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 Hole In The Soul:

The Un-Relationship

Cowboy Cottage, East Napa, California, USA

October 2, 2014

We were talking, sitting around chatting quietly among ourselves in the evening dusk (in the "gloaming"  is a great word for this time of day, evocative of Merrye Olde Englande)  about relationships - the fact that we're so enamored of them, the fact that we're so crazy  about them ("can't live with 'em, can't live without 'em"), the fact that they're  so crazy (sometimes, yes?). At some point in the conversation, someone (it may have been one of the others, it may have been me actually speaking - I don't recall whom, and whomever it was, isn't important) coined the phrase "hole in the soul"  while articulating the concept of "a hole in the soul relationship", and I thought "That's perfect. Anyone can get that. What a great distinction. What a great way of defining it: a hole in the soul relationship - the un-relationship, really.".

In this conversation in this group in this gloaming, what exactly was inferred by a hole in the soul relationship? A hole in the soul relationship is the kind of relationship you're in because it fills an emptiness, because it fills the void, because it fills a ... well ... hole in the soul - that's why you want it. And in the absence of any sense of transformation and possibility (that was me leaning into the conversation, given none of the others present were graduates of Werner's work) almost all relationships (if not all relationships) have a tendency to slide into that way of being, a way of being in which the relationship is maintained simply because it fills a hole in the soul.

There are many, many bases of relationships, many, many bases of being in relationships, many, many bases of being in a relationship. So being in a hole in the soul relationship is merely one option among many. And it's a perfectly fine way to be in a relationship. Listen: a hole in the soul relationship isn't worse  than any of the other ways of being in relationship. And none of the other ways of being in relationship are better  than it. What's useful however, is to look at the inherent (ie built in) features of this particular way of being in relationship, of this particular way of being in relationship available prior to the easy access to transformation and possibility.

The first is that coming into a hole in the soul relationship is, by definition, not coming in with (which is to say not coming in from)  the fullness of who we really are. Not coming in from who we really are, if we tell the truth about it, means there's nobody at home  to relate to  and there's nobody at home to relate  ie there's no one present. Relationships can't exist in a vacuum ie when there's no one present. The second is hole in the soul relationships are, also by definition, self-defeating, which is their real weakness: when (or if) the relationship heals the hole in the soul (that's the raison d'etre  for being in it in the first place, yes?), the foundation on which the relationship was built no longer exists. When the foundation on which the relationship is built founders, when it no longer exists, the relationship itself founders.

It was this particular perspective which got the others in the group sitting up, paying attention, nodding, blinking slowly in new agreement, and wanting to hear more.

But the trouble with saying more in this context, even though it's earnestly requested, and you could say there's even some kind of listening for it, is that saying more could easily devolve the conversation into merely talking about relationships not working ie it could easily devolve into the same old same old  conversation about how relationships don't work, without bringing forth anything new, without bringing forth any new possibility for relationship. That was something I wanted to avoid at all costs. Besides which, it may not even be necessary to talk about relationships not  working, before inserting the theme of relationships working, into a conversation.

So instead, sans explanation, I ventured this: "Imagine not coming into a relationship with a hole in the soul, hoping (or worse, expecting)  the relationship will heal ie fill the hole in the soul. Imagine not coming into a relationship with a hole in the soul as the basis of being in a relationship. Imagine coming into a relationship already whole and complete. Imagine being in a relationship being in a relationship  rather than being in a relationship filling a hole in the soul. What would that  look like?".

I didn't have to work very hard to get the idea across. This particular idea by itself, inserted into any conversation about same old same old relationships, is radical enough and intrusive  enough and powerful enough and thought provoking enough to instantly garner an unsettling, disconcerting attention in which people can't not  listen newly. Transformation and possibility suddenly and profoundly enter the realm of relationship front and center stage without being mentioned once by name.

The duration of our soirée  had come to its agreed upon conclusion. It was time for everyone to leave and go home. I would have liked the conversation to have gone further than it did, and yet I was satisfied with how far it got. On a whim, I went to my stationery drawer. Using a sharpie  I wrote on slips from a post-it  note pad:
then walked around the gloaming group, putting one slip into the hand of each person there. "What's this?" they each asked (in one form or another) as they read it.

"Check it out" I said. "These guys are really on to something powerful and fundamental about being in relationships, something I think you might find very useful.".

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