Fairy Godmother – an interview with Merlyn Swan (7 March 2005)

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Introduction

Merlyn Swan is, by far, one of the most important persons in my life. During the course of the past 21 years I have come to know, admire, respect and love her dearly. She really is my ‘fairy godmother’ for she has been instrumental in the many decisions I have had to make in life. For example: many months ago, I told her, “Someday, I would like to write a book.” Her answer was a straight, “If you want to write a book, then write it. Don’t just talk about it.”

Her life story is exciting to say the least and the consummate storyteller she is, she tells it with great humour. Born and brought up in Ceylon [now Sri Lanka], of Colonial migrant parents of Dutch and Irish descent, she speaks of a idyllic lifestyle there. She was Director of the Talks Department in Radio Ceylon and a well known journalist. She was trained in the BBC and when she was later offered a job with the BBC, she moved to London. She lived in London, where she also obtained her Honours Degree in Social Anthropology at the famous London School of Economic and Political Science and a Diploma in Education at London University. She emigrated to Australia to join her son who had married an Australian and to take up the offer of research. Having already published her first book, she is now in the process of publishing her second. It is with great pleasure that I introduce you to, Merlyn Swan.


Aneeta: Hello Merlyn. I am well aware that you are a very busy woman … especially now that you are in the process of editing your second book. So, I would like to thank you for taking time out to answer some of our questions.

Merlyn: I am delighted to do this Aneeta as it is also a way to pause for a brief while and look at the wide world once again.

Aneeta: From all who have known your story, you have lived a very happy and fulfilled life. What, is your philosophy and secret to living such a happy life?

Merlyn: You will have to read my book wont you? It is called “GOD Made Visible” Diary of a Seeker. I do hope I can get it out into the public domain before long. The secret of happy living I think is not exclusive to any one person but having said that I have had lots of ups and downs; the secret is, I believe, being open to whatever comes, good and bad, accepting all as an experience. We tend to want only experiences in our comfort zone with the result that we miss out on the vagaries of life. To accept everything as a happening and to see this body/mind organism as an appearance of Consciousness or Awareness – some call IT God – is I believe an open secret. Something existing yet we tend to ignore.

Aneeta: You have lived in Ceylon, the UK and now Australia. Do tell us what was life like in each of these places:

Merlyn: Well that is a big ask but I suppose I could pick three examples that may typify my own feeling in each country . I spent my early childhood in a boarding school in Sri Lanka and this made a lasting impression on me. We were ruled with an iron rod and as a teenager even our letters were vetted which meant I used a code when writing to my parents. We agreed on certain code words which would make sense only to them. In this way the letters got through uncensored. But life in Sri Lanka was very comfortable and easy which contrasted greatly when I lived in London. Here I had no one to fetch and carry for me and sometimes even wondered how I was going to put the meal on the table for my three teenage children. However it amazed me how out of almost nothing I would delve into the fridge and in less than a hour the children would sit down to a repast. My son often remarked that he just didn’t know how I did it. This is really true and it was a repast. England was a great learning experience for me it is also where a number of my hopes were fulfilled and my ambitions got a knee jerk. Australia is a great place to live in. It is where I really found myself, where I was able to work out my philosophy for living a truly fulfilled life. Unless one lives here it is most difficult to explain the subtle feeling of freedom that envelops one in Australia. It is a freedom that is really carefree and resonates wonderfully. It is a great place to bring up a family.

Aneeta: Having lived in the three different continents of Asia, Europe and now Australia what would you say you have learnt from all your experiences?

Merlyn: To take life as it comes, to show compassion, to be tolerant, to listen (that is very important), and to have patience (which I am afraid I have very little of this) and to be able to compromise. Life is for living and more than anything else it is important to live each moment fully and without regret and if you do regret throw the regret into the mental wastepaper basket. There is only this moment and when it goes it cannot be recalled and the future never really comes so live now fully and beautifully. That is all one has.

Aneeta: I know of people who have had a difficult time adjusting to retirement. You, however, seem to be busier than ever and never once had difficulty in adjusting to the new change in your lifestyle. Can you please explain how you handled this transition from being a ‘working’ person to a retired person?

