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Max Roytenberg

Max Roytenberg: Turning Points

by Max Roytenberg, December 19, 2013, Dublin

We are getting a little long in the tooth, and I am not talking about receding gums embellishing my brilliant smile. I am writing about the rushing winds of time about my ears, the unravelling shreds of time’s blanket exposing the perfect body I was blessed with, now less perfect, the one that I am carrying into the future. I am thinking about and examining the panorama of the past. All of us of a reflective nature are condemned to look back at what has been, what we have been, what we have been becoming, whether it is what we hoped we would be, what we had to do before we could become that person. Or maybe not.


We all start from different places, myself, from one of the less-fortunate neighborhoods of my hometown of Winnipeg, not one of the boomtown locations of Canada. Some were more fortunate, but many of us in that town came from difficult times and difficult places and yet built lives that celebrate the American dream. And many of us did not.


Looking back, some of us can identify those moments in our lives when things took a radical turn, or something occurred which had a significant effect on our future course? Nothing after that event was ever the same for us. It may have been as mundane as getting that job, or earning a university degree, which is not really mundane but the result of an extreme and prolonged effort of will, yet, a rational and logical act. (I was amazed to read recently that fifty percent of Canadian adults have a university degree.) Or, it might have been as mysterious and miraculous as meeting the right person with the right message at just the right time. Or it might have been as horrific as being caught up in a war or a catastrophic accident.


Or, it might have been about something stirring around in our minds, perhaps something unbeknownst to our conscious minds, maybe there for a very long time. Suddenly, something bursts out of who and what we are, to change our particular world in a radical way. Those around us may not even notice for a while that a radical change has taken place, but, experiencing an epiphany of some kind, from that moment we are very different people from the person who existed before this event. We become sufficiently different that our behaviour and/or our thought processes begin to produce radically different results for ourselves and those around us.


This may happen only once in our lives, or, we can re-make ourselves into the other people we have to be, time and time again. How difficult it is to change the habits a lifetime in a way necessary to alter outcomes in the direction of the goals we hope to achieve, the goals to which we aspire? And how do we react to events beyond our control, necessitating a change in behaviour dictated by the course of these events? What must we do that is radically different if we are to survive and succeed?


We are all adrift in a world of unknowns. How shall we react to the challenges we face, the turning points in our lives? Will these events solely dictate our fate, or can we build our own paths, despite the pitfalls, to reach the towering castles of our imagination?


It is exciting to relive all this in my mind. There are so many places where I wish I could have re-written history-aren’t we all the same-much smarter by half after the event. But there are other instances where I am astounded. I must have been guided by a divine hand because I cannot discern from where came the confidence and competence to carry the day. These occasions were turning points in my life on the way from there to here-some half-satisfaction with my fate. How much do I have to thank my companions on my road who taught me things I did not even know I was learning? How much do I have to thank those who received so little credit for the person I became, surely they deserve none of the blame? How much did I want to make it on my own-we never can.


Bear with me and share my wonder at the mystery of life. How complex is the interplay of forces, the web of life through which we scrabble around on our unsteady legs, diaphanous-appearing, but almost without light showing what our futures hold. If only we were fully-armed with knowledge of the implications of the choices we faced at our turning points. That is not to be. Fearful, but, hopefully, brave, we must leap out into the unknown, trusting to our better instincts. There is only the way forward; there is no going back in the time-space continuum within which we exist, given our current knowledge framework.


“Ya pays your money and ya takes your chance!”


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