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


River Of People

El Rastro, Madrid, Spain

October 10, 2010



This essay, River Of People, is the third in a group of four written in Madrid, October 2010:
  1. Miles And Miles And Miles
  2. Through Spanish Ears
  3. River Of People
  4. Tengo Un Regalo Para Ti
in that order.




Photography by Alexandra Lindsey Platt - El Rastro, Madrid, Spain - 1:10pm Sunday October 10, 2010
River Of People


No photograph can possibly do it justice. No verbal description can possibly recreate it: this endlessly flowing stream  of men, women, and children, this unstoppable river of people.

To experience it you have to be  in it. To know it you have to stand  in it - that is, if you can  stand in it, if you can hold your ground without being swept away by it. But to get  it, you do have to allow yourself to be swept away by it. To get it fully, to grok  it completely (as Robert Heinlein may have said), you have to go with it.

The sheer force of it, the unbridled energy of it defies even big game arena  crowds and concert stadium  audiences. Big game arena crowds and concert stadium audiences, for the most part sit or stand still in one place. And when they enter and leave the venue, they enter and leave via many streams. This isn't that. This river of people is nothing like that.

I stand in the middle of it - as if I'm standing in the middle of a swiftly flowing torrent of water, a powerfully  swiftly flowing torrent of water, a very wide  powerfully swiftly flowing torrent of water. And one word comes out of my mouth, the one word which most fits this occasion, the one word which most fully expresses my awe, my speechlessness  at the wonder of what I'm seeing. And the word is ... "Wow!"  - just ... plain ... "Wow!".

It stretches as far as I can see. It goes on so long and so far I can't see its end because it disappears into a vanishing point. It keeps on flowing. It never depletes itself. The more it flows and empties people out of its mouth  which it invariably must do even though I can't see that far ahead, the more people come into this river at its source. And its source is so far behind me I can't see it past its vanishing point either.

Just as in front of me and behind me, to the left of me and to the right of me are people, shoulder to shoulder, so close together I know if I lift my feet off the ground, I'll be carried along like a leaf on an eddy ... but my survival instinct, my sense of self preservation gets the better of me just as I'm about to try it, and I don't.

The river of people is flowing now down a narrow lane between quaint store fronts and market stalls just like a real river may run bounded by the walls of a canyon. What strikes me after a while as unusual, what surprises me is there's no sense of alarm, there's no feeling of danger. The only sense I can conjure up of what would  promote a feeling of danger is what could happen if I tried to go against  the flow. Now that  would be a problem, so I stop thinking about it. And as I look around, fascinated by the whole process, I notice there's no sense of danger on any of the faces around me either. Everyone else, it seems, in this river of people is also going with the flow. Yet there's something else  at play here, something just beyond my peripheral vision, something I just can't quite see, and yet it's very clearly here. It's very clearly all around me. Whatever it is, it's what I'm exactly in the middle of  right now. And that's  why I can't distinguish it - at least, not yet. It's like air to a bird. It's like water to a fish. It's my milieu.

Suddenly it dawns on me what it is. It's humanity. What I'm right in the middle of, what's all around me, what's sweeping me along in a river of people is humanity. And what's interesting is given the possibility of chaos, given the non-zero threat of danger  should, for example, someone slip or stumble and be trampled underfoot or be crushed against a wall and unable to breathe, there's no sense of imminent harm, and there's no sense of panic or even of claustrophobia  in me or in anyone else around me - as far as I can tell. In fact, for the most part there's nothing going on. Indeed, I may even be the only one with any sense at all of the profundity  of this experience. For the most part, walking in this river of people is just business as usual  for everyone else.

Imagine the possibilities. Imagine the possibilities of Life always flowing like this, of Life always working  like this. Imagine the possibilities of acknowledging  Life always working like this, of Life endlessly going on and on and on like this, of Life always turning out  like this with everyone in harmony (both unknowingly and knowingly) with everyone else, with everyone watching out for everyone else ... with no one and nothing left out.

It gets me. It moves  me. Standing here surrounded by, swept up in, swept along by this river of people, I'm in awe of how easy it is - which is to say I'm in awe of how easy it all could be.

Imagine. Just imagine  the possibilities ...



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