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


Flood!

Napa Valley, California, USA

December 31, 2005



This essay, Flood!, is the companion piece to Beach Gone!.

I am indebted to my son Joshua Nelson Platt who inspired this conversation.




I cried. That's what caused it. I'm responsible.

* * *

It's late at night. Someone I love dearly accuses me of lying. What she doesn't know leads her to that therefore seemingly valid conclusion. I know saying what really happened will hurt her. Yet if I don't, I can't live with my integrity out for not saying. I choose to say. Her face turns gray as she listens realizing I'm serious. I've just bet everything I own in the world on her precious love, and for all I know I've just lost it all.

I go outside. I hardly notice the stars, usually plentiful at my place, are hidden behind clouds. I hardly notice it's raining softly but steadily. The tears start to come, blending with the rain on my face. Soon I'm crying. I let it come. Sobs mingled with grunts and snorts come out of me. When it finally subsides, I'm washed clean. I go back inside and go to bed, spent. I don't notice the rain steadily increasing. Home and dry, sleep comes easily.

* * *

At 5:00am my son Joshua and I wake. We get into the car and drive down the hill to go swim laps in the olympic pool at our village gymnasium. We live on the corner edges of a two hundred acre cattle ranch and a one hundred and fifty acre horse stable and paddock. The Cowboy Cottage  we have the good fortune to live in is cozy and warm as we set out, chatting amiably as we meander down the road.

If I could have done a classic double take  as 'toons  do, I would have. The familiar road in front of us is now a ramp disappearing down into a lake. A lake?  What?  How?  Where?  Questions flash through my still not comprehending mind. The surroundings are eerily quiet. We're the first on the scene. We turn right, looking for a way around. That way is open. We drive, talking animatedly about what we've just seen, and I avert my eyes from headlights pointing at me. Only they aren't moving. They're shining from a car pointing wrongly upward, water up to and clear through its windows, its entire chassis deep under another lake  which my racing mind is totally clear shouldn't be there. This is supposed to be a road not a lake ...

"Josh" I say to my son who is also incredulously silent. "What do you think?". "It's a flood, Dad" he says. No doubt about it. He's right.

We back up in our tracks, trying to find a way out of this rapidly shrinking island. Back in the other direction, we see three cars coming towards us, making wakes  through a river washing over the road. "Let's go through, Dad" Joshua urges excitedely, his wide-eyed innocence completely oblivious to the danger. In front of our startled eyes, the middle car is suddenly turned on its side, fills with water, and as its terrified driver struggles to get out the passenger window, is picked up like a twig and deposited unceremoniously on what was once a guard rail.

"I don't think so, Josh ..." I say to him, turning around and driving back in our tracks, following the road back to higher, safe ground. We drive around looking for a way out, and we don't find one. Eventually our curiosity gets the better of us. We park on high ground. Lifting our jackets over our heads to protect us from the now driving rain, we walk down to a bridge over the river. As we draw near, my jaw drops ... all by itself. The river, usually a lazy fifty yards wide and twenty feet below the bridge, is now an angry, raging torrent a half mile wide completely covering the bridge, and the road is nowhere to be seen. A huge metal dumpster filled with building debris floats incorrigibly by, rocking crazily.

"Josh my Son, take this all in" I tell him. "You may never see anything as mighty as this again as long as you live.".

* * *

The flood tests my stand. What do I mean by that? Things are what they are, and they aren't what they aren't. This is OK, and it doesn't mean anything. Can I stand for that in the midst of this? I look ... and I notice I can. This is the nature of life in the world for human beings. There've always been floods. There probably always will be. There's a lot of make wrong  here: from those who assert we did this to ourselves by interfering with the ecological balance and causing global warming, from those who assert our flood control measures were inadequate, from those who assert in an apocalyptic  sense that this is some kind of cosmic punishment  for us being bad.

It's none of the above. It's a flood. That's what it is. And that's all it is.

And ... in the midst of that realization, I'm deeply compassionate for those in my community who are no doubt severely inconvenienced by this, for the people of Bande Ache over whom the tsunami swept, for the people of the village of Bam in Iran who woke up to their homes collapsing on them in a 6.6 earthquake when all that happened to me was my tee shirt got rained on and I got some mud on my cowboy boots.

* * *

Over the next few days Joshua and I and Christian my eldest son and Alexandra my daughter drove around our village as the waters rose and then receded. We watched the waters rise four feet into a hotel where friends of mine once stayed. We looked into a basement parking garage I parked in when attending a court case, now a deep swimming pool. We peered through the glass doors of the box office of our local cineplex where the children and I spent many happy times together taking in the latest "Harry Potter"s et al, now a mud bath replete with soggy sandbags as eloquent testimony to a harried and hopelessly inadequate attempt to stem Mother Nature's inexorable tide, and a sign plaintively, obviously, telling us "Closed until further notice.". We watched as shopkeepers waded up to their chests down usually bucolic avenues trying to save whatever they could of their goods, or at least move them to higher places, chagrin all over their faces.

I noticed my office, perched dangerously on the right bank of the normally quaint river, was completely spared. Six inches of creamy mud covered the entire street in front of our lobby, proof of the night the waters rose. Yet not one drop had entered our building even as neighboring tenants shoveled buckets of mud out into the street. And the office we had just moved from three days earlier was even more remarkably spared. As Joshua and I walked around it, stepping carefully over debris deposited there by the river now subsided and one hundred yards away, we noticed what appeared to be a crescent shaped invisible protective barrier of avoidance in front of our old premises. I looked through the windows of the now shuttered building expecting to see water and mud damage inside and on the floors. Instead I saw the fresh tracks of vacuum cleaners in the pile of the rugs we had cleaned before vacating the premises. Yet just next door were people in Wellington  boots cleaning their street level garages, the entire contents of which were now dirty chocolate from a two foot wall of water and mud.

Go figure.

* * *

I finally create the opportunity to go back to the girl who accused me of lying. I apologize to her. I tell her I apologize for the way  I said what I said, not for what  I said, the truth of which I assert she had  to know, and I ask her to forgive me.

Without missing a beat, she kisses me, says it's "OK", then suddenly throws her arms around my neck, embraces me, and says she loves me. She got it. Thank God! I breathe a sigh of relief as I say I love her too. She gets that too, like a contact high, and she says "That's awesome!  That's so cool ...".

This time I don't cry.



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