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

There's No Such Thing As Too Much Rigor

Cowboy Cottage, East Napa, California, USA

January 25, 2011

This essay, There's No Such Thing As Too Much Rigor, is the companion piece to A House On Franklin Street.

Conversations For Transformation receives its four hundred thousandth view with the publishing of There's No Such Thing As Too Much Rigor.

I am indebted to my children Joshua Nelson Platt and Christian Laurence Platt and Alexandra Lindsey Platt and to my mother Andee Platt who inspired this conversation.

I love the times I get to spend with my children. My mother recently asked me how often I get to see them, now that Alexandra lives in Madrid Spain, now that Christian lives in Santa Barbara California, now that Joshua is less than two years away from graduating high school. An exchange of shared poignancy ensued between my mother and I: both of us have now experienced the miracle of our children being born, growing up, moving out, and getting on with their own lives.

When our conversation was over, I was surprised to notice I wasn't left with my love of the times I get to spend with my now nearly totally emancipated children, as dear as they are to me. What I was left with was rigor. I noticed of all  the qualities I want my children to be imbued with out of our intimate relationship, rigor is at the top of the list.

From the Cambridge International Dictionary:


when you look at or consider every part of something carefully to make certain it's correct or safe

I don't know if rigor can be taught  or if it can't be. I wasn't ever taught  rigor. However, I learned  rigor by working in a rigorous environment. I learned rigor in a monastery of rigor called Franklin House, Werner Erhard's home on Franklin Street in San Francisco California. That's where I learned rigor. What's interesting is in Franklin House I learned to be rigorous in Franklin House. It wasn't until a few years later I learned to be rigorous in my own life. Actually, that's not what really occurred. What really occurred was a few years later I became  rigorous in my own life. Learning to be rigorous, and becoming rigorous, aren't the same. The latter is much more spontaneous. It happened like this:

I lived a divine, inspired chapter of my life right on the sands of the fabled Clifton Beach in Cape Town South Africa. At the time, I worked for Old Mutual, the largest Life Insurance company in Africa. Computer programming by night, surfing by day. It was perfect.

One evening after a gorgeous sunset session surfing my paddle-ski on crisp, clean beach break, I walked into my "pad", and as I wiped my feet on the doormat, I noticed a lot of beach sand had accumulated around it. The thing is this: it was always there, only this was the first time I really noticed it. I went inside and fetched a broom. Then, still wearing only my baggies, I swept the entryway clean. It looked so good (and felt  so good doing it), I continued sweeping the length of the path leading down to the beach. Doing that  looked so good and felt so good that the next thing I knew I was down on the beach picking up trash I'd always walked by ie always walked by until that moment. Then there was something else I cleaned up. And then something else. It was past midnight when I finally stopped, looked around, and saw everything  in my immediate world all in its place, just so. And I noticed I liked what I was seeing.

What had happened was spontaneously, starting with sweeping the beach sand from around my door mat, a process had begun in my life which would continue from then on. Spontaneously I had begun no longer stepping over  things. Spontaneously I became rigorous, a process which naturally started then, twenty nine years ago, and has continued unabated, intensifying ever since. You could say all  the rigor in my life (and I am  rigorous) dates back to sweeping the beach sand from around my door mat inspired by Franklin House, the monastery of rigor.

For me, the presence of rigor (or absence) is a make or break  quality when it comes to establishing new relationships. I can tell a lot about how it's going to go with someone by noticing how rigorous they are in managing their own living space. Show me the condition of your cupboards, your drawers, and your shelves, and I'll tell you how you make love.

So back to my children. How do you teach a child to be rigorous? Rigor, I say from experience, is impossible  to teach. But it's easy to learn. If I ask my son to clean up our workspace, then ask him later if he's done so and he says yes, and then when I look at it I see he's done something, yes, but it's "far from perfect", I don't just let it slide - because that would  be stepping over something. Rather, I acknowledge him for what he has  done. Then I'll point out what could be done more rigorously. And when I point it out, I make it clear (without making a big deal about it) that it's only my opinion it could be done more rigorously. I want him to have the space to see it for himself. I want him to see rigor as a function of his relationship with the physical universe. It's more than that actually. It's I want him to see rigor as a function of relationship  - period.

It's this  quality of rigor I learned at Franklin House. And when it comes to rigor of this quality in Life, there's no such thing as too much rigor.

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