture thumbnail The Felt Picture A Picture of Hopefulness
A Second Look at Life thumbnail A Second Look at Life Toward the End of Life
Agnes Majors in the Minors thumbnail Agnes Majors in the Minors A Big Fish in a Drying Up Small Pond
The Desire to Ding the Universe  thumbnail The Desire to Ding the Universe But Why?
From Whence Does the Spark Come? thumbnail From Whence Does the Spark Come? The Creative Act of Pondering
The Value of Pain thumbnail The Value of Pain Or How to Retrieve the Torpedo
Riders on the Streetcar Named Desire: thumbnail Riders on the Streetcar Named Desire: Elizabeth and Rosa
The Pied Piper of Hamelin thumbnail The Pied Piper of Hamelin A Strange Tale
Dinner with GiGi thumbnail Dinner with GiGi The Socratic Method of an Older Woman
Alan Seeger thumbnail Alan Seeger And His Dance with Death
What I Learned About Life... thumbnail What I Learned About Life... From Facing Down the Dragon
Career Opportunity... thumbnail Career Opportunity... Being a Gladiator
What a Wonderful World thumbnail What a Wonderful World You Think to Yourself....
The Benefit of Problems thumbnail The Benefit of Problems Or the Only Means to Success
Milky Way and Andromeda's Dance with Death thumbnail Milky Way and Andromeda's Dance with Death Parallels Our Dances with Death
Slaughterhouse-Five thumbnail Slaughterhouse-Five Vonnegut's Dance with Death
 thumbnail Dancing with Death Allows You to Live
It Has Been Seven Years Since I Fell... thumbnail It Has Been Seven Years Since I Fell... And Cracked My Head
Steve Jobs and Charles Dickens thumbnail Steve Jobs and Charles Dickens How to Avoid the Ghosts
Nepal Then thumbnail Nepal Then And Now
We Get Old Too Soon... thumbnail "We Get Old Too Soon... And Wise Too Late"
Fertilizing Daffodils thumbnail Fertilizing Daffodils But in the Meantime....
How Do We Learn? thumbnail How Do We Learn? The Lessons in Learning
Ode to Joy thumbnail Ode to Joy In the Midst of Pain
Think about the Legacy that You Leave thumbnail Think about the Legacy that You Leave Will Your Relatives Be Proud of You?
Reliving Many Bloody Sundays thumbnail Reliving Many Bloody Sundays Rebirth of the Civil Rights Movement
All Mankind is Divided Into Three Classes... thumbnail "All Mankind is Divided Into Three Classes..." Some Aren't Buried Until They Are Seventy-five
Obama's Golden Opportunity thumbnail Obama's Golden Opportunity On Leaving a Legacy
Man in the Arena thumbnail Man in the Arena "If He Fails, At Least Fails While Daring Greatly"
The Most Dangerous Woman in America thumbnail The Most Dangerous Woman in America Mother Jones and Her Boys
Suffering Yields Success thumbnail Suffering Yields Success Worrying Yields Warts
Every child is an artist. thumbnail "Every Child is an Artist." The Question is What Remains in Adulthood?
Ozone to Ferguson thumbnail Ozone to Ferguson A Journey That Never Seems To End