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


Behind The Commentary And The Debate And The Opinions

Cowboy Cottage, East Napa, California, USA

January 20, 2023

"Give a man a fish, and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish, and you feed him for life." ... Lao Tzu

This essay, Behind The Commentary And The Debate And The Opinions, is the companion piece to Happy 40th Anniversary, Hunger Project!.

It is also the sequel to Enormous Talent: Heroes II.

I am indebted to Keith Czarnecki who inspired this conversation and contributed material.

In the end, everything the skeptics said about the Hunger Project comes down to this: they said the Hunger Project didn't feed people who were hungry.

Without realizing it, all those who caricatured it that way highlighted its greatest strength. Until the onset of the Hunger Project, all efforts to end world hunger failed because they were based on feeding people within the undistinguished context of "Ending world hunger is impossible!". And no matter what we do, no matter how pure the motive, no matter how high the intention, it's always the context (albeit undistinguished or distinguished) that's decisive.

When Werner Erhard, Robert Fuller, Roy Prosterman, and John Denver created the Hunger Project by speaking it into being in 1977 with the unprecedented intention of ending world hunger within twenty years, its purpose was never to feed people - at least not at first. The purpose of the Hunger Project was to shift from "impossible" to "possible" the context in which we hold ending world hunger. The Hunger Project's raison d'etre  was to cause a contextual shift.

The other skepticism that the Hunger Project was "all about the money" (as if it were some kind of nefarious plot to bilk supporters out of their well-earned paychecks) was patently naïve. The people who stood for being its "financial family" contributed to the Hunger Project ... and the context for ending world hunger shifted inexorably from impossible to possible. The end of world hunger became an idea whose time had come. It's that context in which people are fed today. More importantly, it's that context in which people are accountable for and taking responsibility for producing their own food. [source: the hunger project]

The preceding paragraphs succintly sum up everything worthwhile (yet often misaligned, misinterpreted, and misunderstood) about the Hunger Project. The rest is commentary and debate and opinions. Now with all of that said, here's what's really behind  the commentary and the debate and the opinions:


You don't need a justification or a reason to give. Giving is a choice you make. If you can get it's all a game (even when it doesn't look like it's all a game), giving is a great way to play. If you prefer to keep all your toys to yourself in the sandbox, it's another way to play. That's OK too.

The short term solution to chronic world hunger (and maybe not even the best solution) is giving fish. The long term solution to chronic world hunger (and maybe the best solution) is giving fishing lessons. That's not just a fortune cookie's bon mots. It's smart, very  smart.

The context you create for the end of world hunger may not have everyone else's agreement and / or participation. You create it anyway. You live your life in the Self-created context of "a you and  me world" rather than in "a you or  me world". It's not a wrong / right, worse / better vote. It's not political. It's a context you choose to create from nothing, a context for your life and for Life itself. It's the context in which ending world hunger can happen.

No matter what we create and / or do with regard to ending world hunger, it all turns out the way it turns out anyway  (man! that's tough to get ...). It's this fourth point that's most misconstrued, that's most likely to have people resigned ("Ending world hunger is impossible!") when in fact it's the one that allows for a life of enormous freedom to be and freedom to act, and so it's arguably also the one which allows for the biggest difference to be made.

The intention to end world hunger is like planting the acorn which will become a mighty oak, under whose shade you may never get to sit. Indeed, that it will produce shade, is an impossible promise (there's no guarantee). But you plant it anyway. Planting it shapes who you'll be / the future you'll live into.

Make no mistake about this: the Hunger Project was / is revolutionary. And the way people respond to it is best articulated by Sir Arthur C (Charles) Clarke, British inventor, futurist, and author (2001: A Space Odyssey)  in his Law of Revolutionary Ideas  which states that every revolutionary idea (in science, politics, art, or whatever) seems to evoke three stages of reaction:

 1)  "It's completely impossible. Don't waste my time."
 2)  "It's possible but it's not worth doing."
 3)  "I said it was a good idea all along."

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