Learning from Collecting
Written by a Collector of Treasures

I have admitted in previous essays that I collect treasures while I am on my trips overseas. I am eclectic, but every item has a story. That is true and obvious. However, those souvenirs from distant lands often address a psychological need floating around in my head. An example of collecting things that reflect my state of mind was about my Aladdin’s Lamp. I bought it because I liked the object, but it was more about psychological issues. I was trying to figure out my place in the universe. The article was merely a metaphorical expression of that quest.

Therefore, my Aladdin’s Lamp is a treasure at two levels: an object with a historical and literary background along with my attempt to understand me psychologically. In reality, I haven’t satisfied my desire to understand my modus operandi psychologically. What is the driving force behind me? One would think that a person rapidly moving to his eightieth birthday would have grasped his reason for being by now.

I have benefited from a litany of learning events in my life. My family moved from Pennsauken, NJ, to Mt. Lebanon before entering junior high. It was initially a negative game-changer. Nonetheless, I finally learned that I was not quite as dumb and poor as I thought.

My two successful dances with death a dozen years ago also started as negative events but became blessings. I have an advantage over most people. I really know that my clock is ticking.

Traveling throughout the world in the past half-century has also benefited me. The most rewarding aspect was that I discovered a part of my family in Myanmar.

However, I was visiting Göreme, Turkey, which is a very small village in Cappadocia that dated back over 3500 years. However, an old storekeeper sold me a brass Aladdin’s Lamp, which was quite old but had a unique ability to talk. The lamp filled me in on the details about the story of the first Aladdin’s Lamp. I knew Antoine Galland’s novel, The Book of One Thousand and One Nights. Interestingly, according to some scholars, the story took place, not in the Middle East but in China.

After returning home, the lamp talked to me. We discussed my quest for finding a true purpose in life. The lamp went through all the names of my mentors, which I had listed on my webpage. Then he asked, “What do all your mentors share in common?” He waited a moment and continued. “Each one had a purpose in life. They all wanted to help others. None of them took; they all gave. Some even gave their physical lives in their cause.”

The lamp also added a warning about not letting the world change me. “Be who you are. Dream your dreams. Do what you can do to improve the world and fight for what is right.”

My retort was that I wanted more details about living my life and a more defined reason for my being or existence. The lamp merely mentioned my impatience and paused again. Then the lamp added, “Live life in the now. Continue to dream. You will soon have all your questions answered. Certainty about anything isn’t predetermined in life.”