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

Complaint And The Blind Men

Cowboy Cottage, East Napa, California, USA

September 15, 2006

This essay, Complaint And The Blind Men, is the companion piece to
Werner, to the chagrin of those who regard plurality as the only meaningful domain in the realm of choice, has long asserted true choice is a created act rather than a decision. In Werner's universe it's possible to choose chocolate  when given the choice "chocolate or  vanilla" just as it's possible to choose chocolate  when given the choice "chocolate".

In that regard, Werner points out happiness is a function of choosing what is. It's obvious, really, in that almost embarrassed "Why didn't I think of that myself?"  kind of way, isn't it? It, whatever it is, is always what is. So choosing what is  ensures you'll always have what you want. That's happiness right there. Happiness is at the start of the rainbow, not at the end of it.

Clearly that's not always an obvious nor an easy choice to make, given the kinds of circumstances human beings move in. Even when it's obvious, it takes a certain strength of character, a certain Zen to make that kind of choice again and again and again and to stick with it in all situations under all circumstances.

When I stop and look, I see those things in my life about which I complain, are those situations and circumstances which I haven't chosen. And here I'm not referring to having chosen in the "chocolate or  vanilla - choose!" sense. I'm referring to having chosen in the "chocolate - choose!" sense.

Recently I had an experience which gave me an idea of what it's like to live a life other than the life I live. It gave me an insight into another way of living which prompted me to re-evaluate everything I complain about in the life I have. It gave me more than that actually. It honed my sense of choosing what is  as a means to owning situations and circumstances in my life I don't like or don't want - hence resurrecting some mastery over them rather than being a complaint about them.

A friend of mine introduced me to two men who have been blind since birth.

They looked in my direction by triangulating the sound of my voice. Although they couldn't see me, I created a conversation by asking if they could see shapes or vague outlines ... or what. I asked what vision  was like for them. Bruce said to me "I can see as much with my eyes as you can see with your elbow" - at which they both convulsed in peals of laughter.

Point taken.

I overheard them talking with each other in animated tones. I wasn't intending to eavesdrop. Yet I quite clearly heard Bruce say to Greg "Then the Maître D' offers him a wafer thin mint, a waffer  thin mint, he eats the waffer  thin mint, and then he ... EXPLODES!!!" ... more peals of laughter.

It took me but a second to realize they were talking about the Monty Python classic The Meaning Of Life.

"Wait just a moment ..." I said hesitatingly. "Surely you guys haven't been ... watching ... movies??? How do you do  that?".

Bruce said "With lots of practice!", and again they both convulsed with giddy laughter.

They eventually told me they "watch" movies by a combination of listening, and by having a friend describe the scenes when there's no voice over. Also, apparently there are also sound tracks available for movies which describe the scenes for blind people in much the same way as subtitles translate the dialogue of foreign language films.

When I got that, I realized I would have to rework my distinction vision. Clearly Bruce and Greg do  have the distinction vision. It's the distinction eyesight  they don't have.

Knowing that, didn't alter my intrigue one iota. It's hard for me to even conceive of living in a world without eyesight. I complain when even the smallest things don't work in my universe. I simply can't imagine living in one in which my eyes don't work at all. Now that  would be something worth complaining about. And yet here are Bruce and Greg, totally blind, laughing at a Monty Python movie? There was something afoot here I couldn't quite get my mind mind around.

As I watched them, I got more and more interested in whatever that something  was. They have no guides - neither canine nor human. Yet that doesn't stop them getting around. Amazingly it doesn't stop them getting others  around either. One afternoon I allowed Bruce to lead me (I really want you to get that: he  led me) along a corridor, into an elevator (I watched him find both the call button on an expanse of wall outside the elevator, as well as the floor button within the cabin), down a flight of steps, and out onto the sidewalk of a busy five lane street. I asked him if there was anything I could do for him. He declined. Then we said our goodbyes, and he strode off tapping his cane until he came to an intersection and crossed the street.

How does he do that?

Even now, it takes me a while to really get  that: a totally blind man crossing a busy five lane street, unescorted.

But that wasn't the last thing that gripped my attention. On another occasion I saw Greg at work at a computer. As an aid, he wore a headphone through which a special software program "spoke" wherever his cursor was located on the screen. Greg wasn't just pointing  and clicking. He was writing a source code program in a very detailed and ancient computer language. To do that, he had to have his entire computer desktop laid out in his awareness in the same way as Bruce had a busy five lane street laid out in his so he could negotiate it.

Perhaps with practice you could close your eyes and find your way around your house. Now consider closing your eyes and finding your way around your computer desktop using a keyboard and a mouse, and writing high level source code accurately. Easy?

I asked the group I was with, for driving directions to a place I planned to meet a friend for dinner. You guessed it: Bruce and Greg gave me detailed driving directions which were more accurate and easier to understand than the sighted people in the group. Bruce, however, qualified that by saying "But I doubt you would want me to drive you there ...".

And again the fits of raucous laughter.

How do they live in that world? How do they live in a world devoid of something physical I consider to be major - like eyesight?  When I have a cold (which isn't often) I complain. When my body has issues, even minor ones, I complain. How then is it possible to live without eyesight?

Then I got it. My choice is "blind or  eyesight". Their choice is "blind". Happiness is a function of choosing what is. And they've chosen. That's it. That's all. Simple.

My mind boggled on top of being boggled until eventually I just let it all go and allowed an enormous respect and awe to come in.

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