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




Going Out Like A Supernova

Oakville Grocery, California, USA

November 17, 2018



"Do not go gentle into that good night." ... Dylan Thomas

This essay, Going Out Like A Supernova, is the companion piece to Not With A Whimper But A Bang.

It is also the fourth in the open second group of Experiences Of A Friend (click here for the closed first group of thirty five Experiences Of A Friend):
  1. Friend, Partner, And Ally
  2. Go To The Beach
  3. Proof Of Life
  4. Going Out Like A Supernova
in that order.

I am indebted to Palmer Kelly who inspired this conversation and contributed material.




I'm laying down this entire essay with one single purpose: to share ie to showcase one single remark he made. I could simply repeat that remark here, leave it at that, and be done with it. It would be an essay of very few words - but then you'd have no context in which to fully appreciate it.

He conceived of, created, and produced the extraordinary series of physics conferences, then hosted them at his home, the Franklin House in the Pacific Heights neighborhood of San Francisco. His guest list read like a who's who  of contemporary scientists, the upper echelon whose interests, commitments, and intellects were if not currently documenting what the physical universe and its components are comprised of, then at least discovering it at a level more profound than any before them. Stephen Hawking ("A Brief History Of Time") attended. Nobel Prize-winning physicists Richard Feynman, Murray Gell-Mann, Steven Weinberg and others attended.

A few of those who attended had a prior relationship with him. Yet while all of them knew about the others on his guest list, he himself wasn't a regular in their lofty company. Rather, what he provided was (ie what his passion  to generously provide was) the space, the context, the possibility  in which these extraordinary intellects could have extraordinary conversations. Look: in his space, how could a conversation between Stephen Hawking and Richard Feynman be anything but  extraordinary?

The agenda which was set for the conferences was really only their starting point. Everyone knew once intellects like theirs got started, the ensuing conversations could go anywhere. Indeed, that was the whole idea: to start from what we already know, and then to lay bare even that which we don't yet know we don't yet know  about the composition of and the laws governing the physical universe. But at least for starters, heady topics like black holes, supernovas, and quarks  et al made the list.

It's in a meeting with him, with his staff, with the crack projects team, and with their assistants where this essay really takes place. We're planning another physics conference, mapping it out, indeed co-creating it with him in a way that he's brilliant at leading. It's a future which experience has proven will unfold exactly according to his plan like clockwork. At the end of the meeting, he stands up to leave, hugs and says goodbye to, and thanks and acknowledges everyone. Then, just before he exits the room, he turns around to face our awesome group one more time and, in the spirit of our upcoming guests and the conversations they'll launch, says:


<quote>

I'M GOING OUT LIKE A SUPERNOVA.

<unquote>


Woah! Is he just referring to leaving the room?  Or is he referring to his entire life?  Either way it's an astonishing thing to say, an amazing possibility to come up with. It's even worth titling an essay for. Everyone within earshot laughs. "That's Werner!"  we say knowingly. But as off the charts astonishing as it is, it's not the remark I alluded to. That one comes next. When he's almost out the door, he throws a second nugget over his shoulder. Beaming that blazing 100 megawatt smile, he says:


<quote>

NOT BAD, EH?!

<unquote>


That's  the one I'm speaking about. That's it. That's who he is. Creating. Always creating. Inviting everyone to create with him. Uncannily, relentlessly  on purpose.



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