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Max Roytenberg: Running in the Human Race

Max Roytenberg, written October, 2014. Vancouver, Canada., posted March 15, 2015






I am still running in this race, as are all of us who struggle to stay alive. To those of us who us who are older, it seems to take much of our strength to stay in the game, to show up every morning to run the course.  It appeared easier to run this race when we were younger, full of the energy of youth. But this cannot be. We have forgotten what it was like when we were finding ourselves, discovering who we were, who we were going to be. Surely, that was a struggle, even if it was a different one from the struggle we face as older people, to make our appearance on the playing field every day.


There are mysterious things about this race. Who are the winners? What does winning mean? That is a question to ponder. I could write a whole book about that. Is it an advantage to start the run sooner or later? I can see the argument on both sides. Early on it may be an advantage, but the rewards are not necessarily to those who arrive sooner at the race’s end, nor to the swifter. Maybe it is more like a relay race, in a family sense. And what about the pleasures and pains of the journey? Lots to think about.


I have a grandson, more than one, in fact. All of them are fully engaged in finding their way in the foot race in which all of us who come alive on this planet, are engaged. As are my grand-daughters. Seeing the challenges they face, the stories they tell me about what they are doing and what they are planning, bring me back to my memories of my beginnings. I see how competitive is the world they are inhabiting. I see how some of them are so conscious that their every move, every decision that they make, every thing that they do, right or wrong, is recorded, and will affect the future of their possibilities. In this kind of environment, these children in their mid-teens and early twenties, are struggling with the perspectives we did not awake to until we were ten or fifteen years older. How about that kind of pressure!


I think of the path I have followed-growing up in Winnipeg, moving away to make my fortune, seeking to put my own personal mark on the journey I was taking. I was so determined that I had to be the only architect of the life I was building. How foolish was I, not to be a seeker after advice? I threw myself recklessly into that life, confident that, come what may, I could overcome any obstacle to my desires that might appear in my path. I never worried about missteps. I never worried about making wrong decisions. My life was a tabula rasa, a blank slate to be shaped as I wished. I was wrong , of course.. Of course, what my grandsons think is right. Every decision we make in those days of our beginnings cannot fail to have a dramatic impact on our future possibilities.


I am not complaining. I have had a glorious life. I may not have realized all the potentialities, I have not conquered like an Alexander, created language like a Shakespeare, envisaged shapes like a Moore, painted visions like a Picasso. But, like most of us, I have delivered some blessings for my fellow human beings, and I am content. I have seen the high mountains of America, Europe and Africa, and their beautiful valleys. The mighty waters of Canada and Brazil have roared before my eyes, and into my ears. I have had a good share of the delightful places and times the world has to offer. And I have gained the chance to spend some of my life with woman of my dreams.


On my travels, during the race I have run, I have learned how fortunate we are in our developed societies, and what real misery is. I know what the view from Dublin is like, and  have witnessed the view from New York, Washington, London, Paris and Rome, from Johannesburg and Capetown, Hong Kong, Singapore and Sydney, Khartoum and Cairo, Vientiane and Bangkok, Dakar and Ougadougou, Buenos Aires, and one of my favourites, Rio de Janeiro, among the places I have lived in and visited. But, like many of us, I did not make the most of my potentialities as a consequence of my life decisions. I find it interesting that some of the new generations seek to do better in this respect, in the changed world in which we live.


Today, I heard Neil Young say, (he was being interviewed by Charlie Rose on television,) that our pasts are like an overcoat. When we put it on, it tells the world who we are. Or were! The world chooses to see us as we appear wearing the overcoat of our pasts. Sometimes, we wish we could shed our pasts and take a new direction. I’ll tell you a secret. We don’t have to wear our pasts. We can be new people any day we choose to. The past we wear like an overcoat, that we have the choice of shedding, can better inform the new choices that we would like to make. But, it does not have to limit the people we are today.


Today, I am not the economist that I was, the manager of people that I was, the public relations speaker and writer that I was, the researcher and marketing consultant that I was, real estate broker, financial advisor, the whatever, I had to be. Today, now, in beautiful Vancouver, I write stories and poetry. I play with clay until the faces jump out at me. Today, I try to be a better husband, a better friend, a better parent, some things, perhaps, lacking quality in my past. I am still running the race-it is sometimes a little tiring, and I exercise to build my stamina-and I hope to run it well, right to the end.

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