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

Bear Trap

Cowboy Cottage, East Napa, California, USA

June 17, 2011

"You can take your word back, and what you get then is your old life back."
...   answering Laurence Platt's question "Is it authentic for me, once I give my word, to ever take it back?" in We Are The Word 
This essay, Bear Trap, is the companion piece to It is also the fourth in a group of twenty three on Integrity:

Imagine for a moment there's a place I can stand called low integrity. Now imagine for a moment there's another place I can stand called high  integrity. In this conversation when I say "integrity" I include all of trustworthiness, count-on-ability, dependability, loyalty, as well as integrity - which is to say just plain ol' straight undiluted nothing works without it  grade "A" vanilla integrity: honoring my word as myself. Including trustworthiness, count-on-ability, dependability, loyalty, and integrity all under the mantle "integrity" for the purpose of this conversation is good enough for jazz.

Bear Trap
I've discovered there's a bear trap somewhere between the place called high integrity and the place called low integrity. I didn't know it was there at first. When I stood in low integrity I didn't see the bear trap. When I stood in high integrity I didn't see the bear trap either. When I moved from  low integrity to high integrity (which is to say when I stepped up  from low integrity to high integrity), I still didn't see the bear trap. But when I move from high integrity back to low integrity (which is to say when I step down  from high integrity to low integrity), that's when I discover the bear trap - often too late to avoid it snapping painfully shut on my ankle.

If you've stepped up from low integrity to high integrity you're the first one to know you have. In fact you're the only  one to know you have. Others won't know it until they see it in your actions and hear it in your word. Even if they can't articulate what quality it is they're seeing and hearing, it's patently getable. You're not awarded a badge to wear, proving you got it. There's no test to complete to quantify whether you meet the requirements. No results are posted to the internet telling the world you've graduated  with a diploma majoring in integrity. No party is thrown celebrating your stepping up - even if there were, you'd be the one to bake your own cake for it.

You  know you've stepped up. It didn't happen by accident. You had to have done something to make it happen. The possibility of integrity doesn't simply, magically  alight on a lucky few. And even if (for the sake of argument) integrity does simply, magically alight on a lucky few, luck alone just isn't powerful enough to sustain integrity over time after its inception.

The bear trap I'm speaking about is known to those who've committed intentionally to integrity, then backed off from it  ... as I've done from time to time. On these occasions I've done so partly out of sheer ignorance and partly out of testing the water  so to speak, testing to see whether or not I can get away with it. The fact of the matter is there are always  consequences to being out of integrity. One of the consequences of being out of integrity, is being blind to the consequences of being out of integrity. Can I commit intentionally to integrity and then back off from it? Yes. I do have that ability. But this is when the bear trap makes its presence known. It was always was there in the background, unknown. But now it's here in the foreground, known.

There's no mystery here. Without integrity nothing  works (as Werner Erhard may have said). Without integrity, things stop working fast  - first one thing stops working, then another then another ... the domino effect. And the worse it gets the worse it gets. I don't know why  it's this way for us human beings ... AND  ... this is the way it is for us. But I'm not much interested in explaining or understanding why my bicycle doesn't work well with a broken spoke rendering its ride wobbly. I'm more interested in restoring integrity to its wheel so it works the way its manufacturer intended.

I asked Werner for his view of whether it's authentic for me, once I commit to integrity, once I give my word I'll honor my word as myself, to ever back off from it. Without hesitating he said "You can take your word back, and what you get then is your old life back.".

That's the bear trap, whether I like it this way or not, now known, in sharp relief. There's no going back.

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