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


Already Always Listening

Cowboy Cottage, East Napa, California, USA

March 27, 2007



This essay, Already Always Listening, is the companion piece to It is also the third in a group of seven on Listening: It is also the third in a group of twelve on Parents: I am indebted to my mother Andee Platt and to Anya Clark and to Bob Godfrey and to Doug Mobley and to Karen Junker and to Nazee Ranker and to Shannon Geis and to Tim Hanni and to Curt Hill who inspired this conversation.



I call my mother Andee in South Africa twice a month. That's my promise. It's always great speaking with her. The bond of family between us has grown inexorably stronger especially now I have children of my own. Before I had children of my own I had one kind of relationship with my mother. But it wasn't until I had children of my own that the full dimension of who my mother is for me opened up.

I schedule occasions to call my mother as opportunities. I'm not referring to them as opportunities to simply speak with my mother, which they are as well. I'm referring to them as opportunities, laboratories  if you will, in which I can distinguish my already always listening.

The sum total of my opinions, interpretations, ascribed meanings, certainties, positions, beliefs, concepts, and what I already know to be true  constitute my already always listening. When a situation, event, circumstance, or person shows up, my listening, like a station on my car radio, is preset. It's already welded in boilerplate and bolted onto concrete. I already know  how things will go from then on.

It's not possible to listen the situation, event, circumstance, or person newly and openly in the moment when I only hear the voice of my own predefined opinions, interpretations, interpretations, assigned meaning, certainties, positions, beliefs, concepts, and what I already know to be true. I hear it before anything else. Werner Erhard calls it the already always listening. It's inflexible. It's uncreative. It's on automatic. It drowns out newness, generosity, and possibility.

Inside my already always listening for my mother, I already know how the call is going to go, even before I press 0-1-1 to start international dialing. Then, no matter what we talk about, nothing fresh, nothing intimate ever comes forth. The ambience  for the call is predetermined. Whatever happens on the call can only show up in a disempowering context of calling my mother is the right thing to do. I'm a nice guy so I call my mother  ... because that's what nice guys do.

Most times I'm aware there's an already always listening going on. In particular I notice I've got an already always listening for my mother. Before I call her I already know  she'll talk about the weather. I already know she'll say she doesn't enjoy the heat. But when it gets cooler, I already know she'll say she doesn't enjoy it cooler either. I already know she'll redirect the conversation at every opportunity to talk about herself. I already know she won't ask much about my life so I'll end up dutifully listening as she talks about hers. And the truth be told, she may or may not do some or all of the above when I call her. But that doesn't matter. Even if she doesn't, I'm expecting her to. I'm waiting for it. That's my already always listening for my mother.

Although we cover a wide range of topics, the truth is I can't stand being on calls like those. Once the already always listening takes over, the entire conversation becomes a chore. But I do it anyway, dutifully, waiting for either of us to get tired of talking so I can hang up.

This time before I called her, I stopped, looked, and first got myself clear about the already always listening. I didn't have to look very hard to see it. By distinguishing the already always listening, I could see beyond it to access an open, non-judgemental natural  listening. Once I'd distinguished my already always listening for my mother, I'd distinguished my already always listening for any situation, event, circumstance, or person. Once I'd accessed an open, non-judgemental natural listening for my mother, I'd accessed an open, non-judgemental natural listening for any situation, event, circumstance, or person. Only then did I pick up my phone and call.

It was an amazing conversation. I heard an open, frail but attentive elderly dignified woman. I heard her love for me, her son, in the same way as I love my children. Prior to this call I knew she loved me because she said she loved me. But I wasn't listening  her love for me so I hadn't really heard  her love for me. On this call, when I listened her love for me, I heard it as the same love as mine for my children. I heard her defend me. I heard her stand for me. I'd never heard that before. Even if she'd said it before and even if I'd heard it before, I'd never really listened  it before so I'd never really  heard it before.

Everyone wants to contribute to people. Whether they're consciously aware of it or not, everyone wants to make a contribution. One of the insights I got during this conversation with my mother is how my already always listening stops people contributing to me. "I already know this" says the voice. "Stop telling me what I already know.". With that, the voice excludes any  contribution from anyone because the voice already knows everything about everything and everyone.

Listening my mother from an open, non-judgemental natural  listening, I got it's not what  people share which contributes. Rather, it's that they share at all  which contributes. My mother, arguably for the first time, was enabled to talk animatedly about the weather which I, arguably for the first time, experienced as her way of contributing to me.

When the conversation ended and it was time to say good bye, I told her I love her. Sometimes I tell my mother I love her when it's the right thing to do  and then it's awkward to say. This time it was authentic. This time it was easy to say.



Communication Promise E-Mail | Home

© Laurence Platt - 2007 through 2016 Permission