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 Shortage Of Monks

Mont La Salle Monastery, Mount Veeder, California, USA

Christmas Eve, December 24, 2018

"I do live in a monastery. My monastery is the whole world."
...   answering the question "Have you ever lived in a monastery?" 
"The cost to this generation is enormous. They are losing access to their humanity."
...    speaking with the New York Times about the numbing effects of digital technology on millennials 
"I realized something profound in the monastery: monks are ordinary people just like you and me, discovering ways to deal with Life and to be of service to Life, just like all ordinary people discover ways to deal with Life and to be of service to Life. Perhaps the only way monks and ordinary people differ, is in the kind of house they live in."
... Laurence Platt sharing his experience of celebrating Christmas eve with the brothers of Mont La Salle monastery, with  
This essay, A Shortage Of Monks, is the companion piece to I am indebted to the brothers of Mont La Salle monastery who inspired this conversation.

Consider this: people are more interested in Silicon Valley like a possibility, than a monastery. Maybe it's because of tech's glitz. Maybe it's because we're attracted by the idea of mega-wealth. Maybe it's because the nature of tech (ie because the machine it is)  has overtaken and all but obfuscated the grand adventure of discovering a way to live life as who we really are in service. At a monastery near my home, one of the few left in Napa Valley, the number of new inductees has plummeted.

Photography by Laurence Platt

3:14:15pm Sunday December 23, 2018 Mont La Salle Monastery, Mount Veeder, California, USA
The cost is enormous. Even those who don't migrate to Silicon Valley are likely to be swept up by tech. The plummeting number of new inductees into the monastery is simply an extension (no, a litmus indicator)  of that fact. This isn't so much a comment on a lower number of new inductees into monasteries (and it is that too) as much as it's a comment on how the true nature of tech sweeps over (ie sweeps away)  the essentially human endeavor of discovering a way to be who we really are, and to bring that to bear on our lives and on Life itself. We're indeed machines. Without the miracle of transformation, the nature of tech ensures we'll stay trapped that way.

There are two distinctions for each of us to discover, which herald the onset of transformation (the monks know them, even though they may couch them in different terms): as the context  in which the events of our lives occur, there's who we really are; as the guardian of the content  of our lives, there's our lizard brain, our thrown  behavior, our survival machinery - in a word, our mind. It's this which finds an abettor in tech, is aided by it, and is enhanced and extended by it.

Now, to assert tech has no redeeming features, is both naïve and absurd (ask any parent like me who's experienced the joy of being in close communication with their adult globe-trotting children via, say, WhatsApp). So who we really are (like a context) can hold tech. Here's the trouble: tech doesn't reciprocate. Given our propensity to be absorbed and distracted by it (see all good people looking down at their smartphone screens at dinner), it's costing us our access to our humanity.

Look (I really want you to be clear about this): it's not going to get any better. The nature of tech isn't going anywhere. It's not going to go away. That's the bad news. The good news is you and I possess within ourselves, at every  moment of our lives, under all  circumstances, the power to transform the quality of our lives. That's vintage Erhard. And it's yours for the taking, no matter what kind of house you live in, be it a castle, a mansion, a monastery, a Cowboy Cottage, a hovel, or a cave. Some people will get this; many won't ... or (speaking for the diminishing monastery inductees ie the shortage of monks) some will hear the calling; many won't.

Whatever terms we couch it in, discovering ways to be who we really are and deal with Life, and be of service to Life, is the only game in town worth playing. Really.

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