Merlyn: This is very important Aneeta. One needs to prepare for retirement. Three years before I had to retire (because the law at the time had an age threshold), I started various schemes. I took painting lessons, I attended computer classes, I started a poetry group. I joined various voluntary projects like working in the hospital in the aged section, and other social clubs. In fact I had a quiver full of ideas. Then when I retired I discarded a few as there was the need to concentrate on a few and give them my best shot. But the ground had been laid and it is a wonderful period in my life now. I can do most of the things I deeply love and life is very exciting, and fulfilling, there is never a dull moment and certainly no time for depression. Life is what you make it so never be afraid to start something it is the only way you can experience life. Moreover life is for experiencing.

Aneeta: You mentioned the poetry group that you started. Please tell us a little about this:

Merlyn: I run a monthly poetry group called Eastern Suburbs Poetry Group where members are all poets. We read our poems and discuss them critically. At times we have a visiting poet. Once a year I run a Festival of poetry and music. The poetry readings are interspersed with music. I also give a young and up and coming artist an opportunity to play before an audience. This has been very interesting. I have had a few of my young artists now singing in the halls of Europe and playing in England.

We also published two poetry books and each year at the festival we give each member of the audience a copy of all the poems we read and usually about 15 poets read two to three poems, neatly bound. We have a tea party on our account.

Aneeta: Another of your interests is art. I remember you learned how to paint. Do share your stories of success there, please.

Merlyn: This was a very exciting period in my life. I attended group classes but I loved to paint. I would often wake at three in the morning and move to my easel and put a few brush strokes onto what was on my easel. One year I sent in a painting to the prestigious Royal Easter Show. Thousands of paintings are hung and it is a great show with all the fun of a carnival, the painting exhibition is just one of the many activities. That same time I was also holding my one woman exhibition together with the launching of my poetry book. As the Easter show had just ended I drove over to collect my painting to place it in my exhibition. Imagine my joy when the I was told it had been sold. This gave me more pleasure than the 22 paintings that were sold at my own exhibition. I felt that out of all the thousands someone had picked my painting and thought it was good enough to have it hanging in their home.

Aneeta: I remember once you said, that you have this constant need to write and it has become a practice for you to write almost daily … even if it’s a letter to the editor. Was it this burning need to write that prompted you to write your first book?

Merlyn: My burning desire to write just happens, it is something I love doing so I just follow my heart. The book was a natural evolvement of all I had come to understand and believe. It was also as a token of gratitude to my teacher in the new millennium year when it was published.

Aneeta: Tell us then, a little about your book.

Merlyn: Here are some details:

Description: The book is a dedication to my guide, mentor, friend, and teacher Dr Francis Roles who showed me above everything else that if ‘I wasn’t happy I was not conscious’. He taught me how to appreciate the wonder that is life; he demonstrated that the most valuable gift is Truth.

Brief summary:

The shift in Christian thinking has provoked a great deal of debate and dialogue. Many believers find themselves in a spiritual vacuum – a situation that invalidates all they know and believe. People in general and especially young people are confused, their lives lack positive direction.

In part autobiographical the book offers a practical path to freedom, giving readers a system of knowledge and understanding based on the most profound ideas of spirituality.

It is a path that presents life as an exciting journey filled with hope and love, one that will raise self – esteem and restores faith and knowledge of one’s true Self.

It is a simple way that shows how to live one day at a time, how to guide your mind with a positive approach through mental functions. You are at the helm, you protect yourself from the vicissitudes of conflict by directing your life in whichever way you choose.

Aneeta: What people have said about it:

Merlyn: The Right Reverend John S. Spong describes Merlyn Swan’s book “Today’s Believer” as ‘intriguing’ and says ” Merlyn Swan has journeyed beyond the traditional definition of God, but not beyond God. She understands that creeds define human experience, not divine reality. She is a spiritual guide into a new millennium. Many will follow her.” John S. Spong Author “A New Christianity for a New World.”

