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

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Enchanted Hill

Hearst Castle, San Simeon, California, USA

February 15, 2009

"Rosebud." ... Orson Welles embodying Charles Foster "Citizen" Kane, considered to be William Randolph Hearst

This essay, Enchanted Hill, is the third in the septology Rosebud: I am indebted to my daughter Alexandra Lindsey Platt who inspired this conversation and contributed material.

Photography by Keith DeVey
Hearst Castle
Let's consider a possible outcome of a confront, of a standoff, of a showdown as it were between reality  and unreality. Since unreality doesn't have to comply with any rules, clearly unreality is at a distinct advantage over reality. Unreality can and always does operate completely under its own rules. Furthermore, unreality only operates under rules it makes up for itself to its own advantage. In a standoff ie in a showdown with reality, unreality is the odds on favorite.

Every once in a while, however, every so often comes a situation in which reality totally, completely, and beyond any shadow of doubt comes out ahead of unreality in a standoff. When reality comes on so powerfully that it stands out and towers over unreality ie towers over unreality which in any case has no limits, then a special situation has occurred. When reality totally, completely, and beyond any shadow of doubt comes out ahead of limitless unreality, we describe such a situations as fantasy, fantastic, surreal, super-real, beyond belief.

When I first realized what it took to create Hearst Castle, after the enormity of it finally sunk in, I thought to myself "I don't even dream  this big ...".

William Randolph Hearst, a barrel chested, six foot plus, two hundred and thirty pound plus man, a man already fabulously wealthy by inheritance, founder and magnate of the vast chain of Hearst newspapers, created Hearst Castle. When you take in the scope of the project (that is, if you can  take it in at all), it's on a scale of extraordinary  you almost never come across.

Then, just as you start to get the scale of extraordinariness Hearst's castle represents, just as you start to let it in, you discover Hearst's castle is merely one  of thirty seven  residences he acquired or built for himself.

Julia Morgan, a petite, five foot four woman, the architectural, structural engineering, and building genius behind Hearst's castle, was engaged by Hearst to fulfill his dream, a project envisioned to last eighteen months - at first. Morgan worked for Hearst on his castle for twenty eight years  until Hearst died, leaving the castle deemed by edict forever incomplete, still and always a work in progress.

Morgan drew the plans, supervised the building, created an ahead of its time  running water system for the castle and its vast expanse of gardens and grounds from underground springs, managed the army of builders, workers, and groundsmen, and at a moment's notice was ready and willing to tear down already set  concrete walls to pander to Hearst's impulsive changes of mind and to indulge his sudden new whims. By any stretch of the imagination, Julia Morgan is a remarkable woman. Some would say in the scheme of all the things it took to create Hearst's castle, it's Julia Morgan not William Randolph Hearst who deserves the lioness' share of the kudos.

Then, just as you start to get the scale of extraordinariness Julia Morgan's work on Hearst's castle represents, just as you start to let it in, you discover Hearst's castle is merely one of two hundred  other projects she worked on simultaneously.

After Hearst died, Citizen Kane  (considered by many to be the most innovative Hollywood film of all time) premiered. Citizen Kane is often assumed to be a veiled portrayal of the life of William Randolph Hearst through its protagonist Charles Foster Kane. Citizen Kane isn't a biography of William Randolph Hearst. Yet in the poetic blending Citizen Kane renders of reality  (it isn't his biography) with unreality  (it is his biography), some startling, gut wrenching, moving conclusions are drawn.

In a scene out of sequence at the start of the film, William Randolph Hearst aka Charles Foster Kane is dying. His life of awesome influence, of croesan  wealth, of adoring friends is over. His massive frame is weakened. His exuberant spirit is flagging. He awaits death. He speaks - he murmurs, actually: "Rosebud.".

He doesn't call for his editors. He doesn't call for his financier. He doesn't call for his banker. He neither calls for his wife nor for his mistress nor for his family. He doesn't call for his parents or for his friends. He only calls for "Rosebud ... Rosebud ... Rosebud ...". And we his viewers are intrigued, wondering who is "Rosebud"? what  is "Rosebud"? why is this "Rosebud" (whatever he / she / it is) so important to him that it's the only thing  he wants on his deathbed?


If you prefer not to know Rosebud's  identity or Citizen Kane's  ending, read no further ***


By the end of the film ie by the end of the unreal  biography of William Randolph Hearst, we know what Rosebud is. Through the clever plot which poses the question "Who or what is Rosebud? at the start of the film, yet keeps us waiting all the way until the end to find out, we learn Rosebud is Citizen Hearst's  childhood sled, his favorite toy when he was a young boy. At the end of his life, at the end of the fantasy, at the end of a fantastic, surreal, super-real  life beyond belief, after a life of awesome influence, at the end of a life of croesan  wealth, when his life filled with adoring friends is over, it turns out all he wants (and arguably all he ever  wanted) is his favorite toy from when he was a young boy. All he wants is his childhood sled. All he wants is his beloved Rosebud.

In the end, nothing in his entire illustrious life has thrilled him as much as the innocence of his childhood. In the end, when all is said and done, nothing is dearer to him than his wide eyed childlike innermost sense of play. Nothing even comes close.

Here's the man who has it all, the man who indeed can and does have everything and anything  he wants, the man whom all woman want to be with and all men want to be like. And what does he  want? What does he really  want? He wants Rosebud. He wants his favorite toy. That's what he wants. That's all he wants.

That's Citizen Hearst. That's you. That's I.

William Randolph Hearst's real gift isn't the Hearst chain of newspapers. It may not even be Hearst Castle itself, now donated  to and run by rangers of California's State Park service. William Randolph Hearst's real  gift may just be that he created something so enormous, something so vast, something so extraordinary, something so remarkable that it stretches our sense of what's possible  further than it's ever been stretched before, yet just when we realize we can't stretch ourselves anymore, as Citizen Kane he reminds us none of it  is worth more, none of it is cherished more, none of it is loved  more than our own humanity, than our own Rosebud.

It's a completely unreal  gift. It's not even possible  to bequeath such a gift. Yet believe it or not, up on that enchanted hill where Hearst Castle stands today, still incomplete, Citizen Hearst has made it completely and totally real.

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