In Two Steps
The ancient Chinese venerated the elderly because they processed wisdom. Their wisdom had been accumulated over decades of learning based upon their observing life and learning from their mistakes.
This essay is the result of both pedagogical bases. In the past eight years, I have traveled to Myanmar three times. On all three trips is spent time with my family that I discovered near Inle Lake. Talk about discovering great riches.
My adult children planned a family tour for their three children, my grandchildren, and myself on my last trip. Moh, the mother and my tour guide in 2013, picked me up at the airport. We visited her mother and family and stopped to see Than, a great artist.
While driving to our visits, Moh Moh and I just talked. I learned two things about my name, PaPa Al, and what life was like during the 8888-Uprising on August 8, 1988. The country was protesting the military government. Both of those learning experiences are etched into my psyche.
My first insight dealt with Ti Ti’s naming me PaPa Al. I said to Moh Moh that I enjoyed how Ti Ti created my name. It was a cute name.
Moh Moh teaches profound wisdom in a calm and placid manner. In response, Moh Moh replied quietly that I was her only grandfather that Ti Ti has. While her statement was said quietly, it still rings loudly in my ears. I got her message and learned.
As Moh Moh drove to her mother’s home, we are talking about the 8888 Uprising. At the time, Moh Moh was just a young child. However, 8888 was etched into her psyche. Moh Moh recalled going to bed at night and wondering whether there would be enough food in the morning for breakfast. Talk about something being etched into one’s memory.
I’m 78 years old, and the ancient Chinese were correct regarding being wise. Much of my knowledge is based upon mistakes and missteps that I have made. Additionally, I learned a great deal from observing others.
My favorite class in college and the course that I love to teach is art history in the past couple of decades. For example, all painters became great due to some sort of pain, which motivated them. There are no famous painters who merely painted for enjoyment. Michelangelo, van Gogh, or Chagall painted because some negative urge pushed them.
I’ve also taught history. What is true about artists is true about great leaders. Washington, Lincoln, and FDR weren’t great American presidents just because they wanted to be. Pain motivated them, which resulted in their greatness.
I have written about my dancing with death and moving to Mt. Lebanon. I wouldn’t want to relive those experiences, but I wouldn’t delete them from my life. I learned a vast amount of wisdom from those encounters.
All people can learn the wisdom of the ages from merely watching others. I mentioned talking with Moh Moh about 8888. She began her journey to wisdom by watching her parents dealing with starving, but that was over three decades ago.
A year and a half ago, my family and I went on our first family tour together during my winter break from teaching. It was the most incredible journey which I have ever been on. We were talking about our next family excursion in two years while still on our first one.
I returned home and resumed teaching. Then COVID-19 began traveling throughout the world. This year began with Trump’s failed coup attempt on January 6. The following month there was a successful military coup in Myanmar at the beginning of February.
My family lives in a developing country with the military attempting to put down protesters throughout the country. Myanmar is on the verge of a civil war. Additionally, the military isn’t dealing with vaccinating 54 million people who live in Myanmar. The people face death due to being shot or dying due to not getting shots of COVID-19 vaccines.
Myanmar is facing the duality of disasters. And yet, Moh Moh continues on…teaching three young students, Okkar, Aung Kaung Thant, and Hsu Myat Naing. They are learning English as a second language amid the coronavirus and the military coup. That determination was learned several decades ago by Moh Moh when she watched her parents face the effects of the 8888 Uprising, the lack of food, and the military.
Moh Moh is an excellent teacher of English as a second language. However, she is teaching students also about determination and grit. In a country torn apart due to the coronavirus and the military coup, she is an example to her students how they too can be great.