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

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Marrakech With A "C"

Djemaa El Fna, Marrakech, Morocco

March 8, 2011

"Would you know we're riding on the Marrakesh Express? They're taking me to Marrakesh. All aboard the train!" ... Crosby Stills and Nash, Marrakesh Express 
This essay, Marrakech With A "C", is the first in the quadrilogy Morocco Series, March 2011:
  1. Marrakech With A "C"
  2. Dancing With Life
  3. Celebration In Essaouira
  4. The Boogie-Boarders Of Casablanca
in that order.

Globally it's spelled Marrakesh with an "s". That's anglicized. Locally it's spelled Marrakech with a "c". That's authentic.

To actually see  and experience  Marrakech authentically, you have to give up something. You could hear what I just spoke as a tourist. To a degree, that's apropos - not to mention useful. You'd have to give up, for example, counting on finding your way around using a map relying on signs showing street names because there aren't any signs showing street names. You'd have to give up, for example, counting on finding your way around using directions relying on businesses and restaurants displaying their street numbers because businesses and restaurants don't display their street numbers. You'd have to give up, for example, English to read signs and to make conversations because English is hardly spoken here (classic Arabic and Moroccan French is).

And that's just for starters. This is a different world, a totally  different world, a slower paced world, a third  world. When I first arrived in Marrakech I noticed everything  is painted the same brick red color. I first noticed the same reddish color of the surrounding desert sands as our flight (my daughter Alexandra and I decided to spend some quality time alone together here) approached Marrakech's surprisingly modern airport. In the city itself (appropriately known as "The Red City"), it seems as if everything - walls, fences, buildings, markets, stalls, art, pottery, everything  - is painted or glazed the same brick red color.

My western leanings got the better of me as I found myself wondering how I could buy shares in the company selling this single color paint - odd thoughts, in the midst of abject poverty in which beggars proliferate. This is a very, very  old city, a fascinating blend of ancient and modern. Looking down from hills and monuments, I noticed literally thousands and thousands  of satellite dishes mounted on the roofs of the city. They're sprouted up everywhere  like a forest of mushrooms - on the swankiest, poshest hotels (and there are a few of those), on the most pitiful hovels. Again - in spite of myself - I wondered about buying stock in the company installing satellite dishes.

All these observations stuck with me, having a profound effect on me. As a traveler, they're impossible to avoid. However, this essay isn't a travelogue - as much as I'm tempted it should be. It's a conversation for transformation. So rather than merely rattle off, rote like, what there is to see and do in Marrakech as a tourist, and what you have to give up as a tourist to see it authentically, here's something that's really worth getting, leading to what's really worth giving up - not just in Marrakech but rather across the board in Life as well, wherever you are.

When we hailed a taxi, we showed the driver our map and pointed to where we wanted to go. I don't speak any Arabic. But I understand enough Arabic to realize taxi drivers in Marrakech may not be able to read maps!

("Shouldn't all taxi drivers be able to read maps?")

And even when taxi drivers spoke some passable English, if we told them, for example, about a restaurant to which we'd like to be taken, having read about it being recommended in our guide book, taxi drivers in Marrakech may not be able to find restaurants by name.

("Shouldn't all taxi drivers be able to find restaurants by name?")

Both of the above wouldn't be allowed  by any self-respecting taxi licensing commission in any American city ...

And that's  when I noticed it: the constantly pernicious comparing  to the way in my opinion it ought to be, the constant judging  of what we should get, of what we should expect - indeed, the constant expectation  about how things should work here: streets should  have street signs, businesses and restaurants should  display their street numbers for easy locatability (which should  match maps and directions in guidebooks), English should  be spoken (yes, that's really arrogant I know ... but Man!  I noticed I had it going on - big  time), taxi drivers should  be able to read maps, and should definitely  be able to find restaurants by name - even if it required me mustering my basic French to convey it to them.

"Should!". "Should!". "Should!". I was seeing it everywhere  in who I was being: in my thinking, in my speaking, in my listening, in my expectations. Furthermore I realized until I saw it, I was totally blind  to it ongoingly shaping my thinking, my speaking, my listening, my expectations (that's the embarrassing part). And suddenly, with a blended mix of chagrin, frustration, sadness, and wide eyed innocence, I experienced a breakthrough. I realized I wasn't having the authentic Marrakech experience at all. In fact, although technically I was here within the city limits of Marrakech, within its walls, within its medina  ie within its geographical location, I hadn't yet really arrived in Marrakech. Rather, the experience I was having was my already always ongoing experience, into which Marrakech was somehow expected to fit.

That's what I had to give up to actually see and to actually experience Marrakech authentically: I had to give up having Laurence's  experience of Marrakech, and instead I had to allow Marrakech to have its  experience of Laurence.

"Shookrun"  (which means "thank you" in Arabic) Marrakech. Shookrun for being awesome. Shookrun for being ancient and marvelous. Shookrun for already  being authentic - exactly the way you are and exactly the way you aren't - and for showing me how easy it is for me to miss that. Shookrun for not  being the United States of America. Shookrun for not being what I already know, for not being what I'm already familiar with, for not being what I'm already comfortable with. Shookrun Marrakech for calling me on my act  - that is to say thank you for calling me on my arrogant, American, tourist, act.

Now I'm really ready to come to you authentically, Marrakech with a "c". All aboard the train!

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