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

Enlightenment In The Danger Zone

Opus One, Napa Valley, California, USA

July 27, 2018

"Choose a problem that's worth your time. World hunger is worth your time. Making a million dollars isn't." ... Sandra "Sandy" Bernasek (1951 - 2018), Landmark Forum Leader, quoted by the Pittsburgh City Paper

This essay, Enlightenment In The Danger Zone, is the second in a quadrilogy on Enlightenment:
  1. On Misconstruing Enlightenment
  2. Enlightenment In The Danger Zone
  3. Enlightenment Is Giving Up The Notion That You Are Unenlightened
  4. A Space In Which The Wind Blows
in that order.

It is also, with Still Standing Still and A Visceral Twinge Of Fear, the sequel to a trilogy on the North Bay Firestorm:
  1. What You Can't Live Without
  2. Flames In My Rearview Mirror
  3. Repainting Life On A (Suddenly) New Canvas
in that order.

I am indebted to Nancy Zapolski who contributed material for this conversation.

Photograph courtesy Carr "Fire-nado"  Fire, Redding, California, USA - Friday July 27, 2018

Enlightenment won't save your property from a wildfire. None of us should expect a special dispensation or preferential treatment from one. A wildfire doesn't discriminate. It doesn't have favorites. It's an equal-opportunity destroyer. The best you can do during it's relentless onslaught, is pray for rain and / or a shift in the wind (neither of which may come in time), then wait. Oh, and you can take responsibility for creating the context in which its events unfold around you. That can make a huge difference. No, more than that: it's in situations like these, it's the only  thing that does. Really.

Having evacuated from my home ahead of a rapidly approaching wildfire, I lived for a week not knowing if I'd have a house (and possessions) when I got back. When I returned, they were all intact (it's an anticipation no one should have to live through). That said, my particular encounter was passé  compared to friends of mine who lost four buildings (their home, another house, an office, and another building) in a wildfire. On an inconvenience scale of 1-10, that must surely rank a 14. What they did next is inspiring.

They made an inventory of everything they had to do to get their (new) situation managed. Then they simply went through that list, and handled every item on it (they didn't waste time either). Both of them lead full lives bearing enormous responsibilities. What's extraordinary was if you were one of the many people dependent on them delivering their responsibilities, you wouldn't have noticed anything mishandled or handled differently or delivered late. Unless you knew or asked, you wouldn't have known about the huge additional load they were also bearing in the wake of the wildfire. I offered my assistance. I wanted  to assist them. I would have allocated many days to them to help out. Let's face it: they must have had an enormous  amount of suddenly additional work to do. They appreciated my offer. I could tell it moved them. Then they graciously declined it. They did it all by themselves, barely raising a sweat, not getting behind on any of their other responsibilities either. Oh, and they didn't complain. Not once. Not one peep.

I know who they are. I know what's extraordinary about them: they hold whatever they're faced with, as simply whatever there is to get done. In that regard, this was no different than anything else they had to get done. It's where their enlightenment was at its most sublime, most powerful, most profound: they chose the problem (the enormous  problem) from the viewpoint of being present to a circumstance, not as a predicament under which to languish. In this context, the wildfire was but one of many circumstances they were present to. If there's a hallmark of being enlightened that's worth anything, it's being present, regardless of the circumstances.

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