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


Ask Me Anything

Sterling Vineyards, Calistoga, California, USA

January 7, 2009



This essay, Ask Me Anything, is the second in the first trilogy Questions For A Friend:
  1. Prelude
  2. Ask Me Anything
  3. Coming Around Again
in that order.
The second trilogy Questions For A Friend is:
  1. Familiar Unfamiliar Territory
  2. Interview
  3. Straight Talk
in that order.
The third trilogy Questions For A Friend is:
  1. Dancing With My Mouth
  2. Cave Paintings
  3. Velvet Tsunami
in that order.
The fourth trilogy Questions For A Friend is:
  1. Creating Creating
  2. Tell Me Something About Nothing
  3. Lucid Disclosures
in that order.
The fifth trilogy Questions For A Friend is:
  1. Closer And Closer
  2. Tête À Tête
  3. Dancing With Life
in that order.
The sixth trilogy Questions For A Friend is:
  1. What Would I Ask You If I Could Ask You Anything?
  2. Wonderings About Nothing In Particular
  3. Tipping Point
in that order.
The seventh trilogy Questions For A Friend is:
  1. Beyond Breathing Underwater
  2. Bold Faced Truth
  3. What You Create For Yourself About Me
in that order.
The eighth trilogy Questions For A Friend is:
  1. Once In A Lifetime
  2. Fireside Chat
  3. Whole And Complete
in that order.
The ninth trilogy Questions For A Friend is:
  1. Questions For A Friend
  2. Nothing Else I'd Rather Be Doing
  3. Free To Be And Free To Act
in that order.
The tenth trilogy Questions For A Friend is:
  1. Attracted To Dance
  2. I Told A Friend I Love You
  3. Terse Transformed Communication
in that order.
The eleventh trilogy Questions For A Friend is:
  1. Questions For A Friend XI I (working title)
  2. Questions For A Friend XI II (working title)
  3. Questions For A Friend XI III (working title)
in that order.



I'm awake and present to the gift, the privilege  it would be to be granted an audience with you, a Tête À Tête  actually, a date during which I could ask you anything  I want to ask you.

In real terms, I've been close to this opportunity before. Yet when the moment came, when it was appropriate, I couldn't come up with anything to ask you. There you were and there I was, with no one and nothing in the way ... and I couldn't think of one thing to ask you, not one god‑damned thing.

That's pertinent. Yet arguably it's also a clear reflection of what's so:  when I'm with you, nothing  is important (all double entendres  notwithstanding).

Seriously though: suppose there was an opportunity to be with you, with nothing on the books, with nothing scheduled, just you and I, no one else, and the space wide open to ask you anything ie any-thing.

Suppose there was. This is what comes up for me as I look at what ten questions I might ask you could be.



Ten Questions From A Clamoring Audience Of One



 1)  I scheduled an occasion, I set aside a now  to be by my Self  to look at questions I would ask you if I could be with you and ask you anything.

I sat in my chair, face to the wall, for about an hour totally stuck. I couldn't think of anything  to ask you. No matter what question I came up with, a thought followed saying "No, not that one. You already know  the answer to that one.". Not only that, but I  also already knew the answer, so there wouldn't be any point asking you. Why waste precious time with you on things I already know?  Even more to the point: given who you  are, I want to come up with questions, the answers to which you  have to look for, to which you have to reach  for.

Eventually in my experience I came to the conclusion "It's totally hopeless. You already know everything!  I can't come up with one ... single ... question  the answer to which you don't already know.".

* * *

      So ... my first question to you is:

"Do you know everything?"


Suddenly it's blindingly simple. Breakthrough! Once I got the authenticity  of this first question, the stuckness  liquified, the space started to break open  for me, and I could see more questions to ask you.

To continue then:


 2)  In terms of laser intellect, in terms of getting directly to the heart of the matter of what's so  in peoples' lives, in terms of piercing through to what their real concerns and issues are, there's never been anyone like you. There's no one I know like you who in a conversation with any given human being, can move them to tears as quickly as you can. Once they share with you what's happening in their lives, then you coach them to locate and master (ie get their hands and feet on) the levers, dials, and pedals of transformation and possibility.

My next question to you is:

"What is the absolute minimum interaction you require with a human being, the absolute minimum you need to know about them before you can say exactly how you're going to coach them to transform their life?"



 3)  Can we please focus on horror  for a moment. Let's look at the World Trade Center on September 11 of 2001. Let's look at Mumbai in November of 2008. Let's look at the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and Gaza. Let's look at catastrophic violations of human rights in Darfur and Zimbabwe. Let's look at the almost incorrigible  fact that all of the above comprise only a very small  selection of ongoing horror on the planet.

My third question to you is:

"Is it useful to include horror in a transformed context of being OK the way it is and OK the way it isn't?"



 4)  You've spoken about choosing to give up your reputation. That may not be an exact quote, but I believe it's in the ball park (please correct me if it isn't). It occurs to me your reputation  is something assigned to you by others. It occurs to me, then, it would be others  who would give up your reputation since they assigned it to you. If I had a reputation assigned to me by others, I can see others  giving up my reputation. I'm not clear on what it would be for me to give up my own reputation for myself.

So my next question to you is:

"Would you please speak to the implications of giving up one's own reputation, and would you please share what opened up for you when you did that?"



 5)  A friend called me to tell me a family member had died. She was distraight.

