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


You'll Hear The Rumble

Ilam, Christchurch, South Island, New Zealand

June 24, 2013



"There won't be an earthquake because I say  there won't be an earthquake. And if I change my mind, you'll know because you'll hear the rumble."  ... 
This essay, You'll Hear The Rumble, is the companion piece to It is also the sixth in a septology about my son Christian:
  1. In The Face Of Commitment
  2. Like Father
  3. From Stick Figures To IMAX 3D
  4. To Get Out Of A Rut, Be  In The Rut
  5. Christian Rocks!
  6. You'll Hear The Rumble
  7. Talk About It
in that order.

It is also the second in a group of five written in New Zealand / Fiji, June 2013:
  1. Godzone
  2. You'll Hear The Rumble
  3. B-Grade Hotel
  4. The Rain Is Coming, Mr Laurence
  5. Is Fiji Paradise?
in that order.

This group of five written in New Zealand / Fiji, June 2013 is the sequel to Christian Rocks!.

I am indebted to my son Christian Laurence Platt who inspired this conversation, and to the staff of the Canterbury Museum, Christchurch, New Zealand and to my son Christian Laurence Platt who contributed material.




My son Christian has been studying economics at Canterbury University in Christchurch on New Zealand's south island for the past five months. I'm here to visit with him, now that he's completed his tenure here, then to return with him to the United States. It's actually more accurate to say I'm here as his guest. I'm looking forward to seeing his  New Zealand ie I'm looking forward to seeing the New Zealand he's called home for five months, through his eyes as he shows me around.

He's grown since I last saw him. He left as a college student, not without considerable experience. Now I see him as a young man. No longer a boy, he has a tangible sense of himself now. He's calmer and more present. His body has firmed. He's muscular now and more defined. His beard is fuller. His hair has grown out. It's no longer a buzz  cut. Ben Affleck in Argo  looks like him.

Although I'll always be his Dad, I can tell it's less required now. Now he and I are equals. We're friends.

We spend the better part of a day preparing for his move back to the United States sorting everything in his room (which is to say all his possessions here) into five piles: toss these (items of no lasting value temporarily accumulated during his stay here), leave these for the next tenant (unused cleaning supplies etc), give these to the homeless (items of clothing which won't fit in his crammed bags), give these to Salvation Army (all remaining items which won't fit in his crammed bags), and pack these and take them home. It's gratifying being here with him to support him pack and move. And yes moving him is a two man project.

As we talk - about the local climate (cold), about the snow capped hills which surround the town, about the friends he's made here, about his diet (I notice he's become quite the chef since arriving here) - I ask him about the damage Christchurch sustained during the February 2011 earthquake. He offers to take us on a walking tour of the city center during which we can talk more, catch up on his plans for the future, have lunch, and see the sights - in particular the earthquake damage. I think it's a great idea. It's more than that actually. It's I love the idea of (this is what I looked forward to) my son showing me around his town, a place I've never set foot in before.

It takes your breath away when you see it for the first time. This picturesque, historic city has been severely bruised by an inconceivably powerful, merciless body blow. The earthquake struck on Tuesday February 22, 2011 at 12:51pm. It was a 6.1 on the exponential Richter scale - a big 'quake by any stretch of the imagination. But a 6.1 is far from a super-quake. The thing is this  earthquake occurred only thirty four miles down, directly below Christchurch's downtown CBD  ie Central Business District. Thirty four miles down is so shallow for an earthquake it's almost on the surface. In addition, this quake unusually moved the earth up and down and  side to side. Over eight hundred buildings collapsed immediately or were so severely damaged they had to be demolished at a cost of over fifteen billion  New Zealand dollars so far. The earthquake directly and indirectly killed a hundred and eighty five people, a heartbreaking yet incorrigibly small total given its colossal scale of devastation.

It's very sobering. This is a yardstick against which to measure a problem. If you think you have a problem to deal with, sorry but you don't - at least not compared to this. No, this  ... is a problem to deal with. As I take it all in (and given it's vast scope, it's almost impossible  to take it all in) I notice something flabbergasting. What I notice is the people of Christchurch are inexorably rebuilding  their fallen central business district. Some seriously damaged yet still standing buildings are braced by huge steel frames until they can be reinforced and completely repaired. Reconstruction of others is already under way. Others are seemingly intact (outwardly at least) yet marked for future demolition. A very modern, brand new, attractive apartment building looks completely unscathed. Surveyors' tests show it's moved a mere thirty centimeters  off plumb level. It's condemned and will come down.

The magnitude of the task is simply gargantuan. Yet the people of Christchurch are fully committed and are doing it anyway. It's inspiring, totally inspiring. And in spite of myself, I have the thought "But what if there's another  earthquake after they rebuild?".

Clearly the people of Christchurch aren't paying much attention to my thoughts - and they're especially not listening to that  one. They're rebuilding. That's what they're doing. It's what they do. On that score alone, this is surely one of the most awesome, big-hearted, brave, courageous human spectacles I've ever come across, one which touches me and moves me and inspires me deeply.

Christian and I walk on ... and on ... and on. Our thoughts of renting a car and driving around New Zealand's south island exploring the country (one of our original ideas of what to do here) gradually fade and disappear. There's no need. Everything we want is right here: companionship, conversation, family, friendship, relationship, and enough inspiration and possibility to thrust an Atlas 5  rocket out of Earth's atmosphere. Life works!  There's nowhere else I'd rather be, nothing else I'd rather be doing than strolling slowly along, amblin' along, groovin'  along this in the process of being rebuilt  destroyed boulevard in Christchurch's savagely bruised but not knocked out central business district with my son, my best friend.

Listen: this background, this scene of almost inconceivable destruction isn't your usual backdrop for Life working, I'll grant you that. But that's because Life working isn't a quality you can always easily see in the circumstances around you. Life working is a quality Christian and I bring to  these circumstances.



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