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

On Hurricanes And Earthquakes II

Cowboy Cottage, East Napa, California, USA

September 25, 2017

"There won't be an earthquake because I say  there won't be an earthquake. And if I change my mind, you'll know because you'll hear the rumble."  ... 
"There won't be a hurricane because I say  there won't be a hurricane. And if I change my mind, you'll know because you'll see palm trees bending."  ... Laurence Platt recreating  
"The most terrifying fact about the universe is not that it is hostile but that it is indifferent." ... Stanley Kubrick
This essay, On Hurricanes And Earthquakes II, is the companion piece to On Hurricanes And Earthquakes.

The total devastation they unleash is almost inconceivable. No, it's not "almost" inconceivable: it is  inconceivable. An unprecedented eight  major hurricanes (Harvey, Irma, José, Katia, Lee, Maria, Nate, and Ophelia) have figuratively eaten alive  ie laid waste to the properties and the well-beings of millions people on the islands and in the states and in the nations from the Gulf of Mexico to and throughout the Caribbean Sea. They're called "cyclones" in the south Pacific, "typhoons" in the north Pacific, "hurricanes" in the Atlantic. Two major earthquakes (7.1 and 6.1 on the Richter scale) have rocked Mexico. Each of these ten catastrophic events happened in the last few weeks. If it weren't for how threatened we are by, and how powerless we are over, their indifference to our safety and comfort, even to our very lives, we may be better able to appreciate what awesome, majestic, magnificent phenomena they are (is that particular perspective right now (quote unquote) "too soon"?).

I watched some of their coverage on TV, both as they were unfolding, then again after they were gone. Who, having not experienced it first hand, can even begin to imagine what it's like to experience such disruption? I close my eyes and try. But when I open them again, having tried to imagine the very worst possible, my world is still in order, everything is still in place, I still have all my possessions (unbroken), my home isn't a pile of rubble, or blown away entirely out to sea, or carpeted with five feet of mud. There's such pain and anguish etched into the faces of people who've lost everything  - "everything" being more than mere possessions, more than mere livelihoods: "everything" being their very identities. Be honest: if you weren't there, you'll never know what that's like. Not really. Compassion is your best shot.

What mesmerizes  me as I watch is this: the only faces that show little or no distress, are volunteers, helpers, assistants, rescue workers etc, in other words people whose personal lives aren't any less impacted or devastated by these catastrophes, yet who have simply chosen to devote their energies to helping others ie to serve the greater good. Listen: that's not merely profound:  what it speaks is something extremely beautiful, something wonderfully redeeming about humanity.

As I sit trying to gauge their terrible suffering and anguish, I notice a certain arrogance emerging in the form of my own judgement of these natural disasters (that's what we call them) as cruel, as harsh, even as evil. They're none of the above: they are what they are. This is the universe in which we live. It's not their occurrence which is out of place here: it's our arrogance about them, which is. Especially in the case of hurricanes, the conversations about human contribution to climate change are well under way. Some offer carefully thought-through changes we must make, and by when. Others are in total denial about human causes of climate change resulting in these deadly increases in the force and frequency of hurricanes. Others (including a world expert, the brilliant Neil deGrasse Tyson) are of the opinion that it's already  too late (Neil, you're like Peter Fonda embodying Wyatt Williams just before Easy Rider's  cathartic climax, as he mulls "You know, Billy, we blew it!").

We can have all of the above conversations, and we should  have them all - no, we must  have them all. What I want to focus on in this  conversation however (this being a Conversation For Transformation)  is how things keep on turning out the way they turn out - often because of us, but much, much more often, in spite of us. The question "Why do bad things (ie hurricanes and earthquakes) happen to good people (ie us)?" is really a futile inquiry inasmuch as it's too pre-bloated with iffy interpretations and invalid assumptions to effectively point to anything useful. Things turn out the way they turn out - as they've been doing for millennia, and as they'll be doing for millennia more to come. My choice, therefore, isn't that things should turn out different than the way they turn out (mostly so they'd be less hostile to us, yes?) because in truth, that particular choice isn't ours to make. No, my choice is to consider what I want my life to be for, what contribution I want to make, what difference I want to make, all the while knowing that no matter what  I choose and make happen, things are going to turn out the way they turn out anyway.

Because the obviously awful consequences of hurricanes and earthquakes for humanity, cloud our view of the magnificence these natural phenomenon are, it's almost impossible to even consider admiring them for being so awesome, and for their gift of the possibility of reverence  (if you will). Stepping back a few paces allows us to see that the eons-long process which set them in motion, also set you and I in motion - or (spoken more rigorously) it set in motion that you and I set ourselves in motion. When this distinction becomes clear, which is to say when we have the courage to make this distinction, the possibility of transformation is teased out, and the difference we can choose to make anywhere on our planet, and especially in areas steamrolled by these natural juggernauts, becomes apparent, and clearly calls to us.

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