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 Legacy Worth Leaving

Sterling Vineyards, Calistoga, California, USA

October 22, 2018

"Life is a gamble at terrible odds - if it were a bet, you wouldn't take it." ... Tom Stoppard

This essay, A Legacy Worth Leaving, is the companion piece to
  1. The Only Game In Town
  2. Transformation: The Life And Legacy Of Werner Erhard
in that order.

I am indebted to Barbara "Bobbie" Ractliffe Fairhead Coetzee who inspired this conversation.

By the time I'd reached my teen years, I'd figured out (in the way that as teens, we figure everything out - or at least try to) that I would be spending the rest of my life "getting my act together". That's the way I said it back then, so I'm re-creating it that way now quite deliberately. That's what there was to get (or so I assumed). That's the way the future occurred for me then.

Today, "getting your act together" is an out-dated colloquialism. For starters, we've imposed a lot more rigor on how we define our "act" today. It's no longer what was once loosely implied in "get your act together". That said, once I (quote unquote) got my act together (which was the precursor to "once I made my life work"), two things became obvious: one, doing so was a lot less difficult than it once seemed it would be; and two, it was accompanied by the sudden, glaring, shocking  realization "Now that I've gotten my act together ie now that I've made my life work, is this all there is?".

At about the same time as I realized, dumbfounded, "Wow! If this is all there is, it's just  ... not  ... worth  ... all the effort", an even more galling observation arose: "Aside from a few shared affections along the way, does my having gotten my act together make any god-damned difference at all?"  - which roughly translates to the almost impossible to get my head around  "Will my having lived and died, matter?", the answer to which was the even more dumbfounding: "Dude, are you serious?  You matter not a whit! You're not merely insignificant: you're less  than insignificant.". Listen: I want you to get that like a fact, not like some kind of Self-degradation.

How Significant Is Less Than Insignificant?

There's something to bear in mind whenever you make things significant. "Whenever I make what  things significant, Laurence?" you may ask. It doesn't matter. Anything. Everything. We're always making something  significant, yes? We're significance-making-machines. So bear this in mind the next time you're making anything  significant:

A billion  is a thousand million ie 1,000,000,000 ie a one followed by nine zeroes. A trillion  is a million million ie 1,000,000,000,000 ie a one followed by twelve zeroes. There are one hundred billion  stars in our galaxy ie 100,000,000,000 ie a one followed by eleven zeroes. Coincidentally there are also one hundred billion galaxies in the universe.

If each of the one hundred billion galaxies have one hundred billion stars (which, on average, is quite likely), then the number of stars in the universe is ten billion trillion  ie 10,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 ie a one followed by twenty two zeroes.

And now listen very carefully (I really want you to get this): you and I live on one tiny little planet orbiting just one  ... of those ten ... billion ... trillion  ... stars.

That means we're not merely insignificant, because if I said we're in-significant, I would be implying we've still got a teensy weensy  bit of significance - although not much. No, what's true instead is we're not significant at all.

Still not convinced? Try this on for size: with a little imagination, you're atop a giant Saturn V  rocket approaching the moon. It's the Apollo 8 mission. You're looking back at our fragile planet Earth with your right arm outstretched and your right thumb raised - in other words, you're giving planet Earth the thumbs up  (if you will). From this distance, Earth is covered by and disappears completely behind your raised thumbnail. All of history, every work of art that's ever been created, every man, woman, and child who's ever lived and died, and every detail of each of every single human being's lives, can be completely hidden behind your raised thumbnail (as astronaut Jim Lovell may have said). It's a simple shift in perspective illustrating and underlining nothing  is significant.

Choose Your Legacy Carefully, Precisely

Here's where it's so easy to get stuck: if you make it mean something  that you're less than insignificant, you're likely to get stuck. If you're less than insignificant, and you add to that (borrowing from existentialism) that it's all empty and meaningless, the sludge of rising ennui  is enough to completely suffocate your life. No kidding!

Existentialism gets you to, then stops and leaves you at "Life is empty and meaningless.". It's true: Life is  empty and meaningless (but that's another conversation for another occasion). Transformation however, goes beyond existentialism. There's an enormous  freedom listening Werner, front and center, speaking "Life is empty and meaningless, and it's empty and meaningless that it's empty and meaningless", echoing existentialism, then piercing through to the empty space / future  well beyond it. And listen: don't make it mean  something that Life is empty and meaningless. Making it mean something that Life is empty and meaningless is more arrogance.

I can choose to live a life which leaves a legacy of my own creation. So what is  a legacy that's worth leaving, given that it's empty and meaningless, and given that it's empty and meaningless that it's empty and meaningless, and given that we're less than insignificant? You have to engage in that inquiry to come up with what fits for you and your life. What I've come up with personally is that a legacy worth leaving is the access to living a great life which doesn't depend on the circumstances.

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© Laurence Platt - 2018 Permission