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


Carpet Threads:

An Inquiry Into Workability

Meadowood, Napa Valley, California, USA

October 17, 2016



This essay, Carpet Threads: An Inquiry Into Workability, is the seventh in a septology on Workability: I am indebted to John Taylor who inspired this conversation.



Especially with regard to being creative and bringing forth something (new) from nothing count-on-ably, regularly, reliably, and ongoingly, I've noticed I operate better when things in the physical space I'm working in, do not distract me by calling me to handle them. In the mornings when I'm awake before dawn, I open the curtains and sit at my table to write as the sun rises over the cattle pasture in front of me. That's the exterior  space (if you will) I look out onto, and it is inspiring. But I can't give myself fully to what it is I'm creating, until the interior  space works. What do I mean "works"?  If there are dishes in the sink, they call me. I'm distracted. I must wash them and dry them and put them away before I can give myself fully to being creative. If my bed is unmade, it calls me. No, I can write when my bed's unmade, but it's at best in a low gear of creativity. The physical space in which I prefer to work is one in which whatever must be handled, is handled, leaving me undistracted.

How far and how deep does this process have to go before the stage for creativity can be deemed to be workable?  To make a point, if I got down on my hands and knees and really  looked, I'd probably find sections of the floor (which otherwise look clean) could do with a wash. While the windows also look clean, I know if I went outside and looked in, I'd find drips of horse saliva on the panes, calling cards ie gifts left there by those magnificent animals who come over when I'm away, and look into my windows, hoping to get carrots. Should those drips be cleaned also? even if they are not immediately visible to the naked eye? for the space to be workable?
Werner's events are famed for being set up in impeccable, immaculate physical spaces: chairs are lined up perfectly, tablecloths are folded and pinned exactly  around tables. What does it require for his physical space to be workable? In the celebrated cases, shag carpets are raked  (that's right: raked). Yet if I got down on my hands and knees looking at the raked shag carpets with a magnifying glass, there would surely be threads the rakes missed, carpet threads which were still not immaculately aligned. Listen: if every thread in every carpet in the entire room had to be aligned perfectly first, and all other physical objects in the room also had to be attended to with that microscopic level of attention and detail before the work could begin, it's very doubtful Werner would have ever gotten a chance to utter one word in public.

So what then is the tipping point at which a physical space is deemed to be workable - even if all the carpet threads are not perfectly aligned, even if every single drip isn't washed off all window panes, even if there's still a scuff or a dirt mark or two on the floor which isn't immediately noticeable? When is it enough to be workable?

Part of where I intend this conversation should go, is teasing out your own definition of workability. So ante up! Here is my opening bid: there has to be an opening, some clearing for who we really are  to experience being welcome to come into the space, for the physical space to invite our true nature (whether appreciated or not) to come forth and be awesome in it. Workability includes both handling things which draw attention away from the intentionality of the moment (those unwashed dirty dishes, unmade beds etc) as well as whatever draws attention away from the purpose of the space (chairs out of line, sloppily draped tablecloths). There should always be enough of everything that's required (pens, notepads), and anything extra should be out of sight (not distracting) yet easily accessible if needed. The space should be conscious  (whatever "conscious" is, is in itself a subject for another conversation on another occasion) and inviting, without being ostentatious. There should be no clutter or mess (that's pretty basic, yes?). The physical space should be akin to a walk-through Zen painting  (if you will). In such environments, people have the sense of workability without necessarily being able to articulate exactly what workability is. Some will simply say "This space works!"  - adding nothing else. And even though all carpet threads may not be perfectly aligned, it's a space in which Werner's OK to speak and (more important) in which he's easily, clearly, and completely listened.



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