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Max Roytenberg

Max Roytenberg: Exposing The Nitty-Gritty

Max Roytenberg, Sept 2015. Vancouver, Canada




They say we all die alone, the human fate. I see it differently. The most fortunate will see it differently.


When I was a youngster, surveying the world around me, the place I inhabited, it was like a puzzle I was trying to unravel. Who were these people in the family in which I was planted? I had this sense that I had been dropped among them like a Cuckoo’s egg deposited in some random nest to be hatched. I left home for a year when I was eighteen. When I returned, my feeling of isolation was further enhanced. How could I relate to these members of my own family when they had not shared my growing-up experience? I was totally inarticulate, unable to translate the person I had become into  a language the people with whom I should have been closest would understand. What hope was there for achieving that with strangers?


We go forward in life, like the Argonauts of ancient Greece, into the unexplored, the unknown, girding our loins to confront the dangers we know that life will place before us. We all hope to overcome the challenges we will face, and achieve victory. We see ourselves as the heroes of the story of our lives. We are on our guard. We cannot know who is enemy and who is friend. Life demands that we keep in reserve all the strengths we have and hide all the weaknesses of which we are aware. The persona we present, whatever we feel inside, is the best weapon we can muster. This, we owe to ourselves, in confronting an unknown world in which we have, mysteriously, been cast, one fraught with danger. It is only good sense that we are full of secrets, and ingenious stratagems, to bend the forces before us to our will. How could we even contemplate showing our weaknesses to the people we will meet along our way?


Was, is, that a unique experience? Do, did, other people feel this way? No, it was not unique and, of course, they do! At the time, it was a mystery to me. We all have a secret internal life, don’t we? We, alone, know of our secret fears, and our silent, sometimes desperate aspirations, our failures and the small successes we hug to our chests. We know of the lies we tell others and ourselves. We have plots to spin to ensure we get our way to achieve our ambitions. We cannot hide our gross deception or our petty larcenies from ourselves. We know about those times when we have failed to live up to those principles by which we judge others, in order to achieve our objectives. 


Do we forgive ourselves, or do they weigh us down like millstones at the back of our minds, stuff that we avoid examining, much less confessing them to others? Do we yearn for a return to those times at our mother’s breast when we were not judged, just loved without reservation? Can we ever feel safe enough to expose the nitty-gritty of what we are, the secret We that forever keeps us separate from those around us? Is it only when we are in the lap of G-d, the All-knowing, that we can truly be what we are?

Every day I am alive I have a fresh new perspective on my life. I know I am like others. All of you out there have faced these things in yourselves from time to time. We toil away, our leavings that are so precious to us, adding to the heap of humus that is human existence. In one way or another, all of us feel that aloneness, that isolation inherent in our inability to share, to expose, all the ferment inside our minds. Some of that we yearn to share and some we, shamefacedly, hope to hide. I realize that I, O how fortunate I am, have achieved a kind of Nirvana. I have surrendered a need for an aspired self-image that I have to protect. Don’t get me wrong! I am still willing to lie to you out there. But I have found a person with whom I am prepared to expose all my nitty-gritty. It feels great. Now, I am never really alone.


If you can find someone you love unreservedly, someone that you believe can love you back, you’ve got it made. Like the Unknowable, they may judge you, even at times, harshly, but because the love they return, you know there is compassion for your failings, your weaknesses. You can then judge yourself even more harshly, and try harder to be your better self, because you know there is redemption in the love you bear for each other.


Imagine, if you can, the sense of liberation you may achieve, knowing that in at least in one place in this world, you can feel free to be totally open. There you feel safe enough to share what you are, the good and the bad. How many times in our past have we tested the waters, and failing to sense the environment we hoped for, have drawn back into our protective shell? It is there in the spontaneity that creeps out of you from time to time. I’m sure you know what I mean, and remember those times. It may have occurred within what was a permanent relationship, and you had to realize what it meant for your future. Sometime it meant you were just passing through, looking forward to a better time. Sometimes we make mistakes, don’t we? But while there is life, there is hope. I had to wait fifty-five years to achieve hope of Nirvana, and even after that, it took time to realize. Now, my Bride and I dwell in a unity that transcends both time and space.


How are things in your place?


Onward Argonauts!





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