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


Being Inclusive Like A Possibility

Partrick Ridge, Mount Veeder Appellation, Napa Valley, California, USA

January 25 and 27, 2021

This essay, Being Inclusive Like A Possibility, is the seventeenth in a group of twenty three on Parents: It is also the twentieth in an open group on Possibility:

Children don't come with an instruction manual. You have to figure out for yourself how to parent. When my children were born, that became obvious. That was when I began appreciating the way my own parents raised me. As a child, I assumed they knew everything there was to know about parenting. In my young eyes, they were the ones in charge, the ones who knew. Yet when I became a parent myself, I discovered I didn't  know. With all good intentions I realized I knew nothing at all about parenting beyond providing for my children's survival needs, shelter, and safety. The rest I had to learn. The more I learned, the more I appreciated my own parents.

All of the above was the gist of a conversation I was having with a friend while we were on a river bank hike together. He's always blamed his parents for not raising him the way he says they should have. He also blames them for what's not working for him in his adult life - as if they'd done him some irreparable harm as a child by not raising him the way they should have, which rendered him unable to cope with life as an adult. It was a persistent, unwanted complaint. He was running a racket.

I shared my experience of my parents with him ("You'll be free when you can include them exactly the way they are" I said) as well as of being a parent. He looked puzzled. "I've tried that" he said, "I really have. I've forgiven them many times, and it still doesn't work. There's always a residue.". "Look: I know it's what's preached far and wide, but consider that forgiving  may not work" I said. It literally stopped him in his tracks. "What do you mean: forgiving  may not work?" he asked, "Isn't that what you're s'posed  to do?". "You've proved it may not work, haven't you?" I said, "You've forgiven your parents, and yet you're still stuck in blaming them.".

I've discovered something useful for myself about the way forgiving (not so much about the possibility of being forgiving)  can actually dis-empower me on occasion. It's this: when I declare "I forgive you", that's the part I say out loud. Yet what it calls forth (ie what I don't  say out loud) is what it is I'm forgiving you for  - which, when it comes to what my parents did or didn't do, may just have been something I made up  as a child. Saying "I forgive you" drags with it the "... for what?". So in the very act of forgiving, I re-presence that which I say I'm going to let go. It's pernicious, it's a trap. It's very Zen too (one side of the hand brings with it the other).

"OK" he said, "I get that. What about accepting?  What about I accept what they did, and not resist it?". "There's value in the 'not resist it'  part" I said, "but accepting (not so much the possibility of being accepting)  is like forgiving: they both tighten the same noose, they both drag with them the "... for what?", which as effectively re-presences that which you say you're going to let go.". At that point, the very clothes he was wearing began to reek of congested thought. There was no way out.

"There's a randomness  to being born", I suggested, "You could've been born to any other parents. Yet they're the ones you were born to. It's not something you can erase and redo if you don't like them. But you can take responsibility  for being born to them.". The idea of taking responsibility for being born, isn't an easy one. Yet that for which we take responsibility, we have power over. I also suggested he look at his life which, by any stretch of the imagination, had turned out well. He was successful in business, owned a nice house and three cars, and his own family (wife and children) was in great shape. "It looks like your parents did a pretty good job raising you after all, doesn't it?" I said, not really as a question, just leaving it hanging in the air. I sensed him cogitating, pondering, looking for some wiggle-room.

"What do I do? he asked, exasperated. "I don't know" I said, "It's for you to discover. But here's what I did: I invented the possibility of being inclusive.". "Oh!?" he said after a moment. I went on: "There's no '... for what?'  in being inclusive. Include it all:  what you don't like about how they raised you, what you like about how they raised you, how your racket has a payoff, how you now know they were only winging it (just like us), how you're an adult running your life with preferences and decisions you made as a child, how you now have a good life for which you're responsible. Include it all, especially include you love them.". He nodded, trying it on.

Then there's this too: all there is to include, is content. To be inclusive, you have to be the context. And that's a subject for another conversation on another occasion.

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