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 World Elsewhere

Cowboy Cottage, East Napa, California, USA

Election Day, November 8, 2016



"Despising, for you, the city, thus I turn my back: there is a world elsewhere." ... William Shakespeare embodying Coriolanus, The Tragedy Of Coriolanus, Act III, Scene III, The Forum

This essay, A World Elsewhere, is the companion piece to Runaway Train.

I am indebted to my children Alexandra Lindsey Platt and Christian Laurence Platt and Joshua Nelson Platt who inspired this conversation.




"I can't believe what just happened" they said to me - shocked, disappointed, upset. "How did we get here?". "I got it" I said, "you and slightly less than seven and a half billion other people as well, can't believe what just happened.". For me it was a great opportunity to look at the difference between what we believe and what we like and what we want and what we expect and what we prefer will happen ... and what actually happens. That's the direction in which I intended to steer the conversation ie an essential  conversation in the panoply of conversations for transformation. But first I had to find an opening to steer it in that direction. Finding an opening to steer it in that direction, would require addressing their listening ie taking their concerns into account, giving them the sense of being heard.

There are various ways to look at it turning out the way it turned out which was so shocking to them, I suggested. They weren't fully informed about its impending direction (almost no one was). They trusted too much that the people who directed it the way it went, thought  like them, viewed life like them, indeed viewed people  like them. That's almost always  unexamined. We think well of people, we're considerate of people, we include  people, and so we think everyone else does the same ... and then we're surprised, shocked even, when they don't. I said I thought that was a useful distinction to make ie that it had some leverage. I also said I thought that was taking the long way around. There are two other distinctions that end up in the same place but arguably get there faster. The thing is both of them require giving up more, and they also require being less positional  (listen: being positional is equally biased when it's being positional for  something, as when it's being positional against  something; you're being equally positional when you're right, as when you're wrong, yes?).

The first one is getting clear that the universe, in spite of how we believe it should behave, really has very little interest in what we believe and what we like and what we want and what we expect and what we prefer. The universe tacitly ignores any of those essentially human pre-occupations. It's just not moved by them. If the universe is moved by anything at all, it's by our actions. But it works both ways: the universe is moved both by actions we don't  like, as well as by actions we like - remember, the "don't like" / "like" dichotomy doesn't enter into the equation as far as the universe is concerned.

The second one is getting clear it all turns out the way it turns out all by itself  - just as it's been doing for millennia. And in spite of our preferences that it should be otherwise, we really don't have much say in the way it turns out. What we do  have say in, is what context we create for whatever way it turns out - in other words, what possibilities we invent for ourselves and our lives in spite of (not because of) the way it turns out. Our zeitgeist  is filled with countless (if not unlikely) tales of women and men whose lives represent the highest human quality ie who provide inestimable value and service to others, both by their actions as well as by their inspiration (Mother Teresa, Maya Angelou, Alice Walker, Dian Fossey, Aung San Suu Kyi, Nelson Mandela, the Reverend Dr Martin Luther King, Sidney Rittenberg, Cesar Chavez, Oskar Schindler et al on and on and more come to mind - to name a few) sometimes in the midst of the most dire if not the most horrific circumstances.

"And so" I said, "of two things you can be sure: one is whatever happens next is neither going to be as bad as expected, and nor is it going to be as good as predicted (you can always eliminate both those two extremes); and two is (yes I know this may be hard to hear) what happened really won't make much difference either  way as long as it's simply a change in the way we do business - in which case, it'll just be more of the same old same old.". By that I mean if there's no core transformation of who we really are for ourselves ie if there's no core transformation in our epistemology of what we already always consider ourselves to be as human beings, it'll be "Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose", Jean-Baptiste Alphonse Karr's infamous French epigram which is usually translated as "The more things change, the more they stay the same.". But no kidding!: that's hard to hear, especially given our ongoing dissatisfaction with the status quo, whatever  it is, while we defensively remain all but totally ignorant of who we really are and our epistemology of what we already always consider ourselves to be as human beings.

It's at times like these that the river between taking on the possibility of being transformed or not, seems to be so wide as to relegate its banks not merely to different appellations  but to different worlds - parallel  worlds maybe, but different worlds nonetheless. And ultimately this  world ie the same world which you believed and liked and wanted and expected and preferred to turn out differently than the way it turned out, isn't the only world. None of this, I told them, is going to go well for you if you don't get that. There is a world elsewhere. It's not the world whose quality is dictated to you by circumstances or by changes or even by electoral college votes. It's a world whose quality is determined purely by what you say  - to a lesser extent by the way  you say it, but certainly by what  you say, indeed by the mere fact you're endowed with "say-ability" (if you will) in the first place. It's a world over which you have total  dominion - always, and regardless of the circumstances.

That was enough for one evening. I didn't want to overwhelm them, so I left it at that - with a caveat  ie with an implied "to be continued ..." - meaning "I'll always be available to you later, should you wish to continue this conversation.". But actually my intention is that they won't need to, that they got it, and that it will be enough.



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