Conversations For Transformation: Essays Inspired By The Ideas Of Werner Erhard

Conversations For Transformation

Essays By Laurence Platt

Inspired By The Ideas Of Werner Erhard

And More

A Galaxy Far, Far Away

Tamboerskloof, Cape Town, South Africa

November 7, 2006

This essay, A Galaxy Far, Far Away, is the companion piece to
  1. Sheikh Noorul Mubeen
  2. A Galaxy Far, Far Away Revisited
in that order.

It was written at the same time as

United States Of America Republic Of South Africa

There's the story of the chinese philosopher who sleeps dreaming he's a butterfly, then on waking asks himself if he's a butterfly dreaming he's a chinese philosopher.

I recently traveled to Cape Town, South Africa from San Francisco, California. Twenty seven years ago in 1979 I started Werner Erhard's work in South Africa. I went there, stayed a year, and over the course of that year, led the first series of ten guest seminars around the country in the major cities, causing the first one thousand enrollments in South Africa, inexorably starting Werner's work there.

As I contemplated the imminent journey (dare I say "the imminent journey back to the future?") before departing San Francisco for Cape Town, it seemed as if I was leaving for a galaxy far, far away. Yet upon arrival in Cape Town from San Francisco, it seemed as if I had come from  a galaxy far, far away.

Residing anywhere for a long time is ultimately like lying relaxing in a bath of warm water. After a while there's no sense of temperature at all. It's only when you move your body and the water moves around it that there's a sense of temperature again.

Likewise, residing anywhere for a long time without moving eventually cocoons us from a broader awareness of what's really going on in the world for everyone. Familiarity may not always breed contempt but sooner or later it will breed apathy and resignation.

I like living in the USA. When I lived in South Africa I liked living there too. Actually I like living wherever I'm living. "Wherever you go, there you are.". That's OK with me. I'm comfortable in my skin.

Each of those two galaxies, so far, far apart, has something to offer which unveils appreciation of the other. In the United States of America, the land of the free and the home of the brave, I'm often challenged when I wax lyrical how great the country is. I'm asked "How can you say this is a great country? Look what a bad job  the president is doing in Iraq.". And I'll say "You may be right about Iraq. You may be wrong. But what you don't get  is you're free to pursue any enterprise of your own choosing in these United States.". And they just look at me, puzzled. They've had that freedom for so long they take it for granted now. They have no clue what a privilege and a gift it is.

In South Africa, on the other hand, everyone is technically  free to pursue any enterprise of their own choosing, even more so now since the demise of apartheid. But what got me  when I visited old friends who still live in the ghettos, the shantytowns, the "locations" (as they are known there) which even years after apartheid ended are still the slums they always were, is the oft heard assertion "while we may be free now, the quality of life  was better under the apartheid regime".

The quality of life was better under the apartheid regime? Say what? I could hardly conjure up a more damning indictment of people not having their pictures fitted or not having their expectations met even if my own life depended on it.

Transformation, it appears, is a bridge like a possibility  which spans all people, all cultures, and all countries.

In the absence of transformation in the United States, for example, we wage war as a perceived solution to a problem. Yet if we look and tell the truth about it unflinchingly, not only is the problem not solved: it's actually exacerbated. And in so doing we spend (translation: waste) more hard earned taxpayers' (translation: you and I) money in Iraq than it would take to

1)  house, clothe, feed, and financially start every homeless person,
2)  provide inexpensive health care for all,
3)  ensure every child has access to a fully funded world class education

in our own  country.

In the absence of transformation in South Africa, the possibility of freedom  is corrupted, its promise never fully realized, its working distinctions lost amid unfulfilled expectations and pictures of life that can never fit. In the wake of the demise of apartheid, it's painfully clear the implicit promise of one man, one farm, one cow  never materialized. What materialized instead are the world's highest per capita  statistics for HIV/AIDS, violence, murder, robbery, mugging, carjacking, rape, child  rape, physical abuse of women, homelessness, lawlessness, and joblessness, to mention but a poignant few.

I'm not saying I have answers to any of these issues. In all likelihood, wise men in both countries will debate and discuss answers to them now and for many years to come. What I'm secondarily saying, however, is that without transformation and its base foundation of integrity, nothing really works. And what I'm primarily  saying is the reason we haven't gotten good answers to these issues yet is we haven't yet started asking powerful questions grounded in who we really are like a possibility.

In a galaxy far, far away is the possibility of transformation, alive and real for all people everywhere. And even saying it that way implies a paradox because the possibility of transformation isn't somewhere  or someday. It's here  and it's now. To quote Hugh Romney aka Wavy Gravy  of Woodstock: "There's always a bit of Heaven in a disaster area.".

That's why, even though the war in Iraq doesn't work, neither does it work to make it wrong. That only reinforces the opposing point of view and doesn't create a climate for transformation. That's why, even though post-apartheid South Africa has arguably traded one unworkable method of governing for another equally unworkable method, it doesn't work to make that one wrong either.

* * *

I won't wrap this up nicely in a box, gift wrapped with a cute ribbon and a bow. Instead I'm going to leave it open, raw, and full of holes. I will, however, leave a card with it. On the card is a question. And the question is:

What's the possibility of transformation in your  galaxy?

Republic Of South Africa United States Of America

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