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


Napa Valley, California, USA

January 4, 2008

This essay, Perspective, was written at the same time as The Virtue Of Indifference.

"I cried for not having shoes till I saw a man with no legs." ... old Persian proverb

I am indebted to my brother Brandon "Bang" David Platt who contributed material for this conversation.


Someone drove too fast through an intersection and hit my car, denting the left rear fender. It's a hassle.

I had to get my car repaired.

I know of a woman whose house was cloven cleanly in two by a hundred foot oak tree which was blown down and fell on it during a storm. The unstopped driving rain then flooded her unprotected interior, ruining all her carpets, furniture, and clothing, and destroying all her critical paperwork.

She had to get her house rebuilt and start her life all over again.

In perspective, my little fenderbender  doesn't qualify for the designation hassle  anymore.


I've spent a lot of time in the sun - both as a surfer and as a traveler in the Fiji Islands and in the Amazon jungle. We've only relatively recently started understanding the effects of the sun on our skin. I'm careful now to wear sunscreen, but I wasn't as careful in my earlier years. During a routine annual physical examination my doctor recommended I have some tiny spots of sun damage on my face seen. I did, then had them removed entirely. The process isn't painful, but immediately afterwards there were two open raw patches each the size of a dime I couldn't hide on my face.

Given my appearance, I would have preferred not to be seen in public.

Nonetheless, I took myself to my favorite diner for breakfast before work. As I was sipping coffee waiting for my Denver  omelet, a man sat down at the counter next to me.

I almost gasped out loud when I saw how disfigured he was. From the looks of things, he had purple swellings and third degree burns all over his face. Yet I noticed it was I not he who had difficulty with his looks. The waitress came and took his order.

"Excuse me Sir" I said, unable to contain myself. "Please forgive me for staring, but I couldn't help notice you. What happened to your face? Were you burned?".

"Oh no" he said, quite pleasantly. "I was born this way. I was kissed by angels. When I was a boy I felt self-conscious, but I don't anymore.".

Given the way his face looked when he was a boy, he would have preferred not to be seen in public but he's not self-conscious anymore  ...

In perspective, I had nothing worth hiding in public. Neither did he, but in the scheme of things, what he had to contend with was enormous  compared to what I was contending with. Soon my raw spots of sun damage cauterization would heal and disappear entirely. He, on the other hand, would have his disfigurement for life. And he had no embarrassment whatsoever  about his appearance, arduous to look at, which he regarded simply as lipstick on his cheeks from angels' kisses, from baisers d'anges.


The Napa Valley, the wine country  where I live is renowned for producing the best grapes in the world for making wine. The first factor is its fertile soils. The second factor is the semi-permanent drought during its growing season. The third factor is its summer growing season temperatures which can reach a blistering one hundred and ten degrees fahrenheit and hotter. In dryness and heat, grapes become sweeter - as everyone knows, dry grapes become raisins which are sweeter than grapes. Sweeter grapes make the best wine

When it gets really hot, people turn on air conditioners. If everyone turns on their air conditioners all at once, sometimes a power failure occurs in my area of the town of Napa when the system becomes overloaded. Then, besides no air conditioning, there's also no electric fans to ease the heat. If your water comes from a well driven by an electric pump, there's no cool showers either. When the power's out, perhaps for an hour or so, maybe once in the summer, there's respite by going down to the local bowling alley which has its own generators to run its air conditioners. You can chill  there, quite literally, bowling a frame or two while waiting for the power to come on again.

In January of 2008 the power went out in South Africa. But not just for one area affecting a few thousand people in a town like Napa. It went out for the entire country of nearly fifty million people. It went out not just for one hour during the summer. Without buying electricity from neighboring countries, without mandating the mining industry generate its own power, without requesting the population severely curtail energy use, it's said the power could go out for three to five hours, randomly, rolling blackouts  (which they call load shedding) every day for the next five years until new power stations come on line. That's the optimistic  scenario for summer. In winter when people turn on heaters, it'll get worse.

In perspective, the inconvenience of an hour of no power in a village can't compare to the inconvenience of five years of rolling blackouts in an entire country. While I chill  in the bowling alley, entire livelihoods are lost when restaurants go out of business as melted frozen food spoils in unpowered refrigerators, indeed as lives  are lost in unpowered hospital emergency rooms.

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