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 Next Best Thing

Santa Barbara, California, USA

March 10, 2014

"It's the next best thing: to be free as a bird." ... The Beatles, Free As A Bird

"Behold, how good and pleasant it is for the family to make music together!" ... Elize Greeff adapting Psalm 133 "Behold, how good and pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity!"

"Fun is the understated component of creativity." ... Laurence Platt responding to Jacques Coetzee's "Fun is underrated in most books about creativity."
This essay, The Next Best Thing, is the tenth in a group of twenty written in Santa Barbara:
  1. Santa Barbara
  2. Unbelievable
  3. Give Me Money (That's What I Want?)
  4. True Gold
  5. Getting Into Your World
  6. You Say Stop: About Resisting Transformation
  7. The Cavalry's Not Coming
  8. On This Team Everyone's The Leader
  9. Fireside Chat
  10. The Next Best Thing
  11. Full Circle, Full Spiral
  12. Truth, And What's True
  13. Snowflakes In A Furnace
  14. Something In The Air
  15. Vocal Prowess
  16. Flames In My Rearview Mirror
  17. Back Nine
  18. Chess II
  19. But And And II
  20. My Baby Girl, Now A Bride
in that order.

It is also the seventh in an ongoing collection with embedded Music Videos: It is also the prequel to Transforming Life Itself: A Completely Started Inquiry.

I am indebted to Elize Greeff and to Jacques Coetzee and to Barbara "Bobbie" Ractliffe Fairhead Coetzee who contributed material for this conversation.

It's all in the emphasis ie it's all in the italics. When I say something is the next  best thing, I'm saying it's second  best, yes? For example, if I say the next  best thing to being in love is making music together, what I'm saying is making music together is pretty darn good ... but  ... it's not quite as good as being in love. The implication is really clear: there's one best thing and that's being in love ... and making music together is the next  best thing to being in love.

But if I say making music together is the next best  thing (with emphasis shifted from "next" to "best"), I'm alluding to the possibility of there being many, many best  things - not just one. Perhaps the first best  thing was being in love - now the next best  thing is making music together. Just wait: soon we'll experience the next best  thing, and then the next best  thing, and then the next best  thing etc, each next best  thing surpassing the previous best  thing.

Making music together is the latter rather than the former: it's the next best  thing rather than the next  best thing. Listen: in life there's no scarcity. There's no dearth or shortage of best  things: there's lots  of them. There's one best  thing, then there's the next best  thing, then there's the next best  thing etc.

with Alexandra - Free As A Bird (The Beatles)
I'm coachable. There are ways to sing which work, then there are ways which don't work. I can sing in a lower key when I can't reach the key in which a song is written. But the obvious challenge is to sing the song in its actual key. Alexandra's noticing I'm straining to reach the key of this song. She coaches me in whispering  the words rather than singing them. Then she suggests I whisper them louder  while projecting my voice from my sinuses rather than from my throat. It works! I reach the right key. With a bit of practice it could be perfect. But for now it's good enough for jazz  - literally.

We scan through the verses and choruses of the song, deciding who should sing which verses, who should sing lead, and who should sing harmonies. We also plan the introduction and all the segues  between the verses and voices. And then there are some parts of the song in which, without the full orchestra of very talented master musicians, we're completely out of our depth. So: never mind! We enjoy the song so much, we're going to give it our best shots and simply leave out  or play around those difficult passages. With some pencil notes, lyrics, and chord changes clearly written on an A4  sized sheet of white paper positioned in view behind the camera, we're ready for our first rehearsal.

Singing is closely related to speaking and conversation but it clearly is not of the same genre. While making music together (in its entirety) is the next best  thing to being in love, singing on the other hand is the next  best thing to conversation. That said, I'm a better conversationalist than I am a singer, not merely because I'm practiced more in speaking but rather because I'm enamored of the genre of conversation. See, conversation is an essential. Singing, on the other hand, is an art form. Conversation, even before it's lofted high with practice (as singing is) to an art form, is powerful enough to shift erstwhile immovable realities and to transform Life itself.

My intention in sharing this modest attempt of ours singing and making music together, includes transforming Life itself - and I'll share that commitment in another conversation on another occasion. But its heart is simpler than that. What I've got in mind here is the transforming of what's possible for family, by providing a real, living, thrilling proof it works. Don't watch it like a music critic (and it's fine if you do) - it plays clearer if you just be with what's going on.

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