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

More Than Half Of What I Own

Cowboy Cottage, East Napa, California, USA

October 24, 2017

This essay, More Than Half Of What I Own, is the companion piece to What You Can't Live Without.

It was written at the same time as Where The Action Is.

I'm concerned this may border on inappropriateness (not to mention that it may encroach to the edge of insensitivity) to tout what I got of value  from the North Bay firestorm. I still have a house. I still have a warm, dry place to stay. When I go home at night, I know there's a comfortable bed on which I can rest and dream. My critical paperwork is intact. None of that's the concern. My concern is for people who, in one moment were homeowners with years of accumulated conveniences and comforts (you know, the very stuff of our lives) who in the next moment only owned the shirts on their backs, and very large piles of ash, rubble, and twisted metal.

I for one, can't even bring myself to imagine what that would have been like had it happened to me as it did to them. I know I'd eventually get on with my life - that's a given. I'd have to. But with that said, I just don't have the adequate mental facility to even fantasize about a loss of that magnitude - not to mention the sheer terror  of it and its subsequent awful inconvenience. So if I say anything about the value  I got from the experience, I intend to say it inclusive of those people, in their honor, with total compassion, support, and empathy, and with love and respect.

It was a crystal clear moment (I'm talking about that exact moment when I got what there was for me to get from the experience). It was extremely lucid. In fact given its urgency, it was oddly  crystal clear. There was no panic. Time stretched infinitely in all directions at once. I was at peace, level-headed, and awake in a calm, serenely non-adrenalin-charged way. It wasn't the way I would have expected an incident like that to have occurred, especially given the extreme, dire circumstances. In now slack-jawed wonder I watched a fragmented mile-wide wall of flame fifty feet high about four miles in front of me, moving in my direction at a speed which in other parts of the valley would later, as the county fire chief noted, become wind-driven and cross a distance equivalent to a football field's length in three seconds - which means you can't outrun it, and you may not even be able to drive your car  faster than it to escape it, especially on our winding country roads.

In a disbelief which was as clear as it was without any shadow of doubt, I knew I may have to evacuate. So I began looking at (ie taking a mental inventory of)  what I would take with me if it came to that. And that's the moment my whole relationship with the things I own  ie with the stuff  in my life, changed irrevocably forever.

After the firestorm, I gave my word to myself I would get rid of more than half of what I own. Actually I've done more than that: I've gotten rid of about 85% of what I owned then. And I'm not yet done getting rid of, ditching, giving away, selling, recycling all my stuff. And what I've gotten from the experience isn't as much about jettisoning all the physical  stuff and the drawer, closet, and shelf space that it made available, as I would have predicted.

The things I've accumulated belong in one of three groups: one, essentials; two, items of quality (sentimental items, photographs, artwork etc); and then there's that third group: stuff I've accumulated only because I never got rid of it  once it served its purpose ie once its usefulness expired. It's the accumulation of the latter group which is evidence of being unconscious to living ie of letting unnecessary stuff clog my life, my responsibility arena, and (more pointedly) my entire way of being.

That's what's pertinent here. The thing about the latter group is I see it's merely a symptom  of a perniciously dull way I live my life by default  (that is, if I don't wake myself up to it): I postpone completing incidents which are incomplete; I hold off having conversations which are long overdue to be had; I put off cleaning up areas of my relationships which aren't cleaned up; I delay letting go of preconceptions / memories / incidents / significances from the past which no longer serve any useful purpose for creating the context in which I live in the present and into which I live as a future. That's the stuff I'd actually be overjoyed  if it were unceremoniously taken from me by a firestorm. Look: if I tell the truth about it, that  stuff represents waaay  more than half of what I own: in a very real sense, it's almost all of it.

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