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

Beach Gone!

Diamond Oaks, Oakville, California, USA

March 4, 2008

This essay, Beach Gone!, is the companion piece to Flood!.

I am indebted to the Chief's communicator who inspired this conversation.

When a river engulfs a beach on miles of seashore, it's like the canary eating the cat: it's not supposed  to happen. But land does get taken by water. Just ask the residents of Banda Aceh: the tsunami wasn't supposed to happen. When the Keurbooms River took Lookout Beach, one of my  beaches, that wasn't supposed to happen either.

Lay your mouse on Lookout Beach
Photograph courtesy Google Earth
Lookout Beach, Plettenberg Bay, Eastern Cape, South Africa prior December 2007

In the United States students crowd into Daytona Beach Florida for the spring break. In South Africa where I was a student, there wasn't a "spring break" per se. We had the summer holiday.

Lookout Beach in Plettenberg Bay South Africa was the  place to be for the summer holiday.

The high school through college years are the most intense study years for young people. When each academic year ended, a completely new opportunity awaited: freedom. In retrospect and at first glance, it's easy to see what made those summer holidays so great. After the long cloistered hours of intense study was over, the suddenly unfettered freedom of the holidays was the eagerly anticipated reward.

It certainly looked that way. Actually it's more than that: for all intents and purposes, without question it was  that way. Freedom was something that happened to us. When the academic year ended, we simply dived into freedom, so to speak. Freedom was out there, and what we did was get ourselves there (wherever there  was - in this case evidently it was on Lookout Beach) and immerse ourselves in it as if we were, in an appropriate metaphor, diving into the ocean.

Listening As Access To Possibility

Popular music has always provided the soundtrack for my life. Once any particular chapter of my life is complete, years later when I hear the music which ruled the charts  back in the day, I'm drawn by association right back  into the experience I was having at the time I first heard the music.

Music by The Beatles - Photography by Iain MacMillan Music by The Beatles - Photography by Iain MacMillan
The Beatles Abbey Road
The soundtrack of my life during the first halcyon summer holiday at Lookout Beach Plettenberg Bay was hands down unquestionably no doubt about it The Beatles Abbey Road. It was, after the breakthrough Sergeant Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, their second concept  album in which breaks between tracks and sides were completely arbitrary and basically non-existent. It was one seamless whole.

As a monastery  in which to discover who you really are, there's nothing quite like music. In Plettenberg Bay I listened to Abbey Road, as did everyone else. It was the soundtrack of their lives too. But later, much much later, I came to appreciate, by realizing what I didn't  do, I hadn't ever  listened to Abbey Road. I came to see I hadn't listened to anything else, for that matter, either. What I did do by default, rather, was hear.

The distinction is both subtle and profound. Hearing  is listening without any responsibility, without any ownership. At worst, hearing is simply eardrums' automatic sensory reaction to soundwaves, machinery which doesn't require the presence of who you really are. At best, it's paying attention. Listening  is hearing with creativity, with responsibility, with intention, with bringing your Self  to bear on the matter. And the thing is this: when you hear  Abbey Road, obviously it's The Beatles creating the music. But when you listen  Abbey Road, it's you  creating the possibility of The Beatles creating the music. I didn't fully appreciate that until at least a decade later and the inexorable meeting with Werner Erhard.

From False Cause To Creation

And then, in December of 2007, the Keurbooms River rose up and swallowed Lookout Beach, my  Lookout Beach, ALL of it ... just ... like  ... that.

You'd expect your old clothes to disappear into the past. You'd even expect your old cars  to disappear. But ordinarily you don't anticipate an entire beach  disappearing. Beaches have "eternal" already always etched into them. So if, as in the case of Lookout Beach, they disappear, there's a sense of jarring, a sense of dislocation. It confronts your very sense of what's real  and what's permanent. It confronts the very question of the cause  of experience: if the beach is the cause of the experience I had there, and then the beach disappears, then if experience is permanent, did I have the experience I had there, or not? And if it wasn't me who had the experience I had there, then who did?

When the Keurbooms River took Lookout Beach, it took something massive from my past, something significant  from my epistemology. It completely obliterated the stage, never to be visited ever again, on which I had all those wonderful experiences filled with all those great feelings, filled with all the wide-eyed excitement of discovering life newly.

But it wasn't Lookout Beach which gave me those experiences. Lookout Beach is gone. All of it. Yet the experience  I had there for the first time is fresh today, fresher than ever, fresher than even when I was there. It wasn't Lookout Beach which caused those great times to happen. Neither could the mighty beach obliterating Keurbooms River take those experiences away.

Lookout Beach is gone, and with it the false cause  of my experience is gone too. It was I who created the possibility of these great feelings and this experience of freedom then, and I can recreate them again now and any time I want to.

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