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

Plastic Chandelier

Exertec Health and Fitness Center, Napa, California, USA

March 27, 2007

This essay, Plastic Chandelier, is the companion piece to It is the prequel to Plastic Chandelier II.

Werner, when I was with him at a Be With  in San Francisco in a hotel ballroom, was asked if he'd ever lived in a monastery. His response has held its power over the years. It's as powerful and as relevant today as it was then.

"I do  live in a monastery" he replied. "My monastery is the whole world.".

In many places (if you listen for it) you could experience holiness ie whole-iness. In a mosque, in a kramat  you may hear Allah in the mezzuin's  call. In a cathedral, in a church you could visualize Jesus Christ on a cross. In a synagogue, in a shul  you might feel the presence of Yahweh, Jehovah, Adonai  at the ark. In a yoga studio you may find inner peace by the incense. In a psychotherapist's office you might become self-actualized on a couch. In an ashram  you could attain satchitananda, absolute bliss consciousness next to the puja  table. In a meditation room you may realize samadhi  on a cushion. In a Zen monastery you might get satori  in a flash. And if you're really  listening acutely, anywhere you are on the planet at any time, you could get any or all of the above.

But what got me  that day with Werner at the Be With in San Francisco is this:

In a hotel ballroom I got enlightenment under a plastic chandelier.

No props. No backdrop. No symbols. No icons. No beliefs. Just the naked presence of This Is "It". And of course that was it ... in retrospect. But hindsight however is always 20/20 vision. What's distinct about this particular hindsight is it bodes just as well, it's just as valid as a view, as a way of looking  for now and for the future.

I have a deep respect for piety. I really do. If you're going to do anything at all you may as well do it 100%. If you're going to worship at all you may as well go all out.

What I'm wary of, quite frankly, is not to collapse piety with exclusivity when it comes to distinguishing where the experience of This Is "It"  is available. I'd like to blur  the lines of demarkation which have the experience of piety only available in some places but not in others. Even though certain agreed on places (mosques, kramats, cathedrals, churches, synagogues, shuls, yoga studios, psychotherapists' offices, ashrams, meditation rooms, Zen monasteries) have the availability of all appropriate accoutrements, props, backdrop, supplies, icons, and beliefs, I say the collections of symbols  of piety are insufficient in and of themselves to generate the experience  of enlightenment, of This Is "It". I wouldn't bet on grace  either, by the way, to generate it for you. I would, however, bet on You  to generate it for you.

With Werner in a hotel ballroom I got enlightenment under a plastic chandelier. That grants access to it anywhere in all conditions under all circumstances to all people yesterday, today, and tomorrow. That's no ordinary talk. That's remarkable. But then again, that's Werner.

I'm in a coin laundromat. I watch people who work bone numbing hours of manual labor in the vineyards of the Napa Valley. They're washing their clothes. They're washing their families' clothes. They come here because they can't afford washing machines and dryers of their own. The floor is grimy and dusty. Any item of clothing accidentally dropped on the floor may as well be thrown in the trash. Sticky. Messy. Why should the owner wash the floor? He doesn't have to. He's already got your money. Is this not "It"  also?

I'm standing at a bus stop. There's litter all around on the ground, so much so the waiting trash bin must have been deliberately ignored. I avoid sitting on the rusted benches for fear of getting discarded spit-bubbled chewing gum stuck to my Levis'  backside. Spray painted graffiti defaces the advertisement posters. The rain shields are scratched with a plethora of four letter words, impossible to erase or to repair. And of course the bus is running late. Is this not "It"  also?

Its switch is always on, lighting life, that plastic chandelier.

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