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 Man In The Crowd

Cathedral Hill Hotel, 1101 Van Ness Avenue, San Francisco, California 94109, USA

May 6, 2005



This essay, A Man In The Crowd, is the companion piece to It is also the third in an open group Encounters With A Friend:
  1. Showing Up
  2. Poet Laureate
  3. A Man In The Crowd
  4. Real Men Cry
  5. A Different Set Of Rules
  6. Nametag: A True Story
  7. Half Life
  8. Waiting On You
  9. Erotica On Schedule
  10. A House On Franklin Street
  11. NeXT
  12. Reflection On A Window
  13. Here And There
  14. How To Enroll The World
  15. Demonstration
  16. Two Of Me II: Confirmation Not Correction
  17. Holiday Spectacular
  18. Hello! How Are Things Going For You?
  19. Regular Guy
  20. A Scholar And A Gentleman
  21. Images Of You
  22. With Nothing Going On
  23. Where No One Has Gone Before
  24. Attachment: Causeway Between Islands
  25. If You're Not Then Don't
  26. Images Of You II
  27. Living Where Life Is
  28. Create Me The Way I Am
  29. How Do You Spell The Sound A Ratchet Makes?
  30. You Don't Ask "Why Me?"  When It's Raining II
so far, in that order.

It is the also prequel to I am indebted to Sylvia Rowan of the San Francisco History Center, San Francisco Public Library, who contributed material for this conversation.




I saw a man in the crowd.

At first the crowd didn't notice him. When they did he smiled - not for being noticed but rather to acknowledge them for noticing him. It was an ear to ear smile which lit up the entire hotel mezzanine floor and took complete charge of it.

I knew I had seen what I had seen and yet I couldn't believe it entirely. Until that moment, that degree of certainty and confidence coming from one's own experience was simply not possible in my world. This was something totally new, a breakthrough in being. I was instantly mesmerized.

His perfect navy blue V-neck sweater, his shirt collar which behaved itself like no other shirt collar has done before, his crisply pressed tan slacks, and his just right  brown Ferragamo loafers all indicated someone who knew how to dress ... and then some.

Slowly it dawned on me that his wardrobe, immaculate as it was, wasn't simply a fashion statement. It was completely transparent, a mere backdrop to his radiance I assumed only I recognized. Then I realized his entire presentation was keyed off it. It was ... a demonstration  ...

Jack Tar Hotel - opened: April 1960 - location of first est training: October 1971 - location of 'Be With' with Werner: October 1978 - reopened as Cathedral Hill Hotel: August 2, 1982 - closed for demolition: October 31, 2009 - reopening as Cathedral Hill Hospital: 2015 - Photograph courtesy San Francisco History Center, San Francisco Public Library
Jack Tar Hotel
1101 Van Ness Avenue, San Francisco, California 94109, USA
He moved through the crowd shaking hands, answering questions, engaging in polite conversation. He was half way through the throng when I realized he was headed in my general direction. He was three quarters of the way through when I realized he was not merely headed in my general direction but rather he was headed directly towards me. Then he was in front of me and, looking me dead in the eye with a look that penetrated my thoughts and my considerations and my opinions and my very Self itself, threw open his arms, said "Hello Laurence!" in that rich, deep, Philadelphian accent, the blazing smile still flickering across his face, and embraced me.

I remained by his side as he, his right arm draped over my shoulders, continued to move through the crowd shaking hands, answering questions, engaging in polite conversation. Even as I was startled to be there with him so suddenly in that way, I knew (... I always  knew ...) I belonged there. Any vestiges of doubt I still had disappeared when one of his associates looked at me standing there with him, silently saying "It's ... O ... K! ... It's ... O ... K!".

* * *

I was with him twenty five years later as his guest when he spoke with a group of businessmen who run companies which run the world. This was no lightweight group. Chief executives from American Telephone and Telegraph were there; chief information officers from major energy corporations were there, inter alia. He was speaking about how, in training his own staff, he gets them to look at their withheld communications, then at the withheld communications behind those withheld communications, and then at the withheld communications behind those  withheld communications etc. Such a process can last eighteen hours or even longer, is very, very intrusive and is very, very down. The purpose of it is to get people to confront the baseline communication which defines their lives. And at some point, even the most willing participants in this process (ie even those who started off  being willing participants in this process) may decide that this is "no fun anymore" and cry uncle.

But the point of his intrusion is not to cause distress. The point of it, he was saying, is to get his staff to the place where they see that when you've said everything you've withheld, and when you've said everything you want to say but haven't said, and when you've said it all to all the people you've not spoken completely with, and when you've 'fessed up  with all the people you've not been totally honest with, who you are at the foundation of it all is "I Love You". That's a hard fought and an even harder won space.

Then he said to that group "Laurence swims  in that space.".

* * *

I never did anything with that remark of his except, as you can tell, write it down. While he did indeed say it about a startled me, like everything he says it has real leverage when applied to more than Laurence  per se. Given who he is, he would say it (or something like it) about each and every single one of us.



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