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


Billions And Billions Of Stars

San Francisco, California, USA

May 17, 2017



This essay, Billions And Billions Of Stars, is the third in the fifth trilogy Breakfast With The Master:
  1. Whatever Works
  2. Yesterday's Transformation
  3. Billions And Billions Of Stars
in that order.
The first trilogy Breakfast With The Master is:
  1. Conversation With A Laser
  2. Shut Up And Do What You're Doing
  3. Secret Agent
in that order.
The second trilogy Breakfast With The Master is:
  1. Breakfast With The Master II: Future Health
  2. Breakfast With The Master II: Future Finances
  3. Breakfast With The Master II: Future Open
in that order.
The third trilogy Breakfast With The Master is:
  1. Raw Power
  2. It Works Better As A Possibility
  3. Magic At Heart
in that order.
The fourth trilogy Breakfast With The Master is:
  1. Breakfast With The Master IV: Parental Care
  2. Breakfast With The Master IV: Taking The Guilt Out Of It
  3. Breakfast With The Master IV: Language As Music
in that order.


One of the great things (that is to say, one of the privileges) about this Breakfast With The Master session ie one of the great things about any  of these Breakfasts  (plural) With The Master sessions, is the script ie the manual  is left at home, closed on his office desk, so just about anything  profound can be mulled over and mused on newly. In the course of doing exactly that, he casually said something as an aside, then immediately took a different tack and went on to his next idea. It was only later as I was compiling my notes while preparing to write this trilogy of essays, when that throwaway aside of his, suddenly came flooding back to me.

At the time, both he and I let it go and moved on to the next thing. But when it suddenly re-appeared to me all by itself, I realized it should be afforded special and sustained attention. At the time, it was something he spoke which I listened. Here, for simplicity, I'm presenting it just for what it is ie his idea as the thing in itself.



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.



Something From Nothing Revisited



There's a leap I have to take as I confront the awful implications of his distinction "not  significant" - and I clearly get (it leaves me aghast)  there's a difference between me being in-significant (ie there's still hope), and me being not  significant. It's the leap of confronting the domain  of significance. What is  the "domain of significance"? The domain of significance is my life  ... as differentiated from who I really am  (who I really am, is "I am"). That's merely what's so. Experience is simply evidence that I am here  (experience, as Werner Erhard says, is not who I am: I am "I am"). All the rest is not significant - suffice for all the significance we slather on it, like you put dollops of chocolate syrup on an ice cream sundae (when I catch myself adding significance like that, I cringe: it's outright embarrassing).

After taking a deep breath and allowing being aghast to subside, I don't see the expected existential horror  (if you will) in the face of being not significant. Rather I see an enormous freedom  to create. Said another way, I see an enormous freedom to paint anything I choose, on a vast canvas of infinite possibilities (if you will).



And Then There Was One



Suddenly, totally without ceremony, he stands up and, beaming, says "See you next year.". It catches me completely by surprise - until I realize I could sit with this guy all day and all week and more, so any end-time is entirely arbitrary anyway. I stand up and hug him (it's that Redwood tree trunk  experience again), and he leaves. Through the plate glass window, I watch him walking across the parking lot until I lose sight of him amongst all the diagonally parked cars.

The waitress' question in my ear, interrupts my reverie: "More coffee, Sir?". "Yes please" I answer, sitting back down, moving my mug forward (it suddenly dawns on me it's like I'm moving a pawn forward in a chess game ...).



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© Laurence Platt - 2017 Permission