We seldom look back over the years of our lives and view them together as a comprehensive whole, but rather, most often, in retrospect, we see ourselves as having experienced a number of “turning points,” and while this terminology does address the sometimes “sudden” nature of what feels like pivotal moments of our lives, it seems to me that these moments are actually more accurately described as the “peaks of transitions.”
We are all on a journey through time. This is not a journey in the sense of the H.G. Wells novel, or the film, “Back to the Future,” but in the sense of a lifetime, or the time in which we live, or the time it takes to accomplish our goals or reach certain hallmarks. The journey is through time, and since the beginning of time, humans have contemplated the passage of time, looking for ways to make use of it, to master it, and to comprehend the meaning of our journey through it.
Throughout our daily lives, although through the night there can be a peculiar sense of time possible in our dreams, our days begin as we awaken, and through whatever routines and habits compose our days generally, we experience a continuum of mental and physical events. Many of these events go unnoticed, or slip quickly into the background of our day, but some days in particular are punctuated occasionally by more urgent or important events that soon become our memories of that day. Our days end at whatever time we relinquish waking consciousness, once again suspended as we enter dream-time.
Looking back over the past week, certain events stand out—the sluggish beginning on Monday morning due to a late night conversation on Sunday evening—the surprise visit on Tuesday by my daughter—the aching back that kept me awake on Wednesday night—the daunting effort to close out the workday on Thursday—and the preparation for this discussion after the house got quiet on Friday. In between all of these events, were innumerable others, each of which composed the transitions between the minutes, hours, and days of the week.
Looking back over the years, even larger gaps between events, and the avalanche of moments, hours, and days, all of this turned into the weeks and months, and then the totality of the years. All the while, as life progressed through these measurements of time, memories of potent experiences, endings and beginnings, and the relentless cycle of change and stability, composed the transitions between who we used to be, and the person we are constantly becoming.
When we do finally achieve even a moderate degree of longevity in life, and take the time to consider the passage of whatever time we have accumulated, this progression of all the transitions from where we were to where we are at that moment reveals certain “peaks,” sometimes described as “turning points,” which can range from the most subtle realization of change, to the stark realization that nothing will ever be the same again.
For me, there seems to have been many “peaks” which occurred in my youth and early stages of life, and with a fair amount of regularity. The early memory of life as a middle child—the loss of a beloved brother at age eight—the end of innocence as adolescence arrived—the first real torment of lost love in high school—the collapse of my relationship with my father during my tenure as a college student—my agony and successful completion of basic training in the Army—all of these “events” signaled a change in the direction of my life from the perspective of youthful innocence to the harsh realities of independence. Once established finally as a truly independent person, the stage was set for a stunning “peak experience,” which stands out even today as the one irrevocable and life-altering event. This most potent “turning point,” took place almost two years into my training in the military, and set me on a path that continues to this day.
In the autumn of 1973, I experienced what C. G. Jung described as “an eruption of unconscious contents” which led to the creation of a document entitled, “The Beginning, The Foundation, The Entrance. Although I did not fully recognize it as such at the time, I gradually came to view the experience as a pivotal event in my life, and I have spent much of the time since it occurred attempting to decipher its message. The bulk of the document’s contents remained poorly understood by me for many years afterwards, and only in recent years have I finally begun to comprehend it more fully and place it in perspective.
Reviewing the cryptic writing in this document has always been problematical for me, as doing so not only reminds me of how it came into existence, but of how much I have struggled since then to extract some kind of useful information from the stream-of-“unconsciousness.” Over the past twenty years or so, I have devoted every available temporal and mental resource to enhancing my understanding of the content of the original document, although the opportunities to do so have been far fewer than my own inclinations would have provided. My temporal life during this time, all too often, “pushed” active pursuit of my goals to “another day.” Forced to find ways of getting to the research, I resorted to recording my incremental progress and my relevant observations in a series of journals, which provided a consistent location where I could continue to work as time permitted.
Our individual lives, to some degree, are a mirror of the development of all life on this planet. Our beginnings are microscopic; our progression as a fetus has many of the features and developmental qualities of life forms that existed prior to our own species; our development from a child into adulthood is marked by sequential growth through physiological stages, levels of consciousness, accumulation of knowledge, and sophistication through experience. With only a little effort, one could draw many parallels from our individual development as a person, to that of our collective development from a primitive, upright mammal to modern Homo sapiens. I also feel strongly that the metaphor could be extended to the progressive development in sophistication of human consciousness, which in many ways is responsible for our continued survival as a species.
I recognized at this point that all I had endured, suffered, and learned prior to that day had created the foundation for all that was to come. If we arrive at such a moment reasonably intact, where we finally abandon our naïve notions of the world, leaving behind our childhood, we may then hopefully embark on a truly original individual human life.
The journey upon which I embarked as a result of the creation of this document had been in the making for twenty years. My arrival at that moment in time and every twist and turn and significant event of my life–every moment–was a preparation for that day. The foundation had been established for an extraordinary journey.
As my story developed, I began to see links from the writings that flowed from me to temporal events which transpired both in the past and in my immediate world. The story was being written long before I began writing it. I began to search for ways to explain the document within the body of the story. The document soon became an important story element.
For me, it has been a struggle to sift through the avalanche of chaos which surrounded my awakening to the existence of the stream. Since I was not given much latitude regarding spiritual matters as a young man, when it finally was possible to explore freely, it seems to have burst forth from me like a volcano. This past October, I suffered another potent life-changing transition, when I lost my dear older brother to brain cancer. Although life can consist of many potent losses, this most recent one shook me to my very roots. Although the immediate pain of loss has subsided, it has caused me to reflect like never before on all that has come before.
We are meant to understand our lives, not so much in what feels like the sudden “turning,” from one point to another, but in the longer view, which is punctuated by these “turning points.”