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 World Is My Monastery II

Connolly Ranch, Browns Valley, California, USA

December 22, 2016

"I do live in a monastery. My monastery is the whole world." ...   answering the question "Have you ever lived in a monastery?" 
"Enlightenment is giving up the notion that you are unenlightened." ... Laurence Platt, BREAKTHROUGH SKYDIVING 5
This essay, The World Is My Monastery II, is the companion piece to On Misconstruing Enlightenment.

It is also the sequel to The World Is My Monastery.

It is also the prequel to The World Is My Monastery III.

Photography by Joshua Nelson Platt

Cowboy Cottage, East Napa, California, USA

1:40pm Wednesday January 1, 2014

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Both at home at the Cowboy Cottage and the cattle pasture in East Napa, California, USA, ...
Photography by Alexandra Lindsey Platt

1:10pm Sunday October 10, 2010

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... and  walking through a River Of People in El Rastro, Madrid, Spain, ...
.... The World Is My Monastery. ....
Werner Erhard worldwide, has turned many erstwhile established and accepted albeit unexamined  paradigms on their ear (that's actually a lot closer to the truth than it sounds) including the particular paradigm which gives rise to this conversation, The World Is My Monastery II. It's a paradigm which persisted, unquestioned and unchallenged, in an almost universally agreed upon form until he gave voice to a new possibility for it.

There's no mystery as to how Werner or anyone else for that matter, gives voice to a new possibility for an old paradigm. It's quite literal: it's done vocally ie with language. It's spoken  in a conversation. The new possibility shows up in speaking and, if you're receptive to it, is re-created in your listening. The paradigm may keep the same focus ie comprise the same item(s) as it always had. However now all its undistinguished meaning and significance are stripped away. It's like when grime is sand-blasted off the facade of a building, revealing what was always there yet covered over, things can now be seen arguably for first time, for what they really are.

The paradigm I'm referring to embodies what's known variously (depending on your end run) as "getting it ie the Big IT": what we consider "IT" to be, how we view it, what we consider we have to do in order to get it. Regarding the latter, Werner's new possibility is at its most riveting, its most daring, and its most extraordinary.

Photograph courtesy
Mont La Salle Monastery
Napa Valley, California, USA
Here in the Napa Valley, the wine country  in California where I live, there were once four working monasteries. Now there are two. I think of a monastery as a place of retreat where people can go and live and renounce worldly ways, take vows of silence, and dedicate their lives to God - or (spoken more rigorously) to finding  God.

For some, that will be an intellectual search. For others, it will be personal one. For still others, it will be a spiritual one. Many people, not only monks and nuns, take time to advance their spiritual searches in monasteries. And when I say "monasteries", I'm also using it generically to include convents, ashrams, and any other form of retreat etc.

Time spent in such institutions is universally considered to be useful for advancing one's spiritual development, resulting in what we call "getting it ie the Big IT" ie an awakened state some label "enlightenment", a term which itself is interpreted differently depending on which path it's viewed at the end of. However, whichever way it's interpreted, a belief common to all its interpretations is that with practice it can be attained, and without practice it probably won't be. Or can't be.

So it's not that we're simply in search of something spiritual. It's we're convinced that with enough dedication and practice, we'll soon find it ie we'll eventually "get" it.

The way Werner turned this paradigm on its ear is by boldly (if not famously brashly and irreverently) asserting

 a)  "This is IT!"  ie there's nothing to get  (there are no hidden meanings), and

b)  since there's nothing to get, you already had it at the start  of the path, rather than you'll get it at the end - in other words, rather than doing life seeking enlightenment, bring your already  enlightenment to everything you do.

Notice how turning this paradigm on its ear, is simply a matter of language ie of speaking it in a conversation. OK, why do we have it that there's something to get? Because we say there is. Why will living in a monastery result in getting it? Because we say so. For that matter, what allows us to get there's nothing to get  ie what allows us to get "This is IT!"? Our say so. And what, for that matter, tells us we're not yet enlightened? Again, our say so. This implies for getting it to become a possibility, what we're saying is key - indeed, what we stop  saying is key: stop saying we haven't (yet) got it, stop saying this isn't  it, and stop saying this isn't what getting it looks like. No, "This is  IT!". And this is exactly  what getting it looks like. Really.

Now wait just a moment! Say whut?  You're suggesting we simply stop saying we're unenlightened as the access to enlightenment?  Don't be ridiculous  Laurence! No, look: it really is  all in the language. And listen: that's so counter-intuitive  as to be almost impossible to accept. There are too many accumulated layers of grime on the facade of the building for it to be seen the way it really is. A thorough sand-blasting is needed. That sand-blasting is engaging in conversations for transformation.

For me, "This is IT!" when I'm at home in the Cowboy Cottage, as reclusive and as monastic and as sacred as it is, and  "This is IT!" when I'm walking in a river of people in El Rastro, Madrid, as cosmopolitan and as profane as it is. The whole  world is my monastery. Yes, retreating from the world to live in a monastery in order to seek enlightenment, is an option - to be sure. But given the new possibility Werner has distinguished for this paradigm, it's not needed. It may even get in the way.

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