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

Further Than The End

Canal Grande, Venezia, Italia

August 10, 2009

This essay, Further Than The End, is the second in a group of three written in Europe, August 2009:
  1. Mona Lisa! Mona Lisa!
  2. Further Than The End
  3. Skewed Since Antiquity
in that order.

Looking back from the future I see realized my intentions of what I want to create for and gift to my children: pragmatic tools they'll deploy to live open, creative, full, satisfying lives.

In retrospect I've traveled a lot. I was born British in London England. I've gained permanent residence in South Africa, France, and New Zealand. This means I've fulfilled the requirements of becoming a permanent resident of five countries (Great Britain, South Africa, France, New Zealand, and the United States of America), not to mention sojourns in the Amazon jungle and the Fiji Islands. I'm now a citizen of two countries: Great Britain and the United States of America. I'm a dual national.

So it shouldn't come as any surprise to notice gifts of travel for my children - among all the other gifts I've got in mind for them - on my wish list.

I'm clear from my own life how eye popping, mind broadening, vista opening  world travel is. Travel opens, of course, geographical  vistas but actually I'm speaking of experiential  vistas here. It's commonly known William Randolph Hearst had an extraordinary upbringing. His was a rich childhood destined for greatness, already steeped in the geographical majesty of the western California coastal wilderness. But it wasn't until his mother took him from California on a tour of European castles that his future for him  came into sharp focus. It could be said without this gift of travel from his mother, Hearst Castle wouldn't ever have come to be.

I don't know what my children will do with their future. One thing's for sure: they won't have to build magnificently ornate castles on enchanted hills in order to make it  with me: they've already made it with me just by being born and coming into my life. In my eyes my children are perfect. They're fine with me exactly the way they are and exactly they way they aren't. I impose nothing on their future. I mean that quite literally. I want to gift them nothing  for their future (you may require a certain Zen way of looking at things to get that). In addition I intend to gift them easels, canvas, paints, and brushes (so to speak) with which they can paint their own future on their own nothing.

with Alexandra
Canal Grande, Venezia, Italia
6:32pm Sunday August 10, 2009
One of the forms easels, canvas, paints, and brushes will take with my children is the gift of travel. To this end, as a celebration of her graduation from high school, my daughter Alexandra and I set out from Napa Valley California on a journey with stops in New York New York USA, London England, Cape Town South Africa, Paris France, Milan Italy, Venice Italy, Rome Italy, Chicago Illinois USA, before returning to the bucolic calm of rows and rows of the vineyards pregnant with grapes in the wine country.

This essay isn't intended as a travel log. I'm not going to recount our exact itinerary and day to day activities. I'm not going to ask you to click  your way through our holiday photographs. The geographical vistas, awesome as they are, are only of secondary importance. Everyone should see and do what we saw and did, and that's it  on the geography.

The essential experiential  vista which broke open for Alexandra was leadership. I wanted her to eclipse me, Mr Big Deal World Traveler, completely. The metro  tubes of Paris' subway system and sometimes two foot wide passages between Venice's ancient brick buildings require intense, careful navigation, even with maps. Alexandra took one look at a Paris metro map, and from then on barely glanced at it again. She was awesome. She has a natural, certain (and by certain  I mean unwaveringly accurate)  instinct for direction. It was a total thrill  for me, a seasoned traveler, to not have to pay any attention at all to directions on the Paris metro and instead allow my daughter to lead me. Venice's passages are even harder to negotiate. Even with a map, you're guaranteed to get lost. Again, Alexandra took one look at the intricate map of Venice's passages, alleyways, canals, and foot bridges, put it away in her purse, and said "Come on, Dad: this  way!" and never once wavered off course. My relationship with her completely transformed by allowing her to take the lead ... AND  ... by knowing with absolute certainty she'd get us where we were going faster and more directly than any local tour guide.

I don't like heights. Standing under the Eiffel Tower looking straight up considering walking up the stairs, I cleverly concealed my palms dripping sweat, my shortness of breath, and my strong desire to turn and run. Alexandra asked me when we would start climbing, and I came up with several lame excuses to postpone the inevitable - like walking around and around saying I was looking for the shortest line. Eventually it became obvious. Alexandra asked me "Dad? Are you OK?". I'd never told her before. So I did. I told her I don't like heights. She, generously, gave me the option of waiting for her on the plaza while she went up by herself.

The way I handle fear is I acknowledge (eventually) the fear, and then I proceed anyway. I do what I gotta do  and I take my fear along with me for the ride. Besides which, I didn't bring my daughter to Paris to watch her climb the Eiffel Tower by herself. So, with both my feet suddenly weighing two tons each, we started out, Alexandra and I, she holding my left hand while my right hand gripped the stair rail so tightly I had to wash a coating of paint flakes and grime from it when finally, triumphantly  we reached the top of the stairs and the observation deck.

The view of Paris from up there is spectacular of course. But as I said, that's not the point. What happened was in Alexandra's experience and in mine, she burst out of childhood and into leadership in a way that left neither of us with any doubt something had permanently and irrevocably shifted in her life, in her future, and in our relationship.

A pivotal moment (I suppose you could say it was the  moment for me of the entire odyssey) came on a Vaporetto, a river taxi on a canal in Venice. It lasted but a second or less and then it transformed. Alexandra was excitedly taking photographs of gondolas  at the time. She didn't notice anything was happening to me. But for me, it was the  moment. I suppose you could say everything I'd done, everything I'd set in motion, everything I'd put together led up to this moment so I could have the experience I had in that second. This is what happened.

I felt a sudden onrush of something like sadness, accompanied by the thought "This will soon be over - I don't want it to ever end.". I realized in some way I had constructed this special time with Alexandra as an end. I hadn't yet invented a future  to live into out of what our time together made possible. When it ends it will end, and I'd not thought my way through to anything beyond the end. At that point I was blind to anything further  than the end.

This is the deadliest thing I know: to strive for something and to achieve it without having the next game plan already in the cross hairs of my sights.

Then it turned around like a coin flipping and I saw the other side. The end  I was momentarily stuck on marks appropriately Alexandra's graduation from high school - exactly the way it was intended. It sets up her future further than the end by giving her a new set of choices around travel, a new realm of possibility  around cultures, a new sense of power  to invent for herself something wonderful  to look forward to, something wonderful to live into. For me, this is the possibility of being fulfilled as family. I'd gotten my job done.

I smiled and looked over at her. She didn't notice me. She was too busy looking through her camera's viewfinder framing gondolas with il Ponti di Rialto  in the background.

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