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Max Roytenberg

Max Roytenberg: Getting Along

Max Roytenberg, March, 2016, Vancouver, Canada


Life is disconcerting. We follow its paths, one foot in front of the other, doing what seems to be the right thing to do as we go along. We crave an orderly life, one in which the essentials do not change much, one we are reasonably comfortable with. Or often, one we are able to put up with. We do what we are expected to do, what we expect ourselves to do, to just get along. When our frame of reference alters, and important things change, it can bring us up short. It can be disorienting. We struggle to find our footing, our accepted sense of our place in the universe, begin to question things we have always taken for granted. We may ask ourselves why we accepted the ‘status quo ante’ for so long, did those things just to get along? Just to avoid upsetting our partner, the family, the neighbors? What was that about?


I know someone who went along for fifty years before he reached out to get what he really wanted. He wasn’t ready to rock the boat. He waited until he felt he was free to meet his real needs without doing injury to others. I know of another who waited even longer. She accepted a kind of half-life for many years to just get along. Often, it requires that pivotal change in our environments to liberate us. Don’t we, sometimes, envy those who are ready to break all the idols in search of what they believe really meets their deepest wishes, their hidden needs? No matter if some other people get hurt in the process? Popular opinion is that we should suffer in silence and get on with it. Don’t we judge those people who strike out at the status quo to meet their personal needs? Don’t we regard them as selfish and self-centered? Not people we like? People who dared do things we did not dare to do?


The need we have to conform, to get along, to do the conventional, is a powerful force. It often underpins the stability we rely on in our societies, the hunger we have for order. So we sometimes punish those who don’t put their priority on getting along in many different ways. Guess what? Our western society is turning what this means to us topsy-turvy.


We know that important changes in our societies can be disruptive. But, now, we often celebrate those who question the icons, who break the rules, in order to usher in new realities of living, to have us embrace new standards of behaviour.  New norms of the acceptable are being created every day. Although, we see that same resistance, that same abhorrence to change, and we see lots of people getting hurt, we are more accepting of the need for this. Nevertheless, we sometimes feel like saying, stop the world, I want to get off!


Each year we transfer our place of living to the sunny south to avoid some of the bad weather Canadians take for granted. Didn’t happen when we were young, but now we embrace it and accept the process. Travel for extended periods are a shock to the system, requiring changes in norms of behavior and a jambalaya of new/old faces. Our invisible ties with people, palpable in our minds, we try to keep green and juicy with the lubrication of human contact and proximity. We hope they won’t attenuate as our brown skins fade to pale after we have gone. And we count on revivifying our ties with those we are leaving at home, when we return. 


We know we face altering codes of behavior when we travel from place to place. I get that! I feel that I am able to cope with that. More serious to me than all this, these days, are the shocks I am feeling from technological change. How do I get along with that? Some time back I gave up my Smartphone. It just seemed like too much for me to cope with. Now, increasingly, I find whatever the environment I am in, these devices are becoming the foundation-stone of getting along. 


Instead of just mouth to ear, every day there is some new service being incorporated into the functioning of that device. Controlling elements of your home, including security, is already a fact. Yesterday I heard that ATM’s as well as bank branches will ultimately be made obsolete by banking through your phone. Talk is that you will control your car through your phone, the GPS is already there. Eliminating the verbal, transmitting data, using it to photograph documents, people, your surroundings, events, is already standard practice, the evidence quickly splashed across Facebook.

I thought, when I learned to operate a computer, I had it made. Now, the Smartphone is the new computer, and I gave mine away. How am I going to get along without knowing how to use one? Better still, what do I do when the Smartphone itself becomes a virtual device operated in thin air on one’s arm? Hey, this is serious! Got to get me one of those or it’s me for the bone yard.


Whoa Nelly! I am wondering what to do next to just get along!                                                                                               




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