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


The Day The Guests Didn't Come

Cowboy Cottage, East Napa, California, USA

November 4, 2011



I am indebted to Jane Downes who inspired this conversation.



I haven't seen them for quite a while - for too long  actually. Now they're coming to visit. I'm delighted! Their coming is a gift, a timely gift. Once I fully realize they're really coming, I also realize how much I've missed them. They'll be my guests in my home. I'm excited! We make our plans in detail. Dates and times are checked and rechecked. It's on the schedule now. I'm looking forward to it.

I completely revamp the guest room. I vacuum and dust. I meticulously remake the bed with clean sheets and pillow cases - which I've ironed. I also fit it with a clean mattress cover - which I've also ironed. I fold the sheets crisply and tuck them in making military corners.

Once a bed is made and covered with a duvet, no one will notice the corners, or how and where the sheets are tucked in. Does it matter  if I fold the sheets crisply and tuck them in making military corners? If no one sees them, does it matter?

Here's the thing: I don't make the bed with military corners because someone will see them. I make the bed with military corners because I make the bed with military corners. Military corners, ironed sheets and pillow cases, and even an ironed mattress cover are simply appropriate for who my guests are.

Next there's the question of a gift. I know the perfect  gift for them, one which they'll not only appreciate but will instantly recognize and be blown away  by. The trouble is it's not easy to find. I look around. I make phone calls. I talk with people ... who refer me to other people ... who refer me to stores ... who refer me to private collectors. I'm a detective conducting an investigation. I follow up all leads one-track-mindedly  until eventually I find it: a revered very, very rare vintage 1992 bottle of their favorite Cabernet Sauvignon. I wrap it minimalistically  in plain white tissue paper, mindful of not intruding into its Zen, then I set it on the bedside table just so.

It takes me about a half hour endlessly composing and recomposing a personal note until it communicates exactly what I intend. When it does, I write it neatly in black ink on a carefully chosen handpainted card. I place the card along with two unintrusive wine glasses beside the white wrapped Cabernet Sauvignon on the bedside table.

Now everything is ready. I stand back and get  the space. It's all in place. There's nothing to fix or change.

The flashing red LED  on my telephone answering machine alerts me to an unheard voice message. I press PLAY  and listen. They're not coming. They say they'll call again. That's all they say.

I gasp audibly. My eyes mist over. There's a brief moment of quiet in my head, then shock as the "Say whut?"  hits. That's when it starts: the conjecture, the imagining what happened, the imagining why  it happened, the making up, the trying to figure out  what caused them to cancel, the firestorm, the eruption  of thoughts bursting rudely into my calm demeanor like a sudden fiery meteor shower in the atmosphere. What if it's a health emergency? Oh no! Please, not that  ...   Please God don't  make it a health  emergency ...   What if I offended  them somehow? Was it something I said?  Perhaps our friendship isn't as good for them as it is for me.

Then I go down an entirely new channel: how inconsiderate  of them! Don't they know how inconvenient  this is? Do they think I've got nothing better to do with my time than to clean house for them? This new turn of the "Na na na hana hana hana  ..." surprises even me. The sadness of them not coming has morphed  into something ... well ... nasty. I'm startled by it. It's not me  who thinks this about them. But it's clearly going on in my  mind - so I'm responsible for it also by default. And then it changes again, this time into a kind of pitiful poor little me:  people leave me, these are my friends and now they've also left me. As I watch that one go by on the screen, I cringe. How self-indulgent  ...

They do call again - a few days later. The movie they're producing isn't wrapping when they expected it to. The shoot is lasting longer, preventing them visiting with me at the time we planned. They're in a remote mountainous location from where communication isn't reliable. They ask if it's OK to reschedule the visit as soon as they know when their movie wraps. I say it's fine. So simple.

As I hang up the phone, I get how much I love them. I also get what a ton  of stuff, mostly inaccurate, I'm able to make up at the drop of a hat.

I've gotten my own experience back. Once again I'm in touch with my creation and its simple heartfelt generosity, love, and kindness. My attention turns to the white wrapped Cabernet Sauvignon, the card, and the two wine glasses standing in their austere simplicity, waiting for them on the bedside table in the guest room.



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