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Max Roytenberg

Max Roytenberg: Preparing For Take-off

Max Roytenberg, April, 2016, Vancouver, Canada




I recently watched a program broadcast from the UK that told of a new initiative, the bringing together of six individuals who were all facing the verdict of terminal illness. They were to come together four times over the period of a year, with the presence of counsellors, to explore the benefits of mutual support, as their deteriorating individual circumstance brought them toward what appeared to be their inevitable end. Their individual agonies were displayed for us on the screen. They worked through, in living colour, the pain of facing the unknown, leaving loved partners and young children, facing disintegrating personal relationships with close friends, lovers, husbands, facing the starkness of being totally alone in these circumstances with no human liaison.


What to do? Shall we drink wine and make merry while we can? Tick off items on our bucket list? Shall we spend our time exploring the infinite within ourselves in preparation for the world to come? Shall we urge our partners on their way to find a new partner we can vet them to make sure our children will be well cared for after we are gone? Are we that selfless? Shall we deal with the reality that some partners are now eager to find new environments more conducive to future comfort? What of the pain and suffering to come? Await the inevitable passively, or take action to eliminate that prospect?


Having reached the venerable age of four-score and counting, it has occurred to us that we, ourselves, are in a position not too far different than that portrayed. Of course, we are more fortunate, because our sentence has not yet been announced. But, it will arrive. We know our futures are indeterminate like these people. Like them, we face the prospect of painful breakdowns in elements of our physical and mental apparati. It surely goes with the territory. We are in a committed loving relationship. On the other hand, we are reluctant to face the prospect of living on, one without the other, after having found each other after so many years of life in less pleasant circumstances. We are conscious of the fragility our paradise, our magical present.


Shall we cast caution to the winds, live only for the moment? We knowingly treasure our moments together with a heightened sense of the winds of time rushing past our ears. We seek to follow our impulses more, giving ourselves a delicious margin of error, without the indulgence of excess. We seek to consume our intakes wisely and task our bodies in ways that might encourage a continued efficient functioning. We draw closer to our loved ones and treasure the relationships we have found most fulfilling over time. We have less patience with obligations undertaken out of a sense of political correctness, that steal our time from what we deem a more rewarding use of our fleeting moments. We do consider whether there are places we wish to see, and things we wish to do, while we still have the energy and enthusiasm to appreciate them, and we elaborate some plans. We ponder the conservation of our resources to ensure our continuing freedom of action.


Above all we concentrate on investing our time in actions more likely to yield the most laughter and joy. We will be stern masters of this portfolio of investments. Children and grandchildren, old friends and new friends, are valued very highly for the dividends they pay. Pleasure delivered to the eye and ear, a building, a street, a piece of music, the sight of a delicious meal we will taste sparingly, an article of clothing treasured for the memories it invokes, a photo of a bygone time, the remembrance of a person, some things that bring a tear. Out of our joy, we feel empathy for those less fortunate, praying that sweet memories retained provide some comfort. We thrill at the wonders of our natural world, resplendent around us, drink it all in.  We breathe deeply of what we can, with an almost feverish intensity.


We are not too proud to spread our bets around on the roulette wheel of life. We contemplate the divine, the comfort of a soft landing in the arms of a caring, compassionate G-d. We argue for an inside track, negotiate for a dispensation, the washing away of our failings, calling on the good will in the bank for the sake of the Patriarchs and the Matriarchs. We will cite the devotion and sacrifices of our co-religionists. We will point to the deep well of our good intentions and our small efforts to repair the world. We recognize that these latter are puny in the face of our transgressions, but we call forth the potentials of our children and grandchildren to help balance our accounts.


We are armed with optimism in the face of the unknown, the Unknowable. We may sometimes have a weakness of faith-perhaps yes, perhaps no-but we believe in Life. We believe in the conservation of energy, that the spark of life is eternal, that it may change its form but never ceases to be. We throw our arms around each other every day in a rapture of joy. “Our cup runneth over!” We know that whatever may be our ultimate fates, we have been blessed beyond all measure, having found each other before it was too late.


You out there, it is never too late! What you are seeking may be just around the corner, as it was for us at age seventy. Follow your dream!


We are content with our good fortune. We believe we are ready for take-off, ready for our flight, whenever that time may come!


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