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

Still Standing Still

Cowboy Cottage, East Napa, California, USA

October 22, 2017

"I'm still standing better than I ever did, looking like a true survivor, feeling like a little kid." ... Sir Elton John, I'm Still Standing 
This essay, Still Standing Still, is the companion piece to Standing In The River.

It is also the eighteenth in an open group with titles borrowed from Songs: It is also, with Enlightenment In The Danger Zone and A Visceral Twinge Of Fear, the sequel to 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.

It is also the prequel to Where The Action Is.

Mother Nature can lay down harsh discipline. In many other disciplines there's a "cry uncle"  option: we can make it known we want a let up. By pounding the mat, we indicate surrender. The rules of the game then call for relief. Mother Nature's discipline however, doesn't come with such an option. It confronts us in ways we're not ordinarily confronted. Many other disciplines have an option to stay within our comfort zones. But in Mother Nature's discipline, it's likely there isn't such an option.

The North Bay firestorm rolled dice on an unlevel table for so many people. Events of such randomness call for a deeper inquiry into how we relate to events, deeper than the way we ordinarily relate to life and what we expect will happen. Hardest of all to square with, is arguably "None of this is personal.". Yet each of us will relate to it personally as we sift through what we're left with at its conclusion. The question "Why do bad things happen to good people?" is a futile attempt to square with the inexplicability of events. Bad things happen to good people, just as surely as bad things happen to bad people (just as good things happen to good people, and good things happen to bad people). It won't square with any rational, trite explanation or understanding we crave. It simply is  (which is to say, it simply happened).

I'm sensitive. I'm extremely sensitive. I'm compassionate too. I'm acutely aware there's a time when conversations like this one can be considered to be "too soon". In the wake of such destruction and dislocation, you wouldn't have to be superhuman to prioritize more important things that need to get done, than the need for inquiry and reflection. Yet in the aftermath of an event like this, almost everything occurs within one form of inquiry or another: should I keep this? or should I discard it?, the erstwhile unthinkable "Where will I live now?", and "What did we do to cause this?", the latter being a brutally honest, almost heroic assessment of the circumstances.

Whatever the inquiry promotes, be it about the catastrophic or simply about the mildly inconvenienced, it's an inquiry more confronting than anything I've ordinarily known. It's the one that puts me face to face with my place in the indifferent universe, and with who I will be  in the future, given its indifference. Hostility, by the way, is a bad rap that's often laid on the universe, instead of indifference. Try this on for size rather: "The universe isn't hostile: it just is what it is ie instead of being hostile, it's just indifferent.". That's what Stanley Kubrick may have said (the "it just is what it is" (and it ain't what it ain't) part is what Werner Erhard may have said).

I notice two new essential thrusts making their presence known in my life now in the wake of the North Bay firestorm.

The first is in my relationship with things  ie to objects in general, and in particular with things I own. I'm in a process of examining each and every single thing I own, and about each one asking the question "Keep this? or discard it?". Cowboy Cottage has a lot  of empty space now where things once used to be. I'm shocked to discover I had AT&T telephone bills dating back to 1998  - which simply begs the stunned question "Why?". There's new space in the Cowboy Cottage as a result of this purge - to be sure. But that's really not the point. The point is rather that it's in the purge of things that I discover new space within my Self  ie that I discover new freedom to be, within my Self. Hoarding things comes, it would seem, at a terrible cost. Ownership of non-essential items stakes a claim to my personal space ie to my very being, steadily clogging and cutting off my ability to move ahead freely with my life. Really it does.

The second is in my relationship with the action  in my life. Here I don't mean "action" as in the piddling "Let's go to a bar for some action"  sense. What I mean is "action" in the sense of being in action. I'm experiencing this as a totally new distinction for me, even though it's one I've listened Werner speak on countless  occasions. I got it every time I listened him speak it - or at least I thought  I did. Yet now, in the aftermath of my experience of the North Bay firestorm (of all  my experiences actually, but particularly  in the aftermath of my experience of the North Bay firestorm), I get I'm either  in action moving my life forward, or I'm not. It's completely black and white. There's no gray. What I'd like to have happen ie what I'd prefer  to be happening, has got nothing to do with it. The universe doesn't give a damn  about the way I want it to be. I've gotten clear my only  access to impacting life is action (thank you Werner), a revelation I'm clear I ignore at my own peril.

This is an opportunity to begin all over again - or at least it's an opportunity to reassess everything (and I do mean everything)  I've got going on in my life. I'm still here. Cowboy Cottage is still here. I'm not yet done with living. There's a lot left I still want to get done. Now I'm playing with all  the possibilities - in the same way as children play when you give them your permission to do anything they want to do. The North Bay firestorm destroyed so much for so many, and in the most unexpected, unpredicted, horrific episode imaginable. But I'm still standing  - that is to say who I really  am is still standing which of course is the evidence that who we all  really are is still standing.

Still. And that's not a "too soon".

Background soundtrack: Sir Elton John: I'm Still Standing - wait for 2.88M download

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