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Max Roytenberg

Max Roytenberg: Letting It All Go?

By Max Roytenberg, November 2014,Vancouver, Canada





Are our lives like an onion, in essence? We issue from the earth, growing from the inherent spark of life within us, adding layers, substance, until we come to full flower. We add layers of capacity and capability as we go on. The aroma of our impact infects our environment, Then we have our period of presentation to the world, whatever we have become, whatever we have to offer. Sooner or later we begin to dry out, losing the juices of life we have accumulated as we dry out. If we have not been picked from the garden, our layers ossify and become hard. We shrink and shrink and the heart dies out of us, some parts returning to the earth and some parts blown away by the winds of time.




We have moved from one place to another several times in our lives. In the beginning we always took all our belongings with us, our impedimenta. That is a great Latin word, referring to the equipment that every Roman legion brought with them when they moved from place to place, at the behest of their Overlords. Later, as moves became more problematic, overtaken by indecision as to the future, or for lack of space in temporary harbours, many of us would rent a locker and store some of our goods. Often as not, these impedimenta would grow to become millstones around our necks, as we accumulated all the things we required for living in our new venues.




How could we let those stored things go? They were a part of us, a part of our history, of who, and what, we were, another layer of the onion we had become. Each piece we had lovingly stored, for future reunion, carried with it memories, nostalgia, significance, growing more valuable, as rushing time gilded it with the joy of past good times that may not have even existed.




And what if we tried to repatriate our impedimenta from the alcoves of our past. There was no place for them in the locations where we now lived. Every nook and cranny of our current existence had already been crammed with the things we needed, precious for the comfort and utility they added to our lives. How many things had we already discarded as we moved from place to place, shedding our belongings as a snake sheds skins, as we grew into the new creatures we were becoming? Now we had to sort through the stored thing in which we had already invested so much emotion. How could we let this, or that, go? It was like shedding layers of the onion we were while it was still alive, a painful rending of the flesh.




It really feels like that, as we examine the individual artefacts-this, somehow, to keep, this has to go. How painful are those choices. Woe to the partner who was the immediate cause for making these hard choices, whatever the rationale or the reality. Can there ever be forgiveness for such trauma? 



All this reminds me of all the stuff we have to discard as we go through our lives. I think of all the emotional stuff, the first impression that are so persistent, about the people we meet as we make our way. The grudges we form during the more difficult times of our growing up. What about the prejudices we may have found ingrained in our ways of thinking from the backgrounds that unconsciously formed our outlooks. Remember the hate and loathing we developed from the slights and injuries against us we have accumulated in our minds.




What about the crimes against those near and dear to us that we have witnessed, the rage that burns in us, dreaming for some future opportunity for revenge? Am I the only guy who harbours these dark thoughts? Could I write a book about this?




Our prejudices have become so precious to us, they are a part of who we are. How can I let some of that stuff go, even though most of the perpetrators of the wrongs I cherish are long gone? Can’t I blame their inheritors who still exhibit the same attitudes? The hordes go from strength to strength, undeterred by the tempering remonstrance’s of the well-intentioned. Even though I know the hate that roils my guts does me more harm than I can ever do those who are the object of my emotion, can I ever be rational about such things? Even though I know I can do little or nothing about such things, in spite of all the sage counsel, how can I accept the advice to let it all go? The multitudes, who will be affected, sleepwalk, as they have always done, until, perhaps, it will be too late. Will the ultimate reaction of awakening be violent?




The people who are a part of our lives, who are interested or care about us, can hardly appreciate what we are going through. The things that are so symbolic for us, are just so many things, or thoughts, that deserve to be thrown out with the trash. It is difficult to fault them for that, though we may do that very thing. Don’t you see, don’t you see, I say in my head, this where it all began, this is where we made the life you inherited? Don’t you see, don’t you see, what these things mean for you, for your children? How can you remain calm, objective and disinterested, in the face of all this? Shall I shake you until you begin to realize how important, how significant, all this is? Why am I trembling with rage and frustration at how ineffectual I am, at my inability to change the world?




Doesn’t my partner experience the same thing when I fail to appreciate the rage and despair she may feel when she has to surrender another precious artefact to the discard bin?



Did you really think I would leave you with a resolution of this issue? I can’t.


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