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



About Assisting:

On Leaving My Baggage At The Door

Solano Avenue, Napa, California, USA

New Year's Day, January 1, 2018



"There are only two things in the world: nothing, and semantics."  ... 
This essay, About Assisting: On Leaving My Baggage At The Door, is the seventh in a group of seven written on New Year's Day:
  1. Orion
  2. Clean, Well Lit Quarters
  3. External Tank
  4. The Magical Breakfast Burrito Assembly Line II
  5. As Your Natural Self-Expression
  6. Werner's Work In Academia
  7. About Assisting: On Leaving My Baggage At The Door
in that order.

It is also the twenty second in an open group inspired by Landmark Programs: I am indebted to Patricia "Pat" Shelton and to Patricia Zentara who inspired this conversation.




If you argue that any difference between "helping" and "assisting" is just semantics, then I suggest you consider it's not "just"  semantics: it's all  semantics. All of it.

To get clear about the actual difference between helping and assisting since you won't find it in the semantics given it's all  semantics, consider you'll find it in the context. It's the context that's decisive. So what exactly is  the context for helping, as distinct from the context for assisting? Try this on for size: the context for helping, is while supporting the undertaking at hand, we (that's you and I) may not experience ourselves as being whole and complete (and probably don't), and neither do we interact with others that they're  whole and complete, and nor do we experience the task at hand itself as being already whole and complete. The context for assisting on the other hand, is while supporting the undertaking at hand, we experience ourselves as being whole and complete, and we interact with others that they're whole and complete, and furthermore we experience the task at hand itself as being already whole and complete.

I ask myself: that's an aspiration, isn't it? At what point do I consider myself to be whole and complete enough to assist? I mean how long  do I wait until I consider myself to be whole and complete enough to be ready  to assist? Look: being whole and complete isn't a function of becoming  (a particular way) and neither is it a function of reaching  (a certain goal). Instead, being whole and complete is a function of declaring  (a linguistic act) - literally: I'm whole and complete when I declare "I'm whole and complete, and I'm willing to be held accountable for being (and for having given my word that I'm) whole and complete.". And here's the thing: I can declare that I'm whole and complete and am willing to be held accountable for having given my word that I'm whole and complete, any time I want to.

When I come in to assist, I've given my word (at least to myself, if not to everyone else as well) that I'm whole and complete, and that I'll interact with others that they're whole and complete. This requires I leave all my baggage at the door  (choosing to assist, calls on me to be whole and complete like my word, like my stand, which requires I leave all my baggage at the door). And the great thing about leaving all my baggage at the door, is it'll wait there so when I'm done assisting I can retrieve it again if I really want to  ... or perhaps by then I'll have the presence and the street-smarts to walk away from it  once and for all and never pick it up again.

I vividly recall coming in to assist on one occasion when I hadn't left my baggage at the door, which is to say when I wasn't being my word to be whole and complete, and I wasn't interacting with others that they were whole and complete. And it showed - I mean man! you could tell:  in that space, it reeked. I stuck out like a sore thumb (even I knew that). The supervisor (who was really an angel they'd cleverly disguised as the supervisor, something she may not have even realized at the time, but which later I came to realize) took me aside and said with total compassion "You know Laurence, you don't have to assist if you don't want to.". She knew.

I just stood there looking at what she'd just said, and then I went outside by myself into the street and walked around and looked at it a bit more, and I saw she was telling the truth: I did not  have to assist if I didn't want  to ... but  ... if I was  going to assist, I would have to go back outside again (figuratively speaking) taking my baggage with me, and this time leave it at the door, then come back in again to assist without it. In other words while assisting, I was confronting the possibility of choosing to not  assist - and I wasn't only confronted by this specific incident (whatever it was and whatever triggered it, I forget): I was confronted by my entire life.

Maybe it's true to say that if you've never confronted the possibility of choosing to not  assist while you're assisting, then you don't yet really know what it is to freely choose to assist in the first place. Maybe.

In the space I was in, I could have easily walked away. And had I walked away in that space, I would have never come back. But I did come back. Something in the way that supervisor interacted with me (and thank God she did) got me to see I could choose to not assist if I didn't want to assist. And in the space of seeing I could choose to not  assist, I saw I could really  choose to assist (that's  Zen for you) and I came back, this time leaving my baggage at the door.

That was about thirty eight years ago. I've been here ever since.



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