In November of 1979, I attended events led by transformational leader, Werner Erhard. Mr. Erhard had created an organization called est, in 1971. Their main product was a two, week-end program called the est Training. Starting in 1971, mostly by word-of-mouth, 1 million people participated by 1984. I did the two, week-end course in April of 1978. I did a 10-session seminar series after it as a follow-up, and at the same time started volunteering with the production of their programs as a “person who assists.”
In late 1979. Werner led a series of events at his main offices to which thousands of people attended. I was at an event at the Sports Arena, called “Being Ready for the Rest of Your Life,” and “A Shot Heard Around the World.” During those events Werner spoke about the ability of a single individual to “make a difference.” How a worthy calling was to create “A World That Works for Everyone with No one and Nothing Left Out.” This idea galvanized me.
While participating in the est Training the year before I witnessed families estranged for years, sometimes decades reconciled in a single phone conversation. Family members would fly across the continent to be with their family member who was completing their est Training. The est Training was a showcase of how people could have their lives work. It inspired me to clean up issues in my own family and circle of friends. However, at the same time I saw the possibility of this happening for ALL people.
That year in 1979 I had joined est’s Guest Seminar Leader Program (GSLP), a six-month training program in leadership and how to lead programs. At the conclusion of the 6-months I moved in to share an apartment with a friend I met in the GSLP, whose name was Alex Georgeouses. Alex was a philosophy graduate at the University of California, Irvine and I had just graduated with my degrees in biological science and Fine Art. Late nights we could talk about what the world would look like when it “worked for everyone with no one and nothing left out.” Alex had read the promotional materials for the upcoming event which was coming up in November, 1979. We both agreed that when the “world worked” there would be no wars. I pulled from my interest in Star Trek and the works of Gene Roddenberry. I added there would be no want, no need of money. There would be plenty of goods, and shelter for all of the worlds people. We thought of John Lennon’s song IMAGINE. There would be no religious conflicts, no racial conflicts, no poverty, no elite, no ruling class. I recall Alex projecting this vision, “everywhere you go, you are complete.” By complete, he meant whole, lacking nothing, perfect the way life is and the way it isn’t. No struggle, no suffering, no jealousy, no envy, no defensiveness.
This ideal kind of sealed a deal. I could see this world. It was something to work for, something to commit my life to. It was a vision for the future worthy of living my lifetime for.
It was November of 1979. Little did I know what was coming on the horizon. That November, Alex was killed while riding his bicycle to see his girlfriend in Long Beach, California. We both lived in an apartment in Costa Mesa, California. Alex had stopped by his parents in Westminster, to ask to use the family truck, like he often did. His Dad refused; as Alex had his own car, a Volkswagen beetle which he had driven on flat tires until the wheels were damaged. Alex’s parents were fed up with their oldest son, and demanding he get his affairs in order. Alex, hopped back on his 10-speed bike and somewhere in Seal Beach, on a lonely stretch of highway near Los Alamitos Air Base, Alex was struck by a hit-and-run driver who came out of the darkness, and Alex was killed instantly.
Alex’s death struck me hard. Here we were dreaming about working to have a World that Works for Everyone, and THIS happens. Alex’s own life wasn’t working. I began to see that this vision for the future of a world that works had it’s first steps immediately in front of all of us. Alex had gotten his bachelors degree in Philosophy, but after finishing a job as a carpenter building houses, he was jobless. He was living off the money he had made, and had fallen deeply in love. All he could think about was his girlfriend, Jean Marie. In an instant everything Alex dreamed about was gone. He was gone. Jean Marie in fact later fell in love and married Alex’s best friend from high school whom she met at Alex’s funeral. His family grieved over how they had refused to lend Alex the truck, and they felt responsible for his death. I didn’t see it that way. Alex was responsible for his own life, and for his death. It was sad and such a waste of a wonderful human being. Alex never attended the special event, “Being Ready for the Rest of Your Life.” It happened a few weeks after his death. Ironically, his parents and sister, whom he never was able to convince to do the est Training attended the Werner Event, free-of-charge as a contribution from the local est Center. I remember thinking, Alex, in the days before his death, cleaned up his part of the apartment we shared, boxing everything, and had started putting all of his affairs in order. He was “Being Ready for the Rest of His Life,” which unknowingly was going to end in just a few weeks. After his death, his girlfriend, Jean Marie, visited the five seminar series of est in Orange County, and raised thousands of dollars in Alex’s name towards ending world hunger through the Hunger Project, (which was co-founded by Werner Erhard), and Alex had been a champion for. Alex’s death woke me up to my own life.
