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


But And And

Napa Valley, California, USA

December 18, 2004



This essay, But And And, is the companion piece to The One You Feed.



It occurred to me at a very young age that there are no problems in life. It took me the next forty years to train myself to recreate that context effectively along with a means to deliver it so that it comes alive for people.

There are no problems in life. I mean that quite literally. There are no problems in life  is not to say that there are no problems for human beings. Whether there are or whether there aren't problems for human beings (and given our propensity to say we have problems, it would seem as if there is some agreement that there are), and whether they disappear or whether they persist is the focus of this conversation.

In order to take a cold, dispassionate look at the source of problems for human beings, it is first necessary to have as a context that there are no problems in life. In Zen we ask "If a tree falls in the forest, and there's no one there to hear it, does it make a sound?". If an event occurs, no matter what size, large or small, and no matter what its scope, it is simply what's so. There is no problem until someone interprets, construes, says, or declares that there is a problem.

All interpretations aside, naturally occurring disasters (volcanoes, tsunamis, even meteor strikes which precipitate extinction events) are simply what's so. For the most part, even though our survival mechanisms may get the better of us from time to time to the degree that we interpret benign events and hospitable environments as "good" and we interpret hostile events and inhospitable environments as "bad", we can get that naturally occurring disasters are simply what's so about living in the world. All expectations aside, life and the universe never promised to be benign or hospitable to us. In fact, for the most part, life and the universe are very often extremely hostile and inhospitable to us. And while we may not be willing to confront that (or worse, gripped by survival we may not be able to), that is indeed what's so.

Where we fail our natural respect for what's so is in our everyday ordinary conversations when transformation and possibility are not present so we confuse accepting what's so with resignation, we confuse being with life the way it is with apathy, we confuse allowing things to be as they are with indifference, even with callousness.

However the first thing you learn in a transformed life is that you can not bring new possibilities into being by changing things. You have to create new possibilities ie you have to invent them from nothing. So paradoxcally in order to bring about something new ie in order to not simply acquiesce, pedestrian like, to the probable almost certain future, it is essential to first develop the permission to get things exactly the way they are and exactly the way they aren't right now  and to first develop the permission to be with things exactly the way they are and exactly the way they aren't right now, and to not be interested in changing anything at all!

Here we are talking about huge potentially catastrophic problems like global warming, world hunger, and war, and in the same breath we are also talking about private more personal problems on a much smaller scale like experiencing rejection when the pretty red-haired girl I want to date is not interested in me.
Werner Erhard has proposed that any situation regardless of its scope is a problem only inasmuch as we say it shouldn't be that way. If we regard any situation regardless of its scope as what's so then it is not a problem. For example:

Problem: I like the pretty red-haired girl but she's not interested in me.

No problem: I like the pretty red-haired girl and she's not interested in me.

But  makes it shouldn't be. And  makes it what's so. Mastering this distinction gives peace and freedom.

This is not just semantics. Yet it's ALL semantics because who we really are as human beings is constituted in language. I speak therefore I am (as René Descartes may have said). I am referring to "but" and "and" as distinctions of experience even before I am using them as conjunctions within a class of the grammatical terms which comprise our speech and our thoughts.

Being that this essay shows up as the written word and not as the spoken word, you are called on to really get  that, or as Robert Heinlein the author of "Stranger In A Strange Land" would say, you are called on to grok  it. You can't get what I just said by mere understanding and still get the peace and freedom that getting it experientially unleashes, nor can you get the mastery that it makes available until you grok it experientially.

The common confusion that arises here is that we say that if for example global warming, world hunger, and war are regarded as no problem  then we will not pay attention to them. That is a naïve misinterpretation grounded in cynicism and resignation. Acting out of what's so coming from a space of no problem generating a future of one's own design is a stand of power. Acting out of changing what shouldn't be coming from a space of problem at best maybe changing the probable almost certain future but only ever so slightly is a perpetually fretful place to stand which ensures life will continue to drag on at this petty pace (as William Shakespeare may have said).

By the way, could it be that the only  difference between problems that disappear and problems that persist is we keep on chattering about the ones that persist?



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