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


Cast Iron Pots

Muir Beach, California, USA

June 8, 2009



I place a high premium on basic human qualities like kindness. I learned from an early age it's better to be kind to people than to be unkind. I learned it's better to be considerate of other people rather than to be inconsiderate. And somewhere along the way I also figured out other basic good  human qualities - like generosity and sympathy and caring.

I'm not about to retract any of their values. This isn't going to become a treatise negating or dismissing what's really at the heart of good human beings everywhere. However, having qualified that, I've also noticed the people who've made the biggest difference  in my life, those men and women who, once encountered, have left my life suddenly and discontiguously  open to entirely new possibilities, the ones who've left me with insights and openings for new ways of thinking which would have never occurred  had I not met them ... those people often appeared to me as if they simply couldn't care less  about me or about what's going on in my life.

I'm using carefully chosen language rigorously here. I didn't say those people simply couldn't care less  about me or about what's going on in my life. I said those people often appeared to me as if they  simply couldn't care less about me or about what's going on in my life.

I came across friends of mine one evening outside the Herbst Theatre on Van Ness Avenue in San Francisco. We'd attended a formal event for which they'd dressed appropriately: tuxedos, long dresses, and mink stoles. I hadn't. Levis and scuffed well worn cowboy boots were my attire. We approached their car. It was almost hidden by the throng of exiting theatre goers, parked at the kerb in front of the theatre. As my friend put her hand over her mouth and uttered a muffled "Oh no!", I noticed the passenger side front tire was flat to the rim. They weren't going anywhere without a tire change.

We could have called Triple "A"  and had a guy come by in a service truck to change the tire, or they could have changed the tire themselves, or I could have changed the tire for them. The Triple "A"  guy would have taken too long. All decked out as they were in their evening finest, it was inconvenient if not inappropriate for them to change the tire. I knew I could, so before anyone could stop me I was lying on my back in the middle of Van Ness Avenue positioning a dirty jack behind a greasy axle surrounded by tuxedos, long dresses, and mink stoles. It was immediately clear to everyone denim is a more convenient, more appropriate carpet on asphalt than silk and satin. It was also immediately clear to everyone denim is good, kind, considerate, generous, sympathetic, and caring - not to mention helpful, wanted and needed, and showing up in the right place at the right time  like a good Samaritan  (perhaps that should be like a good Sanfranciscan  ...).

Did I have the option of not caring less  about them or their predicament? Certainly. Could I have walked away and let them figure out "their"  problem on their own ie whether they should call Triple "A"  or change the tire themselves? Of course. However, it wasn't merely obvious to me I, of all our finely clad group, was the one in a unique position to take this on, but there was no hesitating, no reluctance on my part. The tire got changed and I, holding my grime stained hands out at my sides in deference to clean raw silks and immaculate white satins, got gingerly hugged in appreciation. In this situation, I'm clear it wouldn't have been appropriate for me to not care less. It would have been unnecessary, and besides which it wouldn't have worked for me.

When then is it appropriate  to "not care less"? ... which is to say when is it appropriate to be willing to have the appearance  of not caring less? When (if ever) does being willing to have the appearance  of not caring less make a difference?  Can being willing to have the appearance  of not caring less shift a life?  Will being willing to have the appearance  of not caring less ever bring forth the genesis of a new realm of possibility?

I change a flat tire for you in the middle of a busy street outside a formal event. Problem solved. I hold a ladder to stabilize it for you while you change a light bulb standing on the top rung. Problem solved. I put my finger on the ribbon crossover to hold it in place for you while you tie the ends in a bow. Problem solved.

Now we're at the heart of this conversation: "Problem solved" yes ... but lasting difference made?  I doubt it. "Problem solved" yes ... but life altering shift in play?  Hardly. "Problem solved" yes ... but genesis of a new realm of possibility  brought forth? No way José. Gallant? Sure ... but the thing is this: solving peoples' problems for them, albeit a noble  contribution, doesn't necessarily transform anybody - not the tuxedos nor the long dresses nor the mink stoles nor the Levis and cowboy boots. Especially  not the Levis and cowboy boots.

