The mute swan silently meanders through pond water, occasionally trumpeting or hissing only in anger. However, ancient legend says the swan is given the gift of song at the very end of its life. Right before its death, it sings a beautiful song — a blip of harmony bookended by silence. The swan, symbolizing the sense of self and spirituality, imbues its grace into the song itself. The swan’s song, mentioned by Socrates almost 2,300 years ago, is a legend as ancient as the swan constellation Cygnus itself.
In the warm breeze of Orlando autumn in 2008, I saw Cygnus for the first time. The Star Walk app had just come out on the iPhone. My family went outside nightly to point my father’s iPhone at the sky, watching in wonder as the phone camera connected the dots for us. There was Orion, the Big Dipper and Cygnus. We were merely specks of the universe perceiving itself.
From those stars is where I first learned to tell stories. Raised in the Hindu faith, we had nothing without oral tradition. As the Greeks and ancient Hindus wove these chronicles to make sense of the world around them, those same stories found their way into the fiber of my being thousands of years later. In Hindu mythology, Brahma, the God of creation, constructed the universe. He made time, rivers, seas, mountains, stars and the human mind itself. In Hinduism, the cosmic web is analogous to — and is just as alive as — the neuronal networks giving us the ability to understand it all. According to myth, Brahma took the form of a swan and flew over cosmic waters, searching for a place to create the universe; Cygnus and its song is therefore as old as creation itself.
As I grew up and fell out of religion, these stories were lost to my childhood. One day, my family used Star Walk for the last time, and the memories and cosmic connection fell away with it.
13 years later, I looked up at the sky while studying abroad in college. I had just left the Tech campus for a summer program in Galway, Ireland, during which I traveled to Vienna, Austria for a weekend. My friends and I aimlessly stumbled onto Danube Island, a small strip of land in the Danube River, in the dead of night. After accidentally wandering through an ecstasy-fueled dance party in the middle of the island woods and hightailing it to the riverbank through tall grass, we found an empty park. In the quiet of the park, we swung as high as we could, turning our faces to the stars. It was like I could see twice as many stars. Chronicling this cosmic moment on the page is the closest to spirituality I have felt since the wonder of my childhood; I did not lose the ancient stories after all.
Another time at Tech, my boyfriend and I laid out a blanket on the muddy grass outside of ZBar and watched the blood moon rise, the pink light washing over our winter-reddened noses. Even now as I walk home from Technique’s layout nights, I look up at the sky and realize that these core memories and cosmic connections make up the constellation of my life. These are the few times that I feel the entire universe has conspired for me to be here.
For me, joining the Technique was supposed to be inconsequential. I never foresaw my involvement in the newspaper becoming a core component of my being, as it has now become. Through writing and editorship, I unexpectedly awakened a love for storytelling and sharing, which are cultural traditions as old as my family tree. It is so tempting to become an insular being and to forget your connections with others and with the universe around you, especially in the bustle of college. In my first few years at Tech, I kept to myself and stayed inside my box. My decision to join the Technique was the first step I took in self-expression; the act of creation is the closest I have felt to spirituality. Like Brahma wove the sky and our ancestors told the story, I create my own stories now.
I recall Cygnus, the swan constellation. In Hinduism, the Cygnus constellation is connected to a period of the night called “Brahmamuhurtha,” meaning “the time of Brahma,” or “the moment of the Universe.” My swan song, as my last piece for the Technique, is an ode to the importance of having an outlet to tell your story; it is the closest I can get to creation itself in this moment of the universe. In the constellations between my thoughts and the ink and serif on the page, the act of writing allows me to give a little piece of myself back to the universe, and within the Technique, I have left a map of myself. To be able to see my thoughts chronicled in ink on the page and to see that ink rub off on my fingers is the closest to cosmic creation I will ever get.
As I leave the Technique and continue in academia, I can foresee a future of reports, papers and figure captions under my name. To me, being in the Technique is my fingerprint of my psyche on the world; it is the last chance I have for people to truly see me and know who I am – to know my opinions about female hysteria in film, how fun it was to see the Tiffany Day concert or to read my thoughts about the universe and the “inyeon” connecting us all. Next week, as I leave layout night for the last time, I will let the stars guide me onwards.