I wonder: given the state of the world, given climatic and ecological disaster in the making, given a stretched to the limit  and nearly collapsing financial system, when we reach the end and no longer have to struggle with the foibles  of being human, wouldn't it be a good time to celebrate  rather than grieve? We seem to have no more appropriate response to our loved ones passing than debilitating sadness and distress. And yet the passing of a human being at the end of their life is surely  and certainly  a quintessence of life being the way it is and the way it isn't.

For my next question, I'd like to ask you this:

"What is a transformed context in which to hold a loved one's passing, instead of being consumed by grief? I suspect it may be the same context to come from when we realize we're about to pass ourselves. Are they the same?"



 6)  Let's talk for a moment about what's popularly referred to as enlightenment. There are distinctions which clearly set transformation apart from enlightenment, not the least of which is the kind of eastern connotation  which surrounds enlightenment but which transformation doesn't require. Nonetheless, for the purposes of this conversation, to ask you about your state of enlightenment is good enough for jazz.

With others, what often obfuscates  any inquiry like this is the widely held belief (or mis-belief as the case may be) that "those who know don't tell, and those who tell don't know".

That been said, my sixth question for you is:

"Are you enlightened? Are you a Zen master?"



 7)  You once famously (and in my estimation brilliantly) averred you don't discuss God with "people who don't know the difference between their ass  and a hole in the ground".

Well, it's taken me a while, but now I've finally figured out  the difference between my ass  and a hole in the ground, and it's this:

My ass  is my ass  and a hole in the ground is a hole in the ground.

So there! Now  would you at last please discuss God with me, and answer this question I've been waiting years  to ask you:

"What is God to you?"



 8)  The pace of the conversation for transformation has accelerated dramatically since its inception. As people become more receptive to the notion of transformation itself, as people become less skeptical that it can be reliably delivered, as people become eager to receive transformation, their new open, inquiring, expanded  listening allows the conversation for transformation to cover more ground in less time and go further now than it did when you first introduced it on the world stage thirty eight years ago.

On the other hand, the format for delivering transformation hasn't changed much at all in thirty eight years. There's still a central figure, a trainer, a leader  at the front of a room delivering the scripted work in a theatre-like environment to a large group of people. The interactions with the leader are still personal, up close, face to face, and very down.

Personal, up close, face to face  interactions with a trainer in front of a group of people seem critical, seem elemental, axiomatic  even, to delivering transformation. It seems as if this particularly unique format simply goeswith  the territory of delivering transformation (as Alan Watts may have said). Indeed, I've often wondered whether or not transformation can be delivered through any other media: books, videos, or via the internet ("webinars")  for example. Personally I doubt it. However this may just be my own attachment to something I'm familiar with and comfortable with.

Here's my question:

"Can real transformation be reliably delivered in a format other than the tried, tested, and proved way in which one trainer or leader directs a meticulously mapped conversation in front of a large group of people?"



 9)  You've made an extraordinary difference in every arena of life you've made it your business to participate in. You've made an impact in the peace processes in Northern Ireland and in the Middle East. You've made an impact in the political process in Costa Rica and its sustainable democracy. You've created opportunities for breakthrough thinking  in science through the physics conferences you've hosted. Your work causing the end of hunger as an idea whose time has come  is legend. You've coached award winning film and television actors and recording stars, all of whom have credited you with enabling them to master their craft. You're currently involved in shifting most of the known business management paradigms. You're a gold cup winning race car driver. And I know I've just barely scratched the surface of the arenas into which you've ventured and left enriched by your participation.

I'd like to know:

"Are there any other fields of life left for you in which you've not yet participated in which you'd like to participate, to which you can bring transformation like a possibility, in which you know your presence and work will cause breakthroughs?"



 10)  Something happened. Something shifted in my being when I realized I've come to my tenth question, when I realized I've come to my final question to ask you. I've realized the first nine questions simply set the stage  so I can be with  you. With all the other questions now out of the way, I see there's one question behind all the other questions  I've asked you, and that's the question I want to ask you now. Arguably it's the only  question I ever want to ask you. Arguably it's the only question I ever want to ask. Period.

Here's the thing: I already know your answer. I know who you really are, so I already know  what your answer will be. But I'm going to ask you anyway. Why I'm asking you this question already knowing  what your answer will be is simply so I can listen you speaking your answer to this particular question. I like to listen where you speak your answer from. I've heard you speak your answer to this particular question many, many times actually, all around the world over decades for millions and millions of human beings. I'm clear your answer to this question is the total expression and more  of who you really are in the world for human beings like a possibility.

My final question to you, and possibly my only really incisive  question to you, my personal up against the wall  question to you, my question to you in whose answer I've got nothing to lose and everything  at stake, is this one:

"Do you love me? Do you really love me?"



The Best Answer Is More Questions



When I'm with you I'm happy. When I'm with you, what once was a studiously noble intention to get answers  which would enable me to come to grips with life at a whole new level, becomes instead the opportunity to reach out to you through asking you questions, and then to not stop there and to not even stop at your answers, but rather to keep on and on going and expand and expand and expand and to keep on expanding.

I come to you asking questions, supposedly to get your answers. I come away from you, instead, having found out in the process how to powerfully ask  questions, how to ask powerful questions, having found out in the process how to question, having discovered how to inquire, having learned how to think for myself.

There's no greater gift.



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