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

Is Fiji Paradise?

Musket Cove, Malolo Lailai, Mamanucas, Fiji

June 30, 2013

This essay, Is Fiji Paradise?, is the companion piece to
  1. Standing In The River
  2. Paradise Is On The Tip Of My Tongue
  3. Werner's Work Is Coming to Fiji
in that order.

It is also the fifth in a group of five written in New Zealand / Fiji, June 2013:
  1. Godzone
  2. You'll Hear The Rumble
  3. B-Grade Hotel
  4. The Rain Is Coming, Mr Laurence
  5. Is Fiji Paradise?
in that order.

This group of five written in New Zealand / Fiji, June 2013 is the sequel to Christian Rocks!.

I am indebted to Carol and Richard Smith who inspired this conversation, and to my son Christian Laurence Platt who contributed material.

To call Fijian sunrises and sunsets magnificent, doesn't come close. To call the experience of diving in Fiji's calm, clear, warm lagoons blissful, even ecstatic, doesn't come close. Neither does it come close to call it baptismal  ... but for now that's good enough for jazz. To call the experience of leaving the first and only footprints of the day on a pristine Fijian beach shaded by coconut palms and patrolled by hermit crabs life altering  doesn't ... even ... come ... close.

Over three hundred islands comprise the Republic of Fiji. They're all thrown so close together that from each island many of the others are clearly visible - they're within only an hour or less easy sailing distance away (visitors to Fiji would do better renting a boat than a car). The largest of them is Viti Levu, a hundred miles wide, host to seventy percent of Fiji's total population of six hundred thousand people. The rest vary in size from miles wide to yards wide. Some are owned by Fijian royalty and are strictly off‑limits to visitors except by special invitation. Others are privately owned. Some are inhabited. Others aren't. Some go underwater at high tide. Others are surrounded by and crystal clear blue water (whose temperature is often higher than the air temperature) teeming with brightly colored fish and turtles and myriads of forms of sea life, a veritable SCUBA diver's and snorkeler's heaven.

Photography by Christian Platt - 12:36pm Sunday June 30, 2013
Musket Cove, Malolo Lailai, Mamanucas, Fiji
My question is this: is Fiji paradise?  Really. It isn't a trivial question. Neither is this a debate. It's actually a quintessential inquiry  into the true nature of source. In Zen we ask "If a tree falls in the forest and there's no one there to hear it, then does it make a sound?". So I ask: if Fiji is paradise and there's no one there to say  "This is paradise!", then is Fiji paradise? Engaging in this Zen conundrum empowers transformation (for which language is the tool).

It's a pertinent, pivotal  inquiry, one which is demeaned by pursuing a mere yes / no answer to it (along with all the inevitable justifications which glom on  each position, along with all the inevitable interpretations which go with either position). Rather, what this is is a scrutiny of this essential issue (which, while using Fiji as a foil, isn't limited to Fiji): Is Fiji the source of my experience of paradise? Or: Is my experience the source of "Fiji is paradise!"? Choose.

Here's my response  to the question (I decline to mire it by answering  it): Fiji is paradise if, when I'm here, when I'm fully present with it, I say  "This is paradise!". Then  it's paradise. What else is paradise? What else is paradise without us here experiencing it, saying it's paradise? Now here's the thing: if Fiji is paradise in this way, then everywhere else  is also paradise in this way like a possibility. And if Fiji isn't paradise in this way, then nowhere else can be paradise either. Where I take a stand is as the context for Fiji and for everywhere else wherever I am, wherever I stand, occurring as paradise like a possibility. This is who I am.

That may be abstract. So here's its real  component: carefully monitored by the Fijian government, privately owned islands can be developed. Development here doesn't mean strip malls and cookie-cutter homes. Any developer not counting on visitors wanting (no, demanding)  the pristine Fijian look and feel of the islands with perhaps the additional pampering luxuries of clean sheets and towels, a warm shower and a cold beer, would only be harming their chances. Here on this immaculate island, the interior of which was once mostly a swamp, an enterprising yachtsman and his wife were among the very first to arrive. They built a few units for accommodation out of natural materials. This attracted other yachtsmen as they sailed by who dropped anchor and stayed a while, the tariffs for which allowed them to build more units and even put in a generator to power the island. True visionaries. They saw the possibilities.

Later they cleared a copse of falling palm trees, sold the hearts of palm  and coconuts to a hotel on the mainland, then cleared an airstrip for small planes with the proceeds. This enabled more visitors and more carefully monitored improvements to the island which at no stage ever compromised either the integrity of the island, the Fijian look and feel of the place, or the spirit of Bula  ie especially  not the spirit of Bula ... which makes me realize not only is the art of inventing possibility available in a pristine paradise like Fiji (just as it's available everywhere) but it's actually intrinsic  to a pristine paradise like Fiji.

And so back to my original question: is Fiji paradise? Well, is it? You know, there's no right answer  to this question. Is Fiji paradise? What do you  say?

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