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 Way With Words

Hall Rutherford, Auberge Road, Rutherford, California, USA

December 28, 2019

This essay, A Way With Words, is the companion piece to Free Speech Twice Distinguished.

It is also the thirteenth in the open second group of Experiences Of A Friend (click here for the complete first group of thirty five Experiences Of A Friend):
  1. Friend, Partner, And Ally
  2. Go To The Beach
  3. Proof Of Life
  4. Going Out Like A Supernova
  5. Relationships: They Start, They End
  6. Evidence Of Source
  7. On Knowing When To Be Ordinary
  8. Letting Be
  9. Transforming The Untransformable
  10. There's Always The Next Piece
  11. Plastic Chandelier II
  12. Yes You Really Are That Big
  13. A Way With Words
  14. The Quietest Mind
  15. Approaching Integrity
  16. Dancing With Life II
  17. Staying In Integrity
  18. Ordinary People Star, Extraordinary People Recreate Themselves
  19. Committed Existence
  20. When You're Being Like Werner, You're Not Being Like Werner
  21. "There's Life Happening Where You Are"
  22. At The Level Of Self-Expression
  23. Intergalactic Dude
  24. Wonderful With People
in that order.

"Well? What did you think?" I asked her. "Man! He sure has a way with words!"  she said (complimentarily not critically, by the way). She had just heard him speak with a group for the first time.

We talked about that for a while. It's true: he does  have a way with words. But I had a concern about leaving it characterized like that, which is this: we all  have a way with words although we don't fully exercise it. And the value to be discovered around him isn't the way he's  got with words that we  don't. It's in what he's got that we all  have, yet don't fully exercise (I was reluctant to step over the implication that he  has a way with words that we  don't). "Hmmm ... no pass" I said, smiling.

I'm careful not to negate people's opinions. For me, everyone's are valid - even if mine sometimes differ. I was in no rush to judge, even though I did have another slant to offer. Eventually I spoke up: "Maybe it's not that. Maybe it's we all have it. Maybe what he's got isn't so much a way with  words, as it's a way of being  with words. That's an entirely new  distinction. Even more tersely, maybe what he's got is a way of being  - period. And given who we are is constituted in language, maybe what you're hearing in the way he be's with words, reflects that. And maybe that's all  it reflects. Distinguishing a person's relationship with their words ie to language itself, is a worthy challenge, carrying more import than any bucket list  undertaking" (and yes, I did mean who he "be's", and not who he "is" - try both on for size).

"So ... you're meaning 'a way' like the way of the ... Tao?"  she asked, openly. I liked that - a lot, both her openness, and especially that to which she was alluding. But no, I hadn't thought of it that way. No, I meant it much more pragmatically than that. I meant "a way" like a mastery. I meant "a way of being with words" like being a master - and look: being a master means nothing more than being masterful in any field by way of its language. This is the territory traversed as the onset of transformation shifts our source notions (of language) and of who we are (as language). With transformation, the way we are with and about language, undergoes a deep, lasting, glorious shift. Words no longer only convey what we talk about. Words are now the vehicles for being who we are ie for being who we might be really.


Listen: if that abstraction does indeed turn out to be congruent with the way of the Tao, then great!

But wait: even if it does, I'm not sure that risking including the additional meaning and significance inherent in "the way of the Tao", is useful in this conversation - or in any  conversation for transformation, for that matter.

That said, I'm going to let it remain in here (stet) for now - because one, it's now distinguished, and two, because if implying "a way with words" implies "the way of the Tao", then it's OK ie it's good enough for jazz.


Prior to the onset of transformation, there's little or no awareness of the possibility of such a shift ie of such a contextual  shift. Yet even being cursorily around him ie even being around him in passing, what would nonetheless be unavoidable is realizing that something unusual ie something out of the ordinary (something literally extra-ordinary, in fact) had occurred for him particularly in the realm of language, leading to the characterization of him having a (colloquial) "way with words". But that doesn't really convey it. It's just not adequate. It simply doesn't do it justice. No, it's actually much  more than that, and when what he has and makes available is trivialized as the colloquial "way with words", it deprives us  of its value. So I might restate "He has a way with words" more accurately as "He uses language" or (even better) "He's being responsible  for the way he uses language" or (perhaps the best) "He's being responsible for the way language uses him.".


Listen: the latter expression "He's being responsible for the way language uses him" could clearly be (by the way) the source idea for a fully-fledged ten session graduate seminar series conversation.

And while it's undeniably the most accurate of the four, it's also the hardest to convey (articulate) or grasp (make sense of) especially if there's no background / context  present in which it can be expressed and gotten.



I paused. If there's one thing I've learned from being around him myself, it's that there's no need to continue filling the space with noise ie concepts which aren't fully gotten, which thus only besmog the space and get in the way of something more profound being gotten. It only makes matters worse to bravely keep talking, when what you're saying isn't landing, so it isn't being grasped (as if  more talk will ensure it does  land and get grasped). And she hadn't yet said anything in response. So I waited, relaxed in the pause, enjoying the quiet, not in any hurry to end it - no matter how long it may last. One of the things about having a way with words (as expressed above) is also knowing when not  to speak (hmm ... perhaps it is  possible a way with words goeswith the way of the Tao - as Alan Watts may have said).

When she finally did speak, all she said was "Well, he sure is a remarkable guy!", nodding. Nothing else. I nodded back, stood up, shook her hand, and walked on.

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