Dr. Christine Williams author and writer also launched the book:-
“This is an exceptional book written candidly about aspects of Merlyn’s own life in a spirit of sharing what she has learnt from her teachers. I feel this is not just a celebration of Merlyn’s book but of Merlyn herself — Merlyn’s aim has been to move in a spirit of harmony and love between individuals and creeds. I felt a resonance between what she was writing here in clear contemporary language and what is found in the teachings and practices of many “age–old wisdom traditions.”
(Dr. Christine Williams author – J Krishnamurti )

Aneeta: What has the reaction been from family and friends

Merlyn: They loved it and were very happy for me and the success of the book.

Aneeta: How much is your book priced at and where can people obtain a copy?

Merlyn: They can buy the book from two places:
Berkelouw Bookshop
19 Oxford Street
Paddington NSW 2021
T: 02 9360 3200
F: 02 9360 3124
E: paddington@berkelouw.com.au
W: www.berkelouw.com.au/

I think the bookshop charges AUD$20.00 (postage and packaging excluded)

Also from the author:
Merlyn Swan
29 Buckland Street
Alexandria
N.S.W. 2015
Australia

Email: merlyn@easy.com.au

If people buy it directly from me, the price is AUD$30.00 (inclusive of postage and packaging)

Aneeta: Am I right in saying that you self-published this first book? If so, why did you take this route?

Merlyn: It is a very exciting and helpful way for a new author and it saves a lot of time and rejection slips. Also the author is in full control of all happenings and all profits belong to the author.

Aneeta: As I have said before, I understand that you are now in the process of publishing your second book. Do tell us about this book?

Merlyn: This is my real life’s work. I had no intention of doing a sequel to my previous book. It just happened one day as I was seated at my computer. Title of book God Made Visible – Diary of a Seeker.

Description: When you realise who you really are you live life fearlessly in the moment. This book is a pointer to unconditional love in action. You are THAT.

Brief summary: The book is based on the concept – there is only Oneness – the only reality, often called Energy, Consciousness, Totality, God. In this context of reality everything appears as its content. Hence the ‘you’ or ‘me’ though each seems a separate entity, is illusory, that is their separateness from the One is the illusion. Each living organism is an appearance of One, the wholeness, God made visible. This paradox is integral to living in phenomenality. This then makes choice and volition non existent. The book questions the meaning of reality and asks what am I? Is God merely an idea? What is evil? What is the purpose of life? What is enlightenment? Can I be enlightened?

This unique book is in the form of a diary and so is anthropologically experiential. It starts from a point where the seeker actually commences her seeking and tackles concepts that baffle and stimulate the mind and questions one’s own existence. The author recognises the philosophical nature of Einstein’s theory that ‘you cannot solve a problem with the same mind that created it’. The book projects this concept of Oneness as an open secret and says that “once you realise who you really are, you live life fearlessly in the moment. The book is a pointer to unconditional love in action. You are THAT”

Aneeta: When is it due to go on sale?

[Editor’s Note: this book is now on sale. For details, please contact the author at merlyn@easy.com.au]

Merlyn: About the middle of this year.

Aneeta: As you may well be aware, here on this site, and through our newsletter, Great StoryTelling Network! we aim to give a voice to storytellers and also a platform for everyone to participate and create a melting pot of people who then share their ideas, resources and thoughts. Can you then, share with us your thoughts on what advice we should give to those who are hesitant about taking the first step to realise their dreams?

Merlyn: I think you are doing very well in providing story tellers with a great platform for the expression of their hopes and dreams and it would be sad if they do not see this as a great opportunity to reach a very wide audience. It is a symbiotic experience and one I thoroughly support. I wish you the best of luck.

Aneeta: Thank you so much for the compliment. Well, I think we have come to the end of the interview. I thank you once again and wish you great success with the publication of your second book. Please send us an email when it happens and we would be proud to announce it here.

Merlyn: Many thanks. I reciprocate that with your work here.


This piece may NOT be freely reprinted. Please contact editor @ howtotellagreatstory.com for reprint rights.

Click here to return to the index of interviews on ‘Blow Your Own Trumpet!’


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