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


A Dog Trying Not To Be A Dog

Valley Of The Moon, Sonoma County, California, USA

January 22, 2009



This essay, A Dog Trying Not To Be A Dog, is the companion piece to

He told me he wanted to stop thinking  so much. He told me his mind works overtime. I asked him how he knew. I asked him by what standards  he determines his mind "works overtime", by what standards  he determines his mind works more than any other human being's mind?

He got my point, but he wasn't done. He had a shopping list  of things he wanted to fix and change about himself. It seemed to me his quest  in life is to become different  than he is, to become different than what he is. He said he worried  incessantly, and he wanted to stop worrying. He said he procrastinated. He said he put off doing everything until the last possible minute, and then he said didn't enjoy doing anything because he was always rushed.

He said he wanted to stop procrastinating but he put off  stopping procrastinating (I smiled when he said that). He said he loved his girlfriend but didn't want to hurt her by telling her what he was feeling:  that she isn't the one  for him, and he wanted out  of the relationship so he could scout around and find the one  for him. You know, he went on  and on  and on. He had it on automatic.

People like him will never  get to a place of satisfaction in their lives until they can be with themselves just as they really are, with nothing added and with nothing taken away, exactly the way they are and exactly the way they aren't. The trouble is their desperate barrage  of attempts to be more, to be better, to be different than they are, completely annihilates  any chance they'll ever get to experience themselves as alright exactly the way they are and exactly the way they aren't.

So I asked him if he could see himself as a dog who was trying not to be a dog. I wanted him to start to let in  the futility of it all. He was hell bent  on fixing and changing himself until, as he envisioned, he would become more, until he would become better, until he would become different. He'd convinced himself once he was more, once he was better, once he was different, then  he'd be alright.

I asked him, instead, if he could be the way he is - not changing anything, not fixing anything. A dog, I said, can't not be a dog. Even if he succeeded in becoming more, even if he succeeded in becoming better, even if he succeeded becoming different, then he'd simply be a more  dog trying not to be a more  dog, a better  dog trying not to be a better  dog, a different  dog trying not to be a different  dog. I wanted him to get he was trapped.

Some say it's the human condition  to aspire to be what we aren't. Life is a game, says Werner Erhard, in which what is not  is more important than what is. It's more than mere prudence applying Werner's view to inventing possibilities for the future - it's plain smart. If John Fitzgerald Kennedy hadn't done it, we wouldn't have Tranquility Base  on the moon today. If Nelson "Madiba" Rolihlahla Mandela hadn't done it, South Africa would still be segregated today. But when it's applied to who  we are (actually, in this conversation it's better said "when it's applied to what  we are"), it's the start of something hopeless. It's the beginning of an extremely laborious trek  down a very long tunnel, at the end of which there's no cheese  (nor, in this example, doggy Beggin' Strip  treats either).

A dog trying not to be a dog is an apt analogy for a human being trying not to be a human being, a human being trying not to have thoughts, a human being trying not to have desires, a human being trying not to have anger, a human being trying not to worry, a human being trying not to procrastinate.

You could bend  this analogy a bit. You could ask "What about a caterpillar trying not to be a caterpillar? Can't a caterpillar be a butterfly?". Yes, a caterpillar can be a butterfly. But then it would be as futile for a butterfly trying not to be a butterfly as a dog trying not to be a dog.

All analogies break down eventually. Life isn't an analogy. Life is the real deal. I assert it actually speaks to who we are as human beings and the fundamental difficulty we have from time to time being what  we are as human beings, that we look for an out  in the analogy: we see the caterpillar becoming a butterfly as a kind of escape route. For us human beings, however, there's none. It's truly as futile for a human being trying not to be a human being as it is for a dog trying not to be a dog.

John Fitzgerald Kennedy's possibility which resulted in Tranquility Base  aside, Nelson "Madiba" Rolihlahla Mandela's possibility of an integrated South Africa aside, if you aren't coming from what  you really are, if you aren't alright  with what you really are, then all you're doing is fixing or changing things. To authentically be able to create  something new, you first have to be able to create nothing. That is to say you first have to be totally alright  with exactly  what you are without fixing or changing anything!

In other words, first the dog has to be a dog because that's what he is. That's the starting point. First the dog has to not  try to be not a dog. That's how to get real. First the dog has to be a dog - which is only obvious  when you stop procrastinating long enough to take the time to consider it.



Communication Promise E-Mail | Home

© Laurence Platt - 2009 through 2016 Permission