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Tuesday, November 13, 2007

That Watershed Moment


It’s well nigh impossible to assess the true character of a human heart...even one’s own. We use words (Oh, so many words!) to describe our selves, our wants, desires, ideals (and imperfections) to others. We go through life “self-characterized”, for the most part.
The face we reveal to the world is the face we primp and preen to present.

Words are our cosmetics.

I don’t really have a problem with that. I believe most of us want to embody our ideals. I believe we humans, for the most part, want to live peaceful, loving, noble lives. We certainly tell ourselves that, often enough. We assure others we are peaceful, honest, loving and noble people.

Then comes that “Watershed Moment.”

Wa-ter-shed (noun): 3. turning point
An important period, time, event, or factor that marks a change or division.


Ah, yes, the “Watershed Moment.”

One never knows when that watershed moment will come. One never knows if there will be just one...or many. One can never know one’s future. I’m pretty certain, though, that we will all face at least one true watershed moment in our lifetimes.

It’s easy to be virtuous, when virtue isn’t challenged. It’s easy to be faithful when faith is simply an abstraction. It’s easy to be chaste, when no one’s there to tempt us. It’s easy to sacrifice...when that’s your only option. We believe we are who we say we are...and all is fine and good...until that fateful watershed moment.

A watershed moment demands a decision, compels action.
A watershed moment can’t be bypassed or sugarcoated with words.
A watershed moment demands that we reveal our true selves...our essence.

Do I forsake integrity for money (power, sex, whatever)? Do I tend to the needy parent, or tend to my own life? Do I stay or do I go? Do I take responsibility? Do I not?

Oh, those watershed moments! They come without warning. They come when least expected. They ambush us when we are ill-prepared.

A man impregnates a woman. What to do? A hand reaches out for succor or mercy. What to do? Ambition conflicts with another’s dreams. What to do? The vow that’s now crushing you. What to do?

What to do?

In that watershed moment, in the blink of an eye, we reveal our true character. From that moment on, from that decision forward, we are who we demonstrated ourselves to be. From that point on, words no longer define us.

When all is said and done...we are what we do.


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And for those who found your way to this entry searching for a definition of "watershed moment" you can find my answer here.

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21 Comments:

Blogger someGirl said...

i...i...this is perfection.

how did you know to write about all my current struggles??

Jonas, thank you.

Tue Nov 13, 09:21:00 PM  
Blogger Jonas said...

Namaste*, somegirl.

* "The god in me bows before the god in you"

Tue Nov 13, 09:40:00 PM  
Blogger flutter said...

we are only what we do, and hopefully it all coincides with what we say.

Tue Nov 13, 09:50:00 PM  
Blogger Jonas said...

One can only hope, flutter.

Tue Nov 13, 09:58:00 PM  
Anonymous Roads said...

You write true words indeed, Jonas.

This conversation we're having has made me think this morning of one of Nick Hornby's books - called 'How to be Good'.

It tells the tale of a somewhat unpleasant north London man who suddenly realises that he must do more to help society.

Eventually, through his charitable initiative, the family home is somewhat inconvenienced by the lengthy stay of a vagrant, and he has to make some choices.

The book explores the limits of our ability to put off those watershed moments, our ability to act correctly within them, as well as our capability (and partial inability) to make a difference in the world around us.

Perhaps it's not Nick Hornby's best (High Fidelity is my clear favourite, followed by the soccer fan sufferings of Fever Pitch) but the theme he develops is a fascinating one.

As indeed is yours.

Wed Nov 14, 07:39:00 AM  
Blogger deb said...

You sound down. We all have watershed moments, times when we are forced to make difficult decisions and the only thing we can do is to make the best decision we can, at that time.

The past is the past. We can't undo it, can't change it, it's done. We can however learn from it and our mistakes and move forward.

I just finished reading a book that you might enjoy, entitled, "The Middle Passage" by James Hollis. It's about middle age and although it's difficult to read, was for me anyway, it's worth it.

Take care of yourself and I'm sending a hug.

Wed Nov 14, 08:54:00 AM  
Blogger Jonas said...

Hey, Roads, I always get something good from your "value-added" commentary. I'll have to pick up Hornby's book. High Fidelity has long been a personal favorite (both the novel and the film).

Wed Nov 14, 09:44:00 AM  
Blogger Jonas said...

No worries, Deb. Although I'm not one to refuse a hug for any reason, I'm not particularly down. (I've been really sick of late, though).

I've been pondering the import of watershed moments for decades. The thoughts expressed cover wide territory, from my own decisions, the decisions of others, to the unethical behavior I've witnessed in business and politics.

I hope I can get to Hollis' book. No doubt it makes for difficult reading. I've found middle age to be difficult in the doing!

Wed Nov 14, 09:50:00 AM  
Blogger anna said...

Indeed, what to do?

Wed Nov 14, 01:42:00 PM  
Blogger Jonas said...

"Indeed, what to do?"

Yeah. That's where the human being owner's manual falls woefully short. No one warned us that life can throw a whole lot of curveballs. No one's got all the answers.

We kinda have to find our own way.

Wed Nov 14, 04:27:00 PM  
Blogger Jay said...

I don't know if you've ever read any of Jiddu Krishnamurti writings, but here's a quote by him I stumbled upon again.

