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


Setting Up For The Rapids

Fantesca Estate, Spring Mountain Road, Napa Valley, California, USA

August 21, 2021

"I would rather be ashes than dust! I would rather that my spark should burn out in a brilliant blaze than it should be stifled by dry rot. I would rather be a superb meteor, every atom of me in magnificent glow, than a sleepy and permanent planet. The function of man is to live, not to exist. I shall not waste my days trying to prolong them. I shall use my time."
... Jack London

"Call me Ishmael."
... Herman Melville's opening line of Moby Dick

"Call me Trimtab."
... Richard Buckminster "Bucky" Fuller speaking with Werner Erhard during the A Shot Heard 'Round The World event
This essay, Setting Up For The Rapids, is the fifth in a sextet conceived during my second sabbatical:
  1. Sabbatical II (Beginning)
  2. Silence And Nothing
  3. Sabbatical II (Middle)
  4. Full Self-Expression: Demonstration II
  5. Setting Up For The Rapids
  6. Sabbatical II (End)
in that order.

I am indebted to Bruce Preville who inspired this conversation and contributed material.

Transformation doesn't make life better. You were hoping it would? Too bad. Sorry about that. Holding transformation in the same philosophical framework as we hold all those other disciplines ie as we hold all those other intersections  (as Professor William Warren "Bill" Bartley III, Werner's official biographer, may have called them) which purport to make life better, is to be unclear on the concept. No, transformation doesn't make life better (really it doesn't). Transformation makes life the way it is  (and the way it isn't).

When I relate to life the way it is (that is to say when I relate to my life the way it is, and to Life itself  the way it is, and not to the way I'd like them to be), what becomes obvious is things are more likely to work. When I relate to my car as if it's a car, it's more likely to work than if I relate to it as if it's a canoe and attempt to navigate rapids with it - which will surely put a damper (pun intended) on its workability. A car is the appropriate vehicle for driving on a road. A canoe is the appropriate vehicle for navigating rapids. Relating to my car as a canoe won't make it work in a river navigating rapids. Transformation is relating to a car as a car, not as a canoe. Corollary: transformation forwards workability  regardless of the vehicle (and workability doesn't necessarily live in the realm of making things better).

At some point in the rigorous inquiry that gives access to transformation, I realized that in spite of all my penchants and predilections to the contrary, none of this is personal. Whether I like it or not, my life is swept along inexorably by a river which will eventually, sooner or later, time and again, go through rapids. It's as ongoing as it's immediate. There's nothing I can do to avoid them. Yet even though I can't avoid them, what I can  do when I'm in the river headed for rapids, is paddle (or row, or swim) into the optimum spot I can put myself in, for when it inevitably goes through rapids ... and then let go / surrender to the river's direction and power.

To be sure, sooner or later we discover there are ways to go through rapids which don't work (eg resisting), and there are ways to go through rapids that work (eg surrendering) even when (ie especially  when) going through them isn't avoidable (in this regard, once I entertained the possibility that it's not personal, it got easier).

What I mean by paddling into the optimum spot in the river I can put myself in, for when it inevitably does go through rapids, is one, recontextualizing (I love  that word) who we hold ourselves out to be, and two, maintaining integrity. That's all of what setting up for the rapids  calls for! And after setting up that way, let the river / life take its course (and it will: it turns out the way it turns out anyway). In this analogy, transformation is the technology for paddling into the optimal spot in the river, in readiness for when we inevitably do go through rapids. So I eschew  saying transformation will make life "better" - rather it allows for the possibility of life working with less stress, less effort, and less struggle (a list from which "better" is intentionally absent, having neither the transformational leverage nor the access).

And now I'm a not-so-spring-chicken  at 71, and it's a canoe I'm sitting in not a car, and I'm in the river, bound for rapids. I can sit here, exactly where I am, not be responsible, and be swept through rapids even if I resist, stress, effort, and struggle, and all the while opining about how unfair  the entire process is, and in spite of all my hopes and desires to the contrary, eventually get inserted  into a rock or three ... OR  ... noticing the imminent, upcoming rapids, I can dip my paddle into the river just so, putting my canoe in the optimal spot in the river, thereby facilitating ease, mastery, and grace in the inexorably rushing rapids and maelstroms  ahead.

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