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



Thirteen Hawks A-Soaring

Cowboy Cottage, East Napa, California, USA

Christmas Day, December 25, 2017



"On the sixth day of Christmas my true love sent to me: six geese a-laying ..."
... music-less English Christmas chant circa 1780, arranged by Frederic Austin circa 1909  ...
"On the thirteenth day of Christmas my true love sent to me: thirteen hawks a-soaring ..."
... expanded by Laurence Platt circa 2017
"When Hawk swoops in as your Spirit Animal  it's time to open your awareness wide! Hawk as a Totem Animal  belongs to those who can see the whole picture. Invoke Hawk as your Power Animal  when you need to see things with a more discerning eye."
... Hawk Spirit Guide
This essay, Thirteen Hawks A-Soaring, is the ninth in a group of nine written on Christmas Day:
  1. Holiday Service
  2. Out Of My Head
  3. How To Enroll The World
  4. Holiday Service II
  5. A Game Worth Playing
  6. Peace On Earth And Good Will To All People: A Possibility
  7. Five Star Restaurant
  8. Direct Experience
  9. Thirteen Hawks A-Soaring
in that order.

It is also the eighth in the octology Menagerie:


I enjoy serving on Christmas day. There's nothing significant for me about serving on Christmas day. I serve on Christmas day because on this day there are many opportunities to serve. I've served on Christmas day every year for fifteen years straight at a community center near where I live. This year the center staff elected to have Christmas day, a Monday, with their families, something they've never done before. So they moved this year's Christmas offerings to the week before Christmas.

The Table, Napa, California, USA

1:58:01pm Thursday December 21, 2017
"Elf Playing Air Violin"
On the Thursday we prepared and served a sit-down dinner for 150 homeless people. On the Friday morning we prepared and delivered 55 dinners to the homes of people who are elderly and infirm. On the Friday afternoon we prepared, supervised, and served another sit-down dinner for 90 impoverished people, replete with eggnog and a live band serenading Christmas carols.

Before the Thursday sit-down for the homeless, we servers stood in a circle holding hands, saying a prayer (it's a tradition with the group with whom I volunteer). The person intoning the prayer said "Thank You God that we're able to serve these people" (referring to the fact that we have plenty to give) - at which point I chimed in "But it's not about us  God: Thank You that we're not the ones we serve"  (referring to the fact that they're homeless). With this, some of the servers began crying.

We also set up Christmas decorations which yes, were sparse (our main budget is for food). But if you're homeless it's likely you have no Christmas decorations at all, so what we had was heart-warming and generous. Yet beyond any shadow of doubt, the most heart-warming and generous Christmas decorations I ever saw (which also happen to be the most heart-warming and generous Christmas decorations I ever helped dress) were in (and on)  Werner Erhard's Franklin House.

Outside the main upstairs suite window, three bright lights in formation were clearly visible from Franklin Street below. Visualize it: this audacious display evoked the three wise men, Gaspar, Balthasar, and Melchior, the magi  arriving to celebrate the first Christmas - not in the manger but at the Franklin House. Think about it. Wow! It was brilliant, evocative, and bound to be controversial - but then again, Werner's not exactly known for meekly kowtowing to the status quo. If anyone else did that, it would have reeked of false bravado and inauthenticity. But when Werner did it, amazingly it raised the consciousness of everyone and anyone fortunate enough to be in its vicinity who got it. If anyone else did it, it would have been a self-aggrandizing boast. But when Werner did it, it was a breakthrough for humanity, a new possibility of being for human being. Even after the amazement wore off, you were left with the obviousness  of it all: you were left with "Why didn't I  think of that?".

Inside the Franklin House, instead of introverted modesty there was full blown Self-expression. A large Douglas Fir was transformed, lit to the point of not merely twinkling like a traditional Christmas tree but rather to the point of radiating dazzling  white light. Even more remarkable was its collection of decorations. They weren't traditional blown glass orbs: they were Japanese Geisha fans. And they weren't merely primly hanging decoratively on the tree, symbolically representing Christmas like ordinary hung ornaments. No, they were splayed wide open as if fanning the Spirit of Christmas  from dying embers into a roaring blazing empassioned brilliant fire.

So now it's today. It's Christmas day 2017. I'm asleep and dreaming at daybreak. Inexplicably I'm dreaming about Werner's Christmas tree (yes, that  Christmas tree). But in my dream there's a subtle difference: instead of Japanese Geisha fans, there are angels  fanning the Spirit of Christmas with (get this) their wings  (dreams are great: in them, anything  is possible, yes?). I can hear their wings swish-swishing, fanning the Spirit of Christmas - and that's what wakes me: the sound  of their wings. Now I'm awake. I'm clear this is no longer a dream. Yet the swish-swishing continues unabated. And it's really  loud. What ... is  ... that sound?

The dawn sun has crested the east hills of the Napa valley, and is now shining directly into Cowboy Cottage's main window, flooding its interior with light (leaving my curtains open is how I set this au-naturale  alarm clock). Exactly as I'm looking around inside for the source of the swish-swishing sound, that's when a giant shadow momentarily crosses the window, darkening it ... then just as quickly disappears, its disappearance accompanied by the definitively loud swish-swish (so that's  where the sound is coming from). "Whaaat?!  Curiouser and curiouser ..." I say like Alice, getting out of bed, walking to the window, and looking out onto the cattle pasture.

What I see elicits disbelief at first, then a gasp of astonishment, then sheer awe culminating in total delight.

A flock of enormous  red-tailed hawks are fanning Cowboy Cottage with their wings so close I can hear them ("swish-swish"), so near I could reach out and stroke them. At first I assume they're eagles. But upon closer inspection of their very distinctive splayed outer wing feathers and red tail feathers, I realize they're red-tailed hawks. Both eagles and hawks, being birds of prey, have similar profiles: short necks and long bodies, as opposed to more docile geese and ducks for example, with their long necks and short bodies.

They're soaring motionless on a thermal, up and up and up higher and higher into the dawn sky until I can barely see them ... and then slowly sinking down low again almost to the ground right outside my window, then loudly swish-swishing back into the thermal to be raised up high again as if by a huge magical hidden hand. I count them. There's three. No, there's six. No seven. As I lean closer to the window, I see more. Then another comes into view. Then another. I eventually count a total of thirteen  of them. I'm completely mesmerized. I watch and I watch and I watch as they play in the sky like this, like I'm at the movies in the best possible seat I could possibly find myself in. I sit here completely immobilized, staring at this most improbable sight on this now most extraordinary Christmas day dawn.

It goes on for over a half an hour (swish-swish, thermal, sinking ... swish-swish, thermal, sinking ... swish-swish ...) until all thirteen of them gradually disappear one by one and all I can see is a blue sky flecked with brightening orange wisps of cloud.

Here's the thing: I don't want to make it mean  anything. If I give it significance it will ruin  it. It happened. That's what it was. It's just what happened. That's all. And when it was over and it was time for me to go back to making my bed and cooking my breakfast, I stood up and held out my hands pointing at the now empty sky, and said "Thank You for coming. I love you. Thank you for the privilege. Please come back soon. You're welcome here at my place any  time.".

And that's what I got for Christmas this year: my true love sent to me thirteen hawks a-soaring.



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