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


Clear And Present

Piazza D'Angelo, Mill Valley, California, USA

March 28, 2011



This essay, Clear And Present, is the seventh in a group of twelve on Parents: I am indebted to Clare Erhard-Trick and to my mother Andee Platt and to Joan Bordow who inspired this conversation.



Flow and ebb and flow. Life. It comes and goes and comes. Birth and death and birth. It's been turning out this way for eons. Yet for the most part, we celebrate birth but we mourn death. I don't take the skeptics view which is: if we realized the hassle which lies ahead, we'd mourn birth ... and if we realized the escape  from the hassle which lies ahead, we'd celebrate death. If the way it is is birth and death and birth, if it's been turning out this way for eons, if both death and birth are ends in the same process, and if both death and birth are starts in the same process, then why don't we routinely celebrate both? Why don't we routinely celebrate both  the end and  the start of the process?

If you asked me why death is routinely mourned and not celebrated, I wouldn't be so insensitive as to interfere with anyone who's lost a loved one and is mourning. I would be interested enough, however, in having a conversation about completion  at a later date at an appropriate time. My thesis is it's harder to be with the loss of a loved one with whom the relationship is incomplete  than it is to be with the loss of a loved one with whom the relationship is complete. That's not "the truth"  by the way. It's simply my thesis. Death is terminal. There's no chance, in the ordinary sense of the word, of completing with someone after they've died if the opportunity to complete with them wasn't seized when they were still alive. The finality of it is brutal.

<aside>

That's in the ordinary sense of the word. In the ordinary sense of the word, there's no chance of completing with someone after they've died. Yet in the extraordinary  sense of the word, it's totally possible to complete with someone after they've died.

But that's a subject for another conversation on another occasion.

<un-aside>

To the degree we aren't complete with someone when they're alive, it's harder to let them go when they die. Is it possible, therefore (I wonder), that grief  is a function of incompletion?  In other words, when I'm complete with someone, I can let them go - into the ongoing flow and ebb and flow of Life. When I'm not  complete with someone, at best it's hard for me to let them go. At worst I can't  let them go at all.

That's just me ... thinking out loud ...



The Child Is Father Of The Man



As my mother Andee ages (she'll soon be eighty five), she seems to forget things more and more. She'll repeat things she said five minutes ago - as if she hadn't said them at all. Occasionally she'll ask me to remind her what my children's names are. Sometimes the simplest communications, like giving her a telephone number to write down, are arduous. She'll mis-hear the number I give her, or she'll hear the number I give her, and she'll say it back to me so I know she heard it. But then she'll write down something completely different.

It's a challenge - not to mention frustrating - to be with her like this, watching her slowly becoming a shadow of her former self, a shadow of the extraordinary human being who gifted me my extraordinary life. As I'm not with her as often as I'd like to be (she lives in Cape Town South Africa, I live in Napa Valley California), I've contacted other family members, relatives, and friends who know her and who see her from time to time to ask them how she's doing. There seems to be an agreement among people who are around her that she's experiencing hearing loss, memory loss, and occasionally an inability to focus.

I'm complete with my mother. My mother is complete with me. And for the most part, when we are in communication - either during face to face visits, or by aerogramme  or postcard correspondence (she eschews computers and e-mail  and I don't fault her for that), or by long distance phone calls, things are great, cordial, and loving. And even if they aren't, I have the space for her to be whichever way she is with me and whichever way she isn't with me.

But the truth is a few months ago, her forgetting things had begun to irritate me, as did her mis-hearing things I said. When I looked closer at what this was for me, I didn't like what I saw in myself. What I saw was this: I had it that her forgetting things and mis-hearing things was an attention and sympathy getting ploy. In other words, I saw I didn't believe her  when she said she forgot things or when she mis-heard what I said.

What I also saw - which I liked even less - was given the way I had come to regard her, our communication had devolved into me, the "good son", dutifully  being in communication with his mother (which is what a "good son" does) but really  only offering her a space to speak into in which I

 a)  flat out didn't believe her when she said she forgot things or when she mis-heard what I said;

 b)  held it that she was manipulating the conversation to gain attention and sympathy;

 c)  was insensitive, uncaring, inconsiderate, and unkind.

It was this third observation which really got my attention. Given the way I was being with her, given that was the space  I was creating for her to show up in, what chance did she have of being great  with me? None. What chance did she have of continuing being Love with me while she's still alive?  Absolutely zero.



Get Off It Before It's Too Late



Now ... was she really  manipulating the conversation to gain attention and sympathy by forgetting things and mis-hearing what I said? Indeed, she may  have been and she may not have been. If it could have been proved that she was manipulating the conversation, then I would have been right. But the truth is there's no way of knowing that. What I did  know ie what I did get absolutely clear  about was if I didn't get off it  about her, there wouldn't be any place for our conversations to go in the future, other than down an ever devolving spiral of diminishing love and satisfaction, until they simply petered out ie until they died on the vine like unpicked fruit.

