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

Vocal Prowess

Commencement Green, University Of California At Santa Barbara, California, USA

June 17, 2017

This essay, Vocal Prowess, is the thirteenth in a group of sixteen about my daughter Alexandra:
  1. Alexandra
  2. Babe On The Freeway
  3. Light In The Night
  4. Alexandra II
  5. Santa Barbara
  6. True Gold
  7. Goleta Beach
  8. Getting Into Your World
  9. Fly Baby Bird!
  10. Celebration At Essaouira
  11. The Woman She Creates Herself To Be
  12. City Girl
  13. Vocal Prowess
  14. Lost And Found: A Tale Of Ownership, Loss, And Triumph
  15. Girly Girl
  16. My Baby Girl, Now A Bride
in that order.

It is also the fifteenth 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 eleventh in an ongoing collection with embedded Music Videos: I am indebted to my daughter Alexandra Lindsey Platt who inspired this conversation, and to Nassrin Haghighat who requested I write it down.

It's a milestone. When your adult children have moved out and are no longer on the payroll  (so to speak), you've reached the next poignant stage of your lifelong relationship with them - poignant, because if you've gotten your job done raising them, they'll leave you to get on with their own lives, their own relationships, their own families. In the very definition of successful parenting, what's most apparent is you'll release and let go of those who are most precious to you. That's  poignant.

She invited me to come for a visit. I jumped at the opportunity, immediately erasing everything from my schedule on the days she said she was available. We planned a week of leisurely activities - just the two of us. We both like to walk on the beach, talk, have coffee, browse around in art galleries, play guitars and sing, go to the movies ... you know, just be  together. Then, as we were getting closer to the date, she called me to let me know that on one of the days we'd scheduled, a UCSB  (University of California at Santa Barbara) class of 2017 graduation ceremony committee had invited her to sing the national anthem at the start of the ceremony, and the university song at the end (an honor first bestowed on her when she herself graduated from UCSB in 2012) and would I mind? and would I like to come along?

Would  I? If my visit had been scheduled on any other occasion, I would have scheduled an additional  visit to get there to be with her just to hear her sing.

Alexandra - National Anthem: UCSB Graduation 2017
Singing the national anthem solo, unaccompanied, in front of a crowd of ten thousand  people, she's absolutely breathtaking (that statement is the frontrunner for the "Understatement of the Year"  award). A twenty foot tall close-up of her face in exquisite high-resolution detail beams out from a huge Jumbotron  video enhancement screen next to the stage.

Her voice is strong and powerful. She's smiling as she gives it everything  she's got - and then some. The blown away crowd interrupts her at least five times: screaming, cheering. I knew she's good. But this  good? This I was not expecting. I let it all in. That's when it hits me: it's when I realize I'm in tears. I can't stop the flow, this deluge. Then my shoulders start shaking uncontrollably. And uh oh:  now I notice I'm crying too (little noises are coming out of my mouth). I'm trying to keep it quiet.

The woman to my left, a total stranger, hears me, looks over at me, sees what's going on, then puts her arm around my uncontrollably shaking shoulders, and says "I  know who you are: you're her Dad.". Good God! How does she know? Am I that  obvious? She says "You should be proud of your daughter. She's awesome!". And now all the other people in our vicinity in this huge crowd, having overheard her, are pointing at me, and whispering "That's her father!". "Damn straight I am ..."  I say to myself behind the waterfall of tears - not tears of sadness: tears of purity, tears of love, tears of pride, busted open  pride.

For many people (I suppose) the connotation of "performance" will be in producing results as in a job or as in a sport. For me, when Werner speaks "performance", I listen all of the above, and  I also listen "performance as in a life well-lived". That's enough for me. That alone is worth the price of admission.

I've released my attachments to smoking and drinking as a segue to a life well-lived (I could say the same about an unhealthy diet and inadequate exercise). I've released (for the most part) my needs to dominate and to be right. I've released assigning importance to my own opinions, realizing that all  opinions are codifications of the truth, and I've become skeptical of all such codifications especially my own. And after releasing all of them, given what's made itself visible from underneath that erstwhile pile of obfuscations of the truth, I've finally released any and all doubts about Werner's assertion about integrity's impact on performance as a purely positive proposition. Without this final release, a life well-lived is unreachable, if not outright simply not possible. Sorry, but it isn't.

Then, after the graduation ceremony procession completes two hours later, she does it again, solo and unaccompanied, this time singing the university song, blowing the crowd of ten thousand people clean away again - a second time. More screaming. More cheering. What an encore!  What a performance! ie what performances!

Being here in person to witness my baby girl do this, is a highlight of my life - a totally unforgettable experience. Everything I've done, everything I've worked for, everything I've committed to, everything I've intended, everything I've given up, everything I've surrendered to, everything it is to be a father for twenty seven years? 1,000% validated in a few timeless minutes! And so that there's not an iota of doubt about where the validation occurs: it isn't validated over here  ie it's not validated by congratulating moi. No, it's validated by noticing she's being the woman she creates herself to be. Listen: that's  a great way of measuring if something is working.

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