What goes around comes around. It's no surprise to me when people are kind to me, or when they're considerate, or when they're generous, sympathetic, and caring. Theirs is the gift of goodness. Then there are those who've appeared to me as if they simply couldn't care less about me or about what's going on in my life. Ironically theirs is the gift of transformation.

Transformation is a contextual shift  - that is to say it's a choice which begins at source. Spoken rigorously, it's a choice which begins with  source. It's actually easy. But saying transformation is easy is like saying "swimming is easy" to "swimming is easy" to someone who hasn't distinguished floating, or like saying "riding a bicycle is easy" to someone who hasn't distinguished balancing.

Responsibility vs blame  is a key distinction of transformation. Direct experience vs belief  is another. Before I'd made and owned  these distinctions, I operated in a paradigm of blame  and belief.

There's nothing wrong  with operating in a paradigm of blame  and belief. That's how I operated, and I lived a comfortable life. Nothing wrong with that. However, as I step up to the plate to bat, the truth is blaming someone else  for my life momentarily shifts responsibility but ultimately plain doesn't work. The truth is also having a well constructed belief system  to explain life also momentarily shifts responsibility but ultimately plain doesn't create a context of workability. If there's one surefire way to create workability, if there's one effective way to bring transformation to bear, it's to bring forth presence of Self, And the thing about presence of Self is

 a)  you can't bring it forth without being responsible for it, and
 b)  you can't bring it forth from what you believe, debate, or argue for - you can only bring it forth from direct experience, and distinguishing direct experience  from belief  is, almost by definition, an art no one else can teach you.

Like floating for swimming and balancing for riding a swimming and balancing for riding a bicycle, you eventually distinguish presence of Self for yourself. Not being willing to distinguish floating, not being willing to be responsible for floating, or (worse) debating and arguing your version  of floating won't make you a swimmer. You can't be a swimmer until you distinguish and directly experience  floating. Not being willing to distinguish balancing, not being willing to be responsible for balancing, or (worse) debating and arguing your version  of balancing won't make you a bicycle rider. You can't be a bicycle rider until you distinguish and directly experience  balancing.

Throughout those times in my life before I'd taken responsibility for presence of Self, when my own beliefs, debates, and arguments about what really works  sabotaged my own hunger for transformation, there were those who were kind, considerate, generous, sympathetic, and caring to me. The trouble was their goodness, while well-received, allowed me to justify staying where I was at. Others whom I approached with my blame, beliefs, debates, and arguments appeared to me as if they simply couldn't care less about me or about what's going on in my life. Ironically they were the ones who created the space for me to transform my life.
Werner Erhard says "
If you keep switching the cheese, eventually the rat lays down in front of the tunnels and dies.".

With nowhere else to go, with those who weren't interested in my tales of blame, with those who weren't drawn into my world of belief, debate, and argument, eventually I was left with nothing else but the possibility of inquiring into my own true nature. By not engaging, by not getting caught up  in my stuff, they appeared to me as if they simply couldn't care less about me or about what's going on in my life. They stayed with who I really am  even before I knew who I really am. They created the space for who I really am  and ignored my stuff. I didn't get that at the time. I was hell bent on having them create space for my stuff. That's what I wanted. I wasn't asking them to create the space for who I really am. Truth be told, I didn't even know who I really am  as distinct from my stuff  - at least, not yet. That happened later.

Something began to occur in the space of what to me looked like their disinterest, what I assumed was their not caring. What was really occurring was I was being left alone to think for myself cold turkey. Thinking for oneself isn't transformation. Transformation is a choice, a contextual shift. But thinking for onself leads to  transformation. In the face of their disinterest, in the face of their appearing to me as if they simply couldn't care less  about me or about what's going on in my life, in the space of no one to tell my story to, transformation came.

They cooked me, those cast iron pots, without adding any fancy flavors to my feast. They knew who I am even before I knew. When what I thought I wanted was kindness, consideration, generosity, sympathy, and caring, they gave me nothing. I'm deeply grateful they did.



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