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


Repainting Life On A (Suddenly) New Canvas

Cliff House Inn on the Ocean, Mussel Shoals, California, USA

October 16, 2017



"I felt a great disturbance in the Force, as if millions of voices suddenly cried out in terror and were suddenly silenced. I fear something terrible has happened." ... Obi-Wan Kenobi, Star Wars
"Earth's the right place for love: I don't know where it's likely to go better."  ... Robert Lee Frost transcribed by  
"Take a good look around you, take a good look, you're bound to see that you and me were meant to be for each other, silly girl!" ... The Beatles, Martha My Dear
This essay, Repainting Life On A (Suddenly) New Canvas, is the companion piece to BREAKTHROUGH PAINTING.

It is also the third in a trilogy on the North Bay Firestorm:
  1. What You Can't Live Without
  2. Flames In My Rearview Mirror
  3. Repainting Life On A (Suddenly) New Canvas
in that order.

The trilogy on the North Bay Firestorm is the prequel to Still Standing Still.




Photography by Laurence Platt

11:21:21am Monday October 16, 2017
Cliff House Inn on the Ocean, Mussel Shoals, California, USA
Here I sit at a simple wooden table under a palm tree. I'm the only human being in sight at this rustic place on the ocean's edge, sipping ice water from a paper cup. Oh, and I've got sea spray  in my nostrils - that's right, not choking smoke: gorgeous, divine sea spray. You can't imagine  how good that feels (or maybe you can). My life is disrupted. Something unexpected happened (Boy! Is that  the understatement of the century, or what?)  which unceremoniously put many erstwhile certainties of my life (and of the lives of thousands of other people in the North Bay) up for grabs.

To be sure, the North Bay's commerce (of which I consider myself to be an integral part) is in a state of almost total standstill. Homes and businesses have vanished overnight. Literally. Sources of income simply and instantly dried up.

When I first confronted the unavoidable impact of the North Bay firestorm on my life (which I had ample time to do as I drove away from it, watching its flames getting smaller and smaller in my rearview mirror) it occurred to me I would have to assess its impact on my financial affairs, as will surely all  Napkins (which is what we, the people of the Napa Valley self-deprecatingly call ourselves: Nap-kins → Nap-a Valley residents, get it?).

As it turns out, it's a blow. But it won't impose significant hardship on me (that, after careful calculations brainstormed with my financial advisor). Rather what's up for my total reassessment, is the direction of my entire  life. That's very inconvenient I say ruefully. Yet there's a great deal of truth in it. Before all this, things were going along in a very nice direction, thank you very much. I had no plans to change anything. That's what's inconvenient. The truth also is my own inconvenience, on a scale of 1 to 100, is at about a 17 - whereas others' is at about or above  a 110. I don't know what I'll do next. But I do know it'll be whatever's next. So that's what I'll do.

It's time to set up that easel again, time to break out those acrylic paints, select some camel-hair paint brushes (and one or two spatulas) then start repainting my life again - figuratively speaking, that is. Here's my quintessential observation: I can do this begrudgingly ("What happened should never have happened")  or I can do it as a fresh, free, new choice ("What happened, happened; now, what's next?"). And yes, there is a choice. There's always  a choice (Werner's constantly reminding me).
Lay your mouse on BREAKTHROUGH PAINTING #3604 to turn it over
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BREAKTHROUGH PAINTING #3604 by Laurence Platt

Photography by Lisa Gray
BREAKTHROUGH PAINTING
Actual Size

Side A
On the surface of it, my place wasn't incinerated. Unlike tens of thousands of others, I have a home to go back to (Cowboy Cottage is still standing, ashy and smoky yes, but still standing and completely intact). The cattle pasture didn't burn. The horses didn't need to be evacuated (I have a refrigerator drawer full of carrots which will be my homecoming gift for them). Cayetano creek lost none of the emerald shade-giving foliage covering its banks and arching cathedral-like overhead.

On the other hand below the surface, so much of what was once mine, was incinerated in the firestorm: my own sense (the illusion, actually) that I'm somehow larger than life, is burned up and reduced to soot (either you and I are all  larger than life, or none of us are); my resistance to living Life every second of every day, and my propensity to veg out, suffered third degree burns; my false notion of the importance of things and of amassing possessions, is reduced to a pile of rubble (when I return, I'm committed to getting rid of at least 50% of everything I own - if not more); oh, and one other thing: my alter-ego, Smart Aleck, is MIA presumed dead.

I'm not going to end this by trying to tie it all up in a nice ribbon with a pretty bow. I'm not going to insult people by trivializing the almost incomprehensible suffering this incident caused North Bay denizens, by coming up with something clever to say. This is no Disney  feel-good movie. Yes fresh green sprouts will pop up in charred black areas soon after the inevitable rains come, and new baby Bambis  and Thumpers  will return. But for now there's no romance in the outcome, no happy ending.

If anything, it's a wake up call. If you let it, it'll wake you up to how we treat ourselves, how we treat each other, how we treat our planet. You can be an ostrich and put your head in the sand. Or you can hold it high. Get out-here. Take a good look around you. We live here. This is our home. There's nowhere better for us to go.



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