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


Turned Tables

Stockwell, Borough of Lambeth, London, England

January 12, 2013



"Why, Sir, you find no man, at all intellectual, who is willing to leave London. No, Sir, when a man is tired of London, he is tired of life; for there is in London all that Life can afford." ... Dr Samuel Johnson

This essay, Turned Tables, is the first in a group of five written in London, January 2013:
  1. Turned Tables
  2. Don't Regulate The Tate
  3. English Tea
  4. Blameless
  5. London "I": The Memorandum
in that order.

This group of five written in London, January 2013 is the sequel to Clear For Takeoff.

Conversations For Transformation receives its seven hundred thousandth view with the publishing of Turned Tables.

I am indebted to my children Alexandra Lindsey Platt and Christian Laurence Platt and Joshua Nelson Platt who inspired this conversation, and to my daughter Alexandra Lindsey Platt who contributed material.




The tables are turned. My children now take care of me in ways I used to take care of them. No, I don't need  to be taken care of - that's not what this is about. It's that when I allow them to take care of me, they get to participate. It's awesome watching them realizing they make a difference. It's awesome watching them getting their contribution is appreciated.

Joshua fetches me from the Cowboy Cottage and drives me to San Francisco airport. I'm his passenger. I don't interfere with his driving. I'm not concerned about his driving. He drives safely and cautiously. We talk - about anything and everything. It's great being with him this way. When we arrive at the airport, I'm sorry the drive is already over. It's enough to make me consider changing to a later flight so we can continue our conversation. But I don't.

Laurence Guy Platt - Photography by Alexandra Lindsey Platt - Borough of Southwark, London, England - 12:37pm Sunday January 13, 2013
Nuffield House, Guy's Hospital
Alexandra meets me at Heathrow airport in London. I know London well. I was born here. Nonetheless I allow her to show me around. She knows the tube  so well she could get around it in a blackout. I follow her like a first time tourist following a professional tour guide. She tells me her college, the London School of Economics, is near where I was born. She offers to lead me there, to Nuffield House at Guy's Hospital in the borough of Southwark.

Southwark is within earshot of the bells of St Mary-le-Bow church. This defines me as a cockney  - possibly the only people group defined by a sound. I was named after Guy's Hospital. My middle name is Guy: Laurence Guy Platt. I really want you to get this: my darling baby girl is now leading me  to Guy's, the place I was born ...

I live in the Napa Valley in California where anything older than a hundred and fifty years is considered old. We walk past Southwark Cathedral near Guy's. It's been a house of worship for over a thousand  years. The first church was built on the site in the year 606 AD. St Thomas à Becket preached here. We enter and sit on pews.

I lean over to Alexandra and whisper to her "Do you realize people have been praying in this exact same place where you and I are now, for over a thousand years? It's almost incomprehensible.". She lets out her breath and whispers "I know.".

We walk on along the Thames, Alexandra leading the way until we come to William Shakespeare's Globe Theatre.

<aside>

When you say "For goodness' sake!" you're quoting William Shakespeare. When you say "I haven't slept a wink" you're quoting William Shakespeare. When you say "I was tongue tied" you're quoting William Shakespeare. When you say "It's a foregone conclusion" you're quoting William Shakespeare. When you say "She's my own flesh and blood" you're quoting William Shakespeare.

When you say "Get off it" or "I got it" or "Thank you for sharing" or "Understanding is the booby prize" or "What are you making that mean?", who are you quoting?

<un-aside>

The Shard is a ninety five floors skyscraper. Alexandra walks us towards it. It's called the Shard  because it looks like a giant jagged shard of glass as you might find after a pane breaks, pointing directly up at the sky. It's awesome. I walk over to a corner and press my whole body against it, looking upwards to its apex towering impossibly high above me. Alexandra isn't attracted to this way of looking at it. She keeps her distance. But the tables are turned when she takes me up to the thirty eighth floor of the Heron Tower for a beer at the famed Duck and Waffle. The elevators (called lifts  in London) are sheer glass, climbing straight up the outside  of the building. I enter, take a deep  breath, and maneuver myself to the very back  of the car.

Alexandra, slightly bothered by looking up  at The Shard, has no concerns whatsoever  about stepping to the front of the elevator with nothing  between her and a dizzying drop down to the streets of London below except for a pitifully thin sheet of glass. Interesting, I muse: she's bothered by looking up  at heights, and I'm bothered by looking down  from them.

Arm in arm she takes me on a walk through the heart of London and on to the London School of Economics for which she was awarded an Erasmus  full ride scholarship. It's where she's now completing two Master's programs in two years: in global studies and in economic history. We walk past the swank Savoy  and Waldorf  hotels on our way to her library. "There are some posh residences on her campus" I think to myself, smiling. She asks me why I'm smiling. "I'm happy being with you Girly" I say (Girly  is my term of endearment for her - it's from "Girly Girl"), "I'm happy you're showing me around.".