Next year, in 1980, I changed the direction of my life, and rather than being an Artist and teaching Art I decided to use my education to make a real, physical contribution in the world. I became a civil engineer. We worked on the planning, engineering and construction of housing developments, commercial centers, industry, and even educational institutions. I got married that year, and started my own family. In my spare time I continued to assist at est, which later evolved into Werner Erhard & Associates, and then Landmark Education, then Landmark. From 1980 to 2015 I worked for my vision of a “World That Works for Everyone With No One and Nothing Left Out” as an assistant and as a leader. Even after Werner Erhard left his own organization and sold it to his employees; I continued on my mission. I saw great leaders, like Jerome Downes who brought Landmark to Asia; die during surgery for heart disease, yet the mission continued. Many of the iconoclastic leaders also died, quit, or retired from the work of transformation. I continued on my mission.
A few weeks ago, a Landmark Forum Leader, and friend of mine, Alan Edelman, passed away due to pancreatic cancer. Alan was 74 years old. He had devoted his entire adult life to the same mission I have. Watching Alan and Jerome pass away has me face my own mortality. I look at the world today with Russia encroaching on the Ukraine, and ISIS spreading through out Syria, Iraq, Libya, and soon Egypt. North Korea launching missiles across the ocean. Has the world even changed one iota? When I started on my mission in 1979, there was the revolution in Iran, the Middle East wars, the Oil Embargo, sky-rocketing gas prices, runaway inflation, record unemployment, and murders and killings on the news each day. When I look at the current times as I write this blog I ask myself was my previous 36 years for naught?
If I look at the mission “A World That Works for Everyone with No One and Nothing Left Out” as a goal, an outcome, a picture in my head of a future event, then my life HAS been wasted on a “pipe dream.”
On the other hand, if I look at the mission, “A World That Works for Everyone with No One and Nothing Left Out,” as a stand to be taken, a principle to be lived by, a quest that lives in the here and now, and not some lofty goal or target in the future, then it wasn’t time wasted at all.
The problem with human beings is they are always living for “some day.” They are never living in the present, in the moment, in the now. When you live that way, in the NOW, then “A World that Works for Everyone with No One and Nothing Left Out” lives in the moment. It lives in getting your tires and wheels repaired on your Volkswagen beetle. It lives in you cleaning up your relationship with your parents so that they are not frustrated or worried about how you are living your life. The world working shows up in your family, your personal relationships, your relationship with your Self. It’s about having your finances work, your health work, your relationships work, your environment work, your spirituality work; and then the same with your neighbors, and your community, your society, and your world.
Referring to my model of Gene Roddenberry’s Star Trek, even though fictionally there is unity, peace and sufficiency on Earth, the moment they start to explore the galaxy they are at war with the Klingons, the Tholians, and the Romulans! In conclusion, I see the mission Werner Erhard offered to the thousands of est graduates of creating “A World That Works For Everyone with No One and Nothing Left Out,” was realized the moment he created it. There is no place to get to, no top to the mountain, no goal line in sight. There is just right here, right now. If not me, who? If not now, when? If not here, where?
Oh, by the way, one of the reasons why Werner Erhard left his own organization and sold it to his Staff was to focus his attention on his family which was having problems. He did this switch in 1990. From what I heard his family is doing great, and 25 years later; Werner is still working on the transformation of humanity.
As for me, I have my eyes focused on who and what is in front of me, and doing my best to restore integrity wherever i see it is out. Currently I am supporting my parents who have just turned 90. I now have Power of Attorney and am in charge of their finances. The moment I see un-workability there is actions to take. Whether it is with my family, friends, or with my physical world around me. This is who I know myself to be. There is no place to get to. I live in “A World That Works for Everyone With No One and Nothing Left Out.”