That's why late one night my time, I called her. She answered. She didn't sound excited to hear me. In the past, I may have taken my cue off that blah  (and then subsequently wondered why the conversation went downhill from then on ...). But not this time. This time was the time  to get off it about her - it ends now. I told her I had called to apologize to her.

She was silent for a long moment. Then she asked me "What for?". This was an authentic response: she really  didn't know what I wanted to apologize for. I told her I had been insensitive, uncaring, inconsiderate, and unkind about her memory loss (which tacitly acknowledged, for the first time, I got she was experiencing memory loss). I told her I had been insensitive, uncaring, inconsiderate, and unkind about her not staying focused in our conversations (which tacitly acknowledged, for the first time, I got she was experiencing an inability to maintain focus). I told her I had been insensitive, uncaring, inconsiderate, and unkind by not believing her  when she told me (as she had done many times) that she was experiencing memory loss and an inability to focus. I also told her I had even harbored the thought that her memory loss was a convenient way for her to avoid being responsible. It all came out - the bad and the ugly. And then I told her I regretted being insensitive, uncaring, inconsiderate, and unkind to her. I told her although I was responsible for being that way with her, I was sorry, and I asked her to forgive me.

Was that the right  thing to say? Was it warranted?  Indeed, what if I was  right? ie what if she was  manipulating the conversation to gain attention and sympathy by forgetting things and mis-hearing what I said? What if her memory loss was  a convenient way for her to avoid being responsible? None of that mattered any more. I had seen what Werner Erhard calls the probable almost certain future  which was available to both of us if I continued to be right about her. That future was bleak. I was no longer interested in being right about her. All I was interested in was causing a breakthrough in our relationship so we could again experience being great with each other and being Love with each other while she's still alive. In this regard, my apology, such as it was, didn't have much to do with being wrong or  with being right. Rather, I intended it to be the business end of Cupid's arrow.

She was silent for another long moment.

What happened next was nothing short of life-altering.

She said "It says a lot about your great strength of character  Lar (her term of endearment for me) that you're big enough to apologize - even though you don't have to". That, right there and then, would have have been enough to restore our communication to its original vibrancy. But then it got even more amazing.

The blah  tone in her voice had altered. She was excited and animated. We started talking about things in general. For the first time in quite a while, she heard everything I said!  As if by magic, her hearing loss had disappeared. I only had to say things once in my normal voice. I didn't have to speak loudly or slowly for her to hear me. She spoke about my children ie about her grandchildren  in great detail. She remembered everything. She didn't need me to help her get their names right. Her memory was fine. At some point, we got to speaking about my recent trip to Morocco with my daughter Alexandra. I mentioned Alexandra had posted photographs of the visit to her Facebook  page. She asked how she could see them - or get someone to show them to her. I asked her to write down the page address, the URL, the uniform resource locator. There's a lot of confusion in a URL for an internet novice who has no background in computers whatsoever. There's a lot of "colon forward slash forward slash"  this and "colon forward slash forward slash"  that. She wrote it down accurately in one take, then read it back to me. She had gotten it perfect. There was no loss of focus.

In this conversation there was no hearing loss. In this conversation there was no memory loss. In this conversation there was no loss of focus. In this conversation she was clear  and present.

From the Cambridge International Dictionary:

<quote>
Definition
clear
(NOT CONFUSED)

adjective
free from confusion; able to think quickly and well
<unquote>

Also from the Cambridge International Dictionary:

<quote>
Definition
present


adjective
from the noun presence (APPROVING)
a quality that makes people notice or admire you, even when you are not speaking
<unquote>

To be sure, it was a miracle  - extraordinary in fact. What was most  extraordinary was we had gotten back to what's ordinary  in our communication. It was just great  being with her. I got to really experience how much I love her. I don't mean in the way I love her, my mother, as a man loves his mother. I don't even mean in the way I love my mother as her son. Neither do I mean in the way I love my mother as the author of these Conversations For Transformation. I mean I got to really experience how much I love her in the way I loved her and respected her and admired her when I was a little boy. Like that.



Looks Like The Weather Has Changed



This is how I set an alarm to wake me early in the morning: I raise the blinds of the Cowboy Cottage's east windows. That's it. The windows face directly on to the Atlas Peak  hills over which the sun rises above the Napa Valley. When daybreak floods the Cowboy Cottage with light, I'm up.

Sometimes even though it's clear outside, I wake up into a fog, a kind of cobweb-y fog with strands reaching back attached to the incompletes  in my life. The incompletes in my life each have more strands reaching back attached to the very earliest incomplete of my past: the incomplete with my mother - my original incomplete, if you will.

Today there's no original incomplete. It's disappeared. The cobweb-y strands are gone. There's nothing for them to attach to anymore. So there's no fog to wake up into. Looks like the weather has changed.

It's a bright spring day beckoning.



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