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


BREAKTHROUGH SKYDIVING

St Mungo, Clifton Beach, Cape Town, South Africa

June 8, 1983



This essay, BREAKTHROUGH SKYDIVING, is the companion piece to It is also the tenth in a group of twelve adapted from my thesis BREAKTHROUGH SKYDIVING: It is also the first in a group of nine Breakthroughs: It is also the prequel to

Some time around now (it may actually have been closer to April of 1982, but some time around NOW) I signed on as a leading systems programmer with Old Mutual, the largest life insurance company in Africa. At about the same time, the Interactive Project came into existence.

For Old Mutual, the advent of the interactive trend in data processing could no longer be ignored. With the addition of a dedicated interactive computer to its already considerable computing resources, Old Mutual's computer management team realized the need for directing, establishing standards for and educating users in effective interactive computing. The Interactive Project arose to embrace all activities in that area.

One of the responsibilities I assumed was the editing of PIPS, which stands for Practical Interactive Programming Support, the monthly magazine of the Interactive Project. PIPS, which is a publication from Systems Marketing Division, is intended to support people in being deeply satisfied and nurtured by their work. That is why PIPS is always out on that particular limb where the esoteric technical meets the intimate personal.

Because of that, I began to notice that it would require a particular kind of editorial function to provide the leading edge of that thrust, and the way that took form as PIPS evolved was that whenever publication time came around, I took a look at what there was to see in the personal space, the beingsphere in which the people live to whom PIPS is dedicated, and wrote about whatever was there.

The PIPS editorial KEEPING YOUR WORD MEANS MAKING HAPPEN WHAT YOU SAID IS GOING TO HAPPEN came out of the sense (and sensitivity) of being known as someone whose word can be counted on. It could be said BREAKTHROUGH SKYDIVING came out of KEEPING YOUR WORD. That is actually a lot closer to the truth than it sounds.

While I was able to isolate and communicate the abstracts which make for that sense, something was missing. I could not put a finger on that specific quality which, by virtue of its presence alone, creates the space in which keeping your word can happen.

I began to live within the question 'WHAT DOES KEEPING MY WORD LITERALLY IMPLY?'. At first, all that came up was my own perplexity.

Oftentimes, while we intuitively know and come from the abstracts it takes to have our lives work, it is oddly difficult to verbalize those abstracts in such a way that they can be usefully shared. So I decided to immerse myself in a research project which would come alive with the question and raise those abstracts to a level of consciousness where they could be clearly observed and documented.

Reflection revealed that the laboratory, the context, of such a research project should have the following characteristics:

 1)  It would highlight a domain in which participation participation would be a totallly new, vivid experience.
2)  It would bring forth instinctive or reflex behavior and other underlying molding patterns.
3)  It would be appropriate to the inspiration and intention of the research.
4)  During the implementation of the project, I would need to have more than just a coolly intellectual point of view at stake: I would need to be "up against it".
5)  The results of the research on myself would be applicable to everyone.

Furthermore,

 6)  The context would be such that ultimately the only point of my completing the project and making happen what I said is going to happen would be that I gave my word that it would happen.

I considered the following contexts for a laboratory:

 1)  motorcross
2)  long distance swimming
3)  marathon running
4)  tai chi chuan
5)  flying
6)  gliding
7)  hang-gliding
8)  skydiving
9)  scubadiving
10)  jetskiing
11)  rugby

I eventually chose skydiving because it fulfilled all the basic requirements of the research context perfectly. And in alignment with the spirit embodied in the Breakthrough Racing  team which created miracles on the racetracks of the USA in the late 1970s, I called the project BREAKTHROUGH SKYDIVING.

The format of BREAKTHROUGH SKYDIVING was simple, yet every step was critical to the nature of the project. I would need to:

 1)  Give my word that I would complete the project, no matter what.
 2)  Share as much as possible as widely as possible with as many people as possible about BREAKTHROUGH SKYDIVING at every step of the way.
 3)  Enroll in and complete the skydiving intensive offered by Atlantic Skydivers.
 4)  Skydive.
 5)  Observe what happened from the creation of the project through to its completion and document all of it.

In a project of this nature, you may well imagine that any of a number of things might have happened. This is what actually did happen.


This essay, BREAKTHROUGH SKYDIVING, recreates the foreword to the first edition of my thesis of the same name (there are five editions so far). The entire thesis with all five forewords, incidents, abstracts, observations, and conclusions is available at

http://www.laurenceplatt.com/breakthrough


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