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Alea Jacta Est - Point of No Return

Posted May 22 2009 11:55pm

Julius Caesar Photo Credit
Dedicated to IM con mucho cariño.

Alea jacta est basically means the point of no return. The phrase is attributed to Julius Caesar when he was crossing the River Rubicon in defiance of the Roman Senate.

We apply the PNR, or point of no return, to many other instances in our modern world, in particular, in aviation, when a plane has reached the point at which it may no longer return to its point of origin – as Caesar could no longer undo what he had done by beginning his march across the Rubicon – and hence must continue on, no matter what the outcome.
When you must continue, no matter what the outcome, it means that at least for a short period of time you have no choice - at least until the new outcome can be glimpsed - with regards to the continuation of the path you are on. For a period of time you are riding a wave - for good or bad - until the outcome of the wave is discerned, and only then can you once again choose how the next steps will go.
This is neither good nor bad - it simply is. And once we understand that, we can let the momentum carry us forward, letting go for a time, of all that we carry with us, and then plunge back into thought and action again.

Today’s post about alea jacta est, or the point of no return has come about because I was just reminded of this phrase by someone in my family, and it made me think about how it applies to so many moments in our lives, such as when

  • The contractions of a birth have begun
  • You’ve plunged a syringe of heroin into your arm
  • An unkind word you had just been thinking about, has now actually been uttered
  • You stand before your committee in order to defend your doctoral dissertation
  • You stand before an audience of 250 to give your first speech
  • You sign the mortgage for your first home
  • You tell a lie
  • You say I love you to someone for the first time

These examples may form part of people’s lives and we don’t generally think about them as being a point of no return…

But what about when you do or say something definitive in a relationship you want to end, in such a way that there is no going back? That is absolutely a point of no return. Something will never be the same.

And what about when Nelson Mandela was carted off to Robben Island as prisoner of the Apartheid Government of South Africa? That is absolutely a point of no return. Something will never be the same.

And what about when you have been diagnosed with cancer, you’ve had chemotherapy, and now you are being wheeled in for a major operation in order to rid your body of the offending cells? That is absolutely a point of no return. Something will never be the same.

And what about when you have worked for something to come into being, or to begin to give fruit, and it finally shows the very first tender indications that it is indeed coming into being? That is absolutely a point of no return. Something will never be the same.

And where something will never be the same, something new is born – or, at least if it is not born, a space has been created for something new to be born­ – and that is the purpose of today’s post, to encourage you to look on the positive side of the point of no return – no matter what the actual event is - in order to realize that there is always a new chapter on the other side of it. What you make of it, and how you write it, is obviously up to you. But be aware of the fact that things are not always what they seem. Just look at the Nelson Mandela example to understand the veracity of that statement.

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