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 Who Wasn't There

Cowboy Cottage, East Napa, California, USA

January 6, 2011



"As I was going up the stair I met a man who wasn't there.
 He wasn't there again today. I wish that man would go away."
 ... William Hughes Mearns, Antigonish, circa 1899
This essay, A Man Who Wasn't There, was written at the same time as


If your brain was an auditorium and I was the supervisor preparing the room before you came in, I'd hang a sign over the podium in bold, stark lettering for you and everyone to read saying

Don't believe anything you hear in here!

Suspending belief  is a sublime skill, one which has has always intrigued me. Suspending belief ain't easy. You have to practice  suspending belief because as human beings, we're thrown  to believe. We have no natural muscle  to simply look  at an idea, and tell the difference between it like a possibility  and it like it's "the truth". We have no natural muscle to just stand and look  at what's so without turning what we see into another belief. We have no natural muscle to look from beginner's mind. Whatever natural muscle we may have to just stand and look at an idea ie to try it on for size  is already always trumped by belief.

<aside>

There's nothing wrong with belief. There's nothing wrong with "the truth". Both of them are just fixed ways of being. And there's nothing wrong with fixed ways of being - except that they're fixed ways of being.

<un-aside>

So if I ask you to consider there are no people out there, I'm not asking you to believe it. I'm asking you to consider there are only people you project  out there. I'm asking you to consider it like a possibility. I'm not asking you to consider it like it's "the truth". I'm asking you to try it on for size. If I ask you to consider the people out there aren't any particular way, I'm not asking you to believe it. I'm asking you to consider they're only the way you project them to be. I'm asking you to consider it like a possibility. I'm not asking you to consider it like it's "the truth". I'm asking you to try it on for size.



There's Nobody Out There



In a profoundly substantive way, there's nobody out there. There aren't any people out there  I dislike. There aren't any people out there  I don't get along with. Whatever it is about anyone I dislike or don't get along with doesn't come from them. It doesn't come from out there. Whatever it is about anyone I dislike or don't get along with is really my own projection of the way they are ie it's really my own fixed way of being  about them.

Frankly it's a confront  to entertain this possibility: that what I really  dislike about a person, that what I really  don't get along with is my own fixed way of being about that person. Whomever I disliked or didn't get along with wasn't there. All that was there was my own projection  of the way the person was. It's also a confront to entertain the possibility that there's no way for anyone projected this way, to show up as anything other than dislike‑able and / or not get‑along‑with‑able.

Confronting this like a possibility  was a black and white  moment for me. One moment I disliked some people. I disliked what they did ... what they said  ... the way they said what they said  ... and the way they are. In the next moment I disliked neither them nor what they did nor what they said nor the way they said what they said nor the way they are. I realized the man I thought I disliked wasn't there. He was never there. Rather, what was there  was my fixed way of being  about him. In the light of my fixed way of being about him, I never really got to know what he  was like. All I knew about him was what my fixed way of being projected him to be like. I saw it wasn't him  I dislike. What I disliked was a projection of my fixed way of being.



There's No "The Way He Is"



He's no particular way other  than the way I project him to be. I acknowledge there's no "the way he is". There's only "the way I project him to be". He shows up the way he shows up because I project him that way. It's I - not he - who's responsible for him being "the way he is". It's I - not he - who's responsible for projecting him that way. It's I - not he - who's responsible for my fixed way of being about him which has him show up the way he shows up for me.

There's not much I can do about the way people are. No, that's not it: in all likelihood there's absolutely nothing  I can do about the way people are. But I can do everything  about the way people show up for me - starting with taking responsibility for my fixed ways of being about them.



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