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

That Which Never Dies:

A Conversation Over High Tea

Browns Valley, California, USA

February 2, 2020

I am indebted to Gwaltnay Levine who inspired this conversation.

Partaking in so called high tea  is not something I often do these days. That's not because I don't like to do it, nor because I disdain the practice itself. It's that here where I live in these United States, it's not de rigueur  as it is in England where I was born. Partaking in high tea is a charming ritual whose adherents wait until four o'clock in the afternoon or thereabouts to sit in their parlors  (ie living rooms) and drink a cup of (ie a "cuppa")  Earl Grey tea, to which milk and sugar are added, along with cucumber sandwiches, cake, and pastries, most notable of which are buttered scones served with strawberry jam and a dollop of clotted Devonshire cream. That's high tea. There's nothing quite like it in the USA, nothing quite like the ritual of it, the civility  of it, the extended pinky in the air  faux aristocracy of it. And there we were, an old friend and I who hadn't seen each other in a while, delighting in each other's company, enjoying high tea in an English tea lounge during a recent visit to London - talking, sharing, smiling, exchanging in the way old friends are comfortable doing, and in which they delight with each other.

And during one of the not too frequent pauses in our conversation, I asked her if there's anything she's afraid of. Regardless of its seeming intrusiveness, it was an appropriate question to ask, given what else was going on in the conversation at the time. She paused for a while, quite a long while actually, before she volunteered "I'm not afraid of anything" (it was authentic - I could tell) after which another long pause ensued before she came out with "... except dying" (equally authentic).

Even given the intimacy of our long, close friendship, it was a stunning confession. Everyone at some point or other (and I do mean everyone)  starts naturally looking at death and dying ie at various possible scenarios of our demise, considering it, confronted by it, contemplating it. Many of our contemplations are inquisitive: what will it be like? Some are fearful: will I be alone when it happens? Others are humane: will there be pain? Still others are wryly humorous - as one wit said "I'm not afraid of dying - I just don't want to be there when it happens" for example. Neither of us was touching our scones, jam, and clotted cream at this point.

Being not unfamiliar with this inquiry myself, what was fresh for me which I shared with her, was "Death's inevitability, along with taxes, is a done deal. They're arguably the only two certainties in this life. That said, being afraid  of it may just turn out to be a simple case of mistaken identity.". After a brief pause, she (quite predictably) responded "What do you mean by being afraid of it may just turn out to be a simple case of 'mistaken identity' Laurence? 'Mistaken identity'?  Explain.".

That which never dies, is Life itself. It's been going on for millennia, forever if you like, and it'll be going on for a few more millennia, forever too if you like. And after all those like you and me who've come and gone on the planet, Life itself is still intact. Take a look around you. You see it's so. Indeed, could it be that you and I are Life itself manifesting itself?  So we are also, in some very real sense, that which never dies. That's one aspect of us. Another aspect of us is we are that which dies: individuality, ego, "I / me". If you identify with that which dies, death and dying have a certain look and feel, trepidation and fear. If you're willing to entertain the possibility that you're not that which dies and not identify with it, death and dying (while inevitable) take on an entirely new look and feel. Transformation (it could be said) is shifting from mistakenly identifying with that which dies, to being willing to entertain the possibility of being that which never dies. Maybe.

She looked down, a bolt of poignant sadness suddenly creasing her face. Just as suddenly, she looked up beaming. Reaching for her cup of Earl Grey, pinky in the air, she took a sip, saying "Thank You. I love being with you.". High tea is a classy expression of English culture. Transformation is a gateway, an access to Life itself.

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