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


Stranger Out Of Time

Nepenthe, Big Sur, California, USA

August 27, 2007



This essay, Stranger Out Of Time, is the companion piece to Friend Of The Planet.

It is the third in a group of four written in Big Sur: I am indebted to Robert Heinlein and to Robert Zimmerman who inspired this conversation.




There's a certain background for the way we live life which isn't defined by where  we live but rather by when  we live. I'm not referring to the date or the time.

We can live rooted by the past. Incidents occur a long time ago. Things come on us randomly  yet we add meaning  to what happened which starts a lifelong chain reaction of interpretations, a skew. Whatever occurs today and whatever will occur tomorrow is predicated on, is defined by, is explained in terms of what happened yesterday. We learn  from what happened. Man! How we learn ...  At worst there's no spontaneity. At best life's predictable.

We can live in the present. Live for today!  It's a great approach. Carefree and playful. Implicit in "live for today" is "forget the past"  as well as "let tomorrow take care of itself". Don't worry about tomorrow? It sounds risky. But who knows: it may not be. At worst it's irresponsible. At best it's light-hearted and happy.

We can live for the future. I don't mean for tomorrow. We can live for way beyond tomorrow. We can live for an afterlife  or at least in anticipation of, in the hope  of an afterlife replete with everlasting life  or rewarded by seventy virgins for every man, whichever our persuasion is. This is the option of choice if we consider the life we live today isn't it, if it'll only be it  after we die. At worst, this is a recipe for going through the motions  throughout life without really living  fully until the afterlife is reached. At best there's something to look forward to.

I once met a stranger out of time. I recognized him instantly even though I'd never met him before. I could tell from the moment I first laid eyes on him he didn't live in time. He lived out of time. The time of his life wasn't defined by living rooted by the past nor by living in the present nor by living for the future. I asked him about an afterlife.

He said he'd considered what an afterlife could be like: a way to be, a place to go  when our lives on Earth end. He said if there was one, he'd get there when he got there if he got there, whenever that was. But for the most part he was more interested in living powerfully while he was here on the planet. He said he wasn't in any hurry to leave to go anywhere else. He said an afterlife might be attractive to him if he were unable to invent possibility in this life. If he were unable to invent possibility in this life and  there wasn't an afterlife, he said then he'd probably get stuck wondering "What's the point of it all?", he'd be chagrined  not having an explanation, a reason  for it all.

The stranger out of time, however, had had an extraordinary breakthrough, after which an afterlife hadn't become irrelevant  as much as it had ceased being a tenet on which the direction and purpose of his life was founded. The priorities of living had shifted for him. He'd become complete, fulfilled, intent on living life fully in every possible way until his life on Earth ended. He said it wasn't necessary for him to fill living today with anticipation of an afterlife as something to look forward to, as something to give life meaning. Living fully here was enough, sufficient.

He said he'd realized it's not his past which grips him, skewing his life from what he wants. He said he'd studied karma, the eastern notion of action and reaction ie the adage "as you sow, so shall you reap". He said while karma explained a lot, the law of karma by definition  is a closed system. His inquiries now considered the possibility of actions which could disrupt  that closed system ie actions which could bring forth hitherto unpredictable  results not based on anything from the past. The concept of karma became less and less useful to him as a paradigm to explain and to master life, so he dropped it.

He said he'd tried gestalt. He'd gained many insights from it. Yet beyond a certain value in understanding his past, he wasn't enrolled in the gestalt model for inventing the rest of his life  from that moment on. Gestalt didn't satisfy his inquiry into whether or not he could bring forth entirely new  possibilities, actions and results neither predicated on the past nor explained as a payback for some earlier action.

The breakthrough in his inquiry came when he noticed who he really is  isn't stuck in his past. He saw he wasn't stuck with a life determined by what he'd already done. He saw his present isn't simply the equalization  of, the result  of things he'd done previously. Rather, he saw his present as he'd lived it until then  was a function of not having created a future for himself to live into. In the absence of any created future to live into, his present had simply rolled along on the probable almost certain  tracks already laid down by the railroad of his life. He said he'd never ever  considered the possibility of laying new track, at least not until then.

He said he wasn't living for the future. He said he was living from  the future.

"What's the difference?" I asked him.

He said he wasn't posing a science fiction  scenario of coming back to Earth via a time warp  from some future year. Rather, he said he was inventing, right here and right now, his future, a future worth living into. He wasn't waiting for the future to come. He was inventing it as he went along. The future he invented for himself  then called him and inspired him to live into it.

"That's  what he means when he says he lives from  the future", I mused.

He lived not rooted by the past, not in the present, not for the future. He lived from  the future. The more he spoke about it, the more the stranger out of time sounded like Merlin the Wizard, like Yoda the Jedi Master. At first what he said sounded too otherworldly  for me until it dawned on me the other world  he spoke about was my own.



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