Photography by Alexandra Lindsey Platt - Parliament Square, London, England - 12:11pm Monday January 14, 2013
with Nelson "Madiba" Rolihlahla Mandela
One of my stated possibilities when starting Werner's work in South Africa in 1979 was to bring forth the freeing of Nelson Mandela and ending apartheid. To be sure, many groups, many causes, and many individuals participated in bringing about the freeing of Nelson Mandela and ending apartheid. Our contribution was to provide the context of languaging, a context in which Nelson Mandela would be freed and apartheid would end just because we said so.

Look what happened.

Today Nelson Mandela's grandchildren are graduates of Werner's work in South Africa, and Mark Shuttleworth is the second civilian on the planet to pay a space agency $20,000,000.00 to travel by rocket into outer space, having invented the possibility of doing so in his Landmark Advanced Course in South Africa.

Alexandra, already working on a dissertation about South Africa and the effects of segregation on economics, asks me if I'd like to see Nelson Mandela's statue in Parliament Square in front Westminster Abbey, Big Ben, and the bobby  guarded Houses of Parliament. "Of course" I say, overjoyed by this experience of Alexandra showing me her  London, "I'll go anywhere with you.". We turn a few corners ... and there he is. I walk up to him, strangely moved. This isn't him. It's a statue  of him, a representation of him, a symbol  of him. And yet Nelson Mandela being who he is, it is  him. "Pretty cool, Madiba!"  I think to myself. Twenty seven years in solitary confinement breaking rocks on Robben  Island, then having his statue in Parliament Square alongside Sir Winston Churchill and Abraham Lincoln, is worthy of a dictionary entry as the definition  of "pretty cool". Thank you Girly for bringing me to meet Madiba in your London.

She moves really fast. To keep up with her I have to hoof  it. It doesn't seem all that long ago when I was striding through airports with my then young three children in tow, and Alexandra calling out behind me "Slow down  Daddy!". My oh my, how these tables are turned ...

Photography by Alexandra Lindsey Platt - St John's Wood, London, England - 1:01pm Monday January 14, 2013 - Collage by Laurence Platt
Abbey Road Zebra Crossing and Studio
On August 28, 2008 I declared I'd like to go to Abbey Road and walk across the zebra  crossing (yes that  zebra crossing). Now, four and a half years later, I'm fulfilling this intention with her. For such a relatively minor cost and expense of energy, it's sheer, pure, total magic.

Like many experiences, saying too much about it imposes my version  on something which by now, for the most part, belongs to the whole world. Sharing this experience with Alexandra and having her here with me to witness it, is thrilling. It's validating. It's beyond description. Here's a perfect photograph Alexandra took of the occasion proving it really happened.

Then she takes me to the Science Museum. My favorite hall (our  favorite hall actually) houses the space exhibit. Among literally too many amazing items to count, there's a glove worn by Yuri Gagarin during man's first ever orbital space flight. There's a piece of moon rock encased in a nitrogen filled plastic box so it never comes into contact with Earth's atmosphere. No, the moon's not  made of green cheese ... but it does  uncannily look  like flinty dark gray feta.

There's the actual  Apollo 10 command module (it's truly hard to look at it and not be totally blown away, to not have an experience of real awe)  replete with its heat shield now deeply charred by it's superhot descent back to Earth's surface through the atmosphere. There's also what Apollo 10 blazed the trail for: the Apollo 11 LEM  ie the Lunar Excursion Module.

It's not the actual Apollo 11 LEM. This exhibit's only a replica. But with a little imagination, you're in your space suit standing here right beside it on the lunar surface, looking back at our fragile planet which from this distance, is covered by and disappears completely behind your extended thumbnail.

Listen! Here's something pivotal worth noticing about museums and all places of note worth seeing in general: unless you generate it for yourself, they  don't provide any confirmation of who's really  creating the exhibits, of who's really  creating what's on show. That's not the purpose of a museum. The purpose of a museum is to put me into observer  mode: I'm over here, looking at it  (whatever it  is I'm looking at) over there. There's literally no option the museum gives me the observer, to be present as another facet of the exhibit already on display (in other words for me to observe myself included  in the exhibit already on display) unless I generate myself being present  first.

When you generate yourself being present, something wonderful happens: you become the source  of your experience. You're the source of your experience of being born. You're the source of your experience of thousand year old antiquities. You're the source of your experience of the sheer artistry in words of William Shakespeare. You're the source of your experience of insanely tall buildings (and  of your fear of heights - of all  your fears actually, as well as of your triumph  over all your fears). You're the source of your experience of both segregation and  freedom, of both villains and  heroes. heroes. You're the source of your experience of all music, of all art, of all sciences and scientific breakthroughs like space travel and more.

The moment you generate yourself being present, the moment you're willing to stand  for being the source of your experience (of all  experience actually), that's the moment you know you know you know  (as David Bowie may have said). It's the moment when you fully appreciate what it is to be totally and completely and unabashedly moved to tears  by the beauty and the brilliance and the simplicity, by the such‑ness, by the thus‑ness of it all.

When I'm re-creating this experience of "the moment you know you know you know" in the presence of my children so they get it too, so they can then share their  experience of Life in such a way that I  get it all over again but this time from their  perspective (in other words when the tables are completely turned), it doesn't get any better than this for me.



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