"You must understand the whole of life, not just one little part of it. That is why you must read, that is why you must look at the skies, that is why you must sing and dance, and write poems and suffer and understand, for all that is life."

I don't know if that helps, but perhaps gets you to thinking. I believe that is what all great quotes are for. A springboard to our own great thoughts.

Wed Nov 14, 04:53:00 PM  
Blogger Jonas said...

Ah, yes. Quotations truly are powerful juju. I used to keep a blue, spiral-bound notebook with hand-written quotations I'd stumble upon in my readings. Over time, that little book became completely filled with...wisdom. I read it almost daily. It was my personal breviary, if you will. I used it to remind myself what it means to be human, what it means to live. Somewhere along the way, I lost that book. Sigh. I remember all the lessons, though. I've embodied as many as I could muster.

Wed Nov 14, 09:01:00 PM  
Blogger Bernice said...

Another nudge for How to be Good--funnier yet deeper than High Fidelity, and more our, um, demographic. One of my favorite passages is when the narrator is struggling with whether we are defined by the whole of our lives or by our best or worst moments.

Thu Nov 15, 11:29:00 AM  
Blogger Twilight said...

Those mements could also be called "Two roads moments", Jonas.

"I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference"

(Last verse of "The Road Not Taken" by Robert Frost)

We never can be sure though whether that other road would have led to a peaceful meadow or a smelly swamp, and whether having taken it we would have been perceived by others as noble, clever, cowardly or dumb. It doesn't really matter though, does it? We alone choose a road and we alone deal with the pot-holes and obstacles and perhaps regrets that we encounter.

I think perhaps what one choses to do at these water-shed times reflects an instinctive knowing that one needs to learn something, so proceeds accordingly.

Thu Nov 15, 05:37:00 PM  
Blogger Jonas said...

Hoo Boy - funnier than High Fidelity? Now I've got to read the book. Thanks, Bernice!

Thu Nov 15, 08:01:00 PM  
Blogger Jonas said...

Interesting thoughts, Ms. Twilight. I must mull a while...

Thu Nov 15, 08:03:00 PM  
Blogger Laurie said...

It’s easy to be virtuous, when virtue isn’t challenged. It’s easy to be faithful when faith is simply an abstraction. It’s easy to be chaste, when no one’s there to tempt us. It’s easy to sacrifice...when that’s your only option. We believe we are who we say we are...and all is fine and good...until that fateful watershed moment.

Jonas, of all those beautiful words on this post--these are the most profound to me.

Thu Nov 15, 11:40:00 PM  
Blogger Snowqueen said...

Oh my God ... this is one of the most moving, and challenging posts I have ever read on a blog. Snowqueen bows to your gentle wisdom. When watershed moments happen to me, sometimes to say 'no' is harder than to say 'yes'. And sometimes, whatever action I take, I still have to make peace with that decision. The profanity of life is not about living with what we have done, but also what we have failed to do. As a Catholic, the prayer known as the Penitential Rite (or rite of the penitent) has the lines: "I confess to almighty God, and to you, my brothers and sisters, that I have sinned through my own fault, in my thoughts and in my words,in what I have done, and in what I have failed to do..." Sometimes when I go back to my roots in Catholicism, and I am not an overtly religious person, I sometimes find some answers. Not that your post is necessarily about sin, but the line:"and in what I have failed to do" speaks to me. Incidently, a wonderful theologian once explained to me that the definition of sin is simply 'A failure to love" nothing more, nothing less. And I have found no better definition of sin than that. A failure to love ourselves, others or God (if one is a believer)...sorry to have written so much and to have hijacked your blog Jonas. Her Highness now retreats with dignity and grace!!!!!

Fri Nov 16, 04:23:00 AM  
Anonymous Roads said...

It's the nerdy geologist in me speaking now, but I guess that you must be quite close to the topographical watershed there in Chicago.

Some way not far to the west of you, streams will drain southwards into the Mississippi and Missouri systems, to the Gulf of Mexico.

Whereas the Chicago River drains into Lake Michigan, and thence the St Lawrence, and from there into the Atlantic.

Somewhere in between, there must be a line where water droplets have to make their mind up whether their travel plans include the Grand Banks or the Caribbean.

It's a long journey, either way.

Not sure that will help your dilemma in this case, though.

Mon Nov 19, 06:36:00 AM  
Blogger Jonas said...

Thank you, Laurie. That's mighty fine praise you've heaped on me. I hope I am ultimately found worthy.

Highjack my blog all you want, Your Majesty. Your thoughts mirror mine in many ways, and give me food for thought, as well.

Ah, Brother Roads, let's indulge in a bit of geologic/hydrogeologic wonkishness, shall we?

The grandeur of Creation enthralls! The Mississippi River Basin is such that all my tears flow into the Gulf of Mexico. The watershed boudary is far to the west, near the mountains. And the Chicago River? We reversed the flow of that river a century ago. Yep. It, too flows to the Mississippi. Nature and Man and watersheds for each!

Someday, I'll have to blog about my trip on a grain barge from Duluth to New Orleans. Quite an experience that. The Mighty Mississippi is a majestic, living, spiritual thing.

Tue Nov 20, 09:10:00 AM  
Blogger A. J. Graham said...

Nice blog here, Jonas, a good degree of wisdom.

Sat Nov 15, 11:56:00 AM  

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