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 Reflection On Mortality

Starbucks Coffee, Northwood Shopping Center, Napa, California, USA

Fourth of July, 2018

"The tree leaves, the ocean waves, the universe peoples." ... Alan W ("Wilson") Watts, deploying plural nouns "leaves", "waves", and "peoples" as third-person verbs

"A faith that cannot survive a collision with the truth, is not worth many regrets." ... Arthur C (Charles) Clarke, British inventor, futurist, and author 2001: A Space Odyssey
This essay, Bookends: A Reflection On Mortality, is the companion piece to
  1. Where You Go When You Die
  2. Endless Day
  3. Bookends II: Times I'm Not
in that order.

It is also the thirteenth in a group of sixteen written on the Fourth Of July:
  1. Anticipation: Accounting For An American Love Affair
  2. Independence Day
  3. I'd Rather Be With Me
  4. Do It For Nothing
  5. The Only Way Out Is Through
  6. Under All Circumstances
  7. Word Power
  8. When There's Nothing To Say
  9. The Possibility Of Being Independent And Free
  10. Intimacy In A Crowded Place
  11. What Goes On
  12. Imprints Of Love
  13. Bookends: A Reflection On Mortality
  14. Come Back To Being
  15. Nobody Is Responsible Except You
  16. Like A Monk In A Cave
in that order.

I am indebted to Jacques Coetzee and to Dr Robert Lee "Bob" Culver who inspired this conversation.

Imagine everyone who works at a major airport not having a clue about what they're supposed to do, having no idea what their responsibilities and job requirements are, and not realizing what their commitments entail or what they're accountable for. There would be total chaos, not to mention outright danger (it's an airport, yes?). Now imagine a planet where almost none of its inhabitants know who they really are, yet who try to live decent, working, productive lives in harmony with each other, with the planet, and with Life itself. It's a similarly unworkable situation, one that's rampant right here. That's us, yes? It's chaotic, not to mention outright dangerous.

There are many leverages for remedying living life not knowing who we really are, which result in us taking a much more workable stance to life. One of them which I'm currently reflecting on, comes from examining what it is to be mortal - yes, mortal. Can you and I get straight, for just one moment, about our own mortality and what we consider it to be? If you're brave enough to pierce the veil of what we consider it to be, you may start to see that what we ordinarily consider mortality to be, is truly out of whack with reality. I assert it being out of whack with reality, accounts for all our unworkability. If you get that, it'll knock you on your you-know-what.

Photograph courtesy Mitchell Gold and Bob Williams

Agate is formed from volcanic rock containing
sparkling crystals and minerals. One piece of agate
is sliced in two to create a pair of bookends.

Their rough exterior contrasts with the rich, highly
polished interior of intricate bands of color and
stunning geological details. Blue and beige Brazilian agate bookends
Consider that mortality is just a point of view. Say whut?  No, wait: it's even worse than that actually. Consider that mortality is just a belief system. And to get this, focus for a moment here on what a belief system is, rather than on mortality itself. A belief system looks at a subset  of the truth, without seeing the big picture, yet it's convinced  it sees the big picture.

In transformation, consider mortality to be the bookends  of a particular process. The west  of the pair of bookends is birth. The east  of the pair is death. And held upright between the two bookends are all the books ie the totality of the multifarious stories comprising your life.

But  ... (and here's the question you can and should ask): if there's one of a pair of bookends at the start of and at the end of a life, then what's the context  in which the pair of bookends occur? It's Life itself, coming and going and coming and going like waves rising and breaking and rising and breaking, and all there really is, is the ocean. Don't label this as "reincarnation" or the "afterlife". That's more belief. It's just Life itself coming and going, coming and going.

Now we and our little egos, don't always live that. Worse (to our own detriment) we mostly don't like to. But if you can step outside of and around those self-imposed barriers for just a moment, if you can see the context to either side outside of and around the bookends which prop up our life's stories, living life might work better when experiencing it that way. Really.
Werner Erhard's proposal that who we really are is out-here  ie who we really are is all of it, would account for all this. You can verify his proposal by creating the distinction for yourself, then sitting in the experience of it until it becomes familiar and obvious ie familiarly obvious. Your first take of the experience of who we really are out-here, should account for everything that shows up ie for (here's a great distinction) the showing. But look: there's something that's easy to miss, and it's this: what if being all of it includes  being all of it across all time?  And that's  when mortality is discovered to be just another point of view ie a belief system. Life comes. It goes. It comes again. Waves on the ocean. And the tree leaves, and the ocean waves, and the universe peoples (thank you Alan).

In this way, reflecting on mortality is leverage to remedy living life not knowing who we really are, while falsely assuming our lives are bounded on each end by birth and death like a pair of bookends. The genie's out of the bottle now: of course  that's merely a small, ego-driven, self-serving point of view, a belief system which is really (even the most cursory observations will show) out of whack with reality. It should be no surprise the unworkability of living that way is rampant on our planet.

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