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

Empty Nest, Full Sky

Hog Island Oyster Company, Oxbow Public Market, Napa, California, USA

February 27, 2014

"The gates to the temple of truth are guarded by two dragons: paradox  and confusion." ... 
This essay, Empty Nest, Full Sky, is the companion piece to The Young Person's Guide To The Future.

I am indebted to my children Alexandra Lindsey Platt and Christian Laurence Platt and Joshua Nelson Platt who inspired this conversation.

I remember my first day of school and my last day of college - clearly, like they were yesterday.

Those two days book-ended  an interval of seventeen years which seemed to last for eternity. That's not a complaint. I'm not saying it "seemed to last for eternity" like I wanted it to be over, like I wanted it to end. To the contrary, those were great times. Truly great. I was in no hurry for them to finish. There was simply a sense they would never end, a sense they would last forever, like there was no end in sight.

Each of my three children spent almost the same amount of time at school and college as I did. Add on a few years to account for their three year age range, and the fact that Alexandra continued on for a second Masters degree, and the total time elapsed for all three of them to complete school and college, was around twenty two years. But their  twenty two years flew by in a flash. From their first day at school to their last day at college, the time blew by at a blistering pace.

Then one day they were gone. The nest was empty ... just ... like ... that. It was over way  to soon. I didn't want it to end. I wanted it to continue. In fact I was just getting into my stride with it. I was just getting good  at it. But it was over. For sure. Of that there was no doubt. Although this day came as no surprise, it felt oddly disconcerting. "What now?" and "What's next?" became my uncertain questions of the hour.

Having gotten my job done raising them, having gotten my job done ensuring they're best equipped to fly and get on with their own lives, the empty nest provided a stark background to how much I missed  those little guys, my buddies, my best friends. The bittersweet victory of having succeeded in raising them and equipping them to run their own lives, only to lose them as we all inevitably, inexorably  do to Life itself, landed like a rough dichotomy, a paradox if ever there was one. And paradox (as Werner Erhard points out) is one of the two guardians of the gates to the temple of truth (the other, by the way, being confusion).

The thing I finally figured out is I can't figure this out unless I'm committed to figuring it out (there's nothing intuitive  about it). That said, here's the second thing I figured out:

It's a neverending process, this being a parent. The hardest part of it, especially now that they've left home, is staying out of their way  so they can ongoingly discover their own lives for themselves. Make no error: it's a fine line. If I stay too far  out of their way, I'm no support at all. If I stay too close, I'm an interference in the process. And the thing about it is parenthood doesn't come with a manual  with clear instructions for doing this exactly right. You kind of just have to figure out the balance for yourself.

Joshua's car developed transmission trouble. If you know what it costs to repair a transmission, you know it's a better deal to buy a new car. I could buy Josh a new car. But that's not really a gift. Not really. Instead, the gift I gave him was "Let me know if you need me to contribute to your transmission repair bill or to the cost of a new car.". He said "Thanks Dad, but I think I can earn this by myself.". Paying his transmission repair bill or buying him a new car would deprive him of that win. Offering to contribute if needed, makes my support clear without getting in his way.

Christian has registered for a two year commercial diving course. He's up for college fees, diving equipment, and living expenses for two years. I could write him a check for all of it. But that's not really a gift. Not really. Instead, the gift I gave him was "Let me know if you need me to contribute to your college fees or diving equipment or living expenses.". He said "Thanks Dad, but I'm going to get a job to pay for this by myself.". Paying his college fees and living expenses or buying him diving equipment would deprive him of that win. Offering to contribute if needed, makes my support clear without getting in his way.

The paradox of being a parent is it doesn't matter if I do my job well or if I don't do it well or even if I don't do it at all. Either way, I lose my children anyway when they fly the nest - as they assuredly will. The challenge, however, is to do my job well, then get out of their way so they can live their own fruitful lives independent of me. Now this  is about as fulfilling as it gets.

The nest is empty but the sky is full.

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