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

Causal State

San Luis Obispo, California, USA

October 8, 2009

"As stupid as it sounds, it's true there's a sense of joy with simply being with what's there."
This essay, Causal State, is the companion piece to Stoopid  Fantastic.

Sling Shot Catapult courtesy
Sling Shot Catapult
In order to fire a catapult, you draw back  first before releasing. There's no velocity  in simply releasing without drawing back first, even though releasing without or with drawing back first are identical acts of releasing. It's only on drawing back when the possibility of velocity  shows up. That's actually a lot closer to the truth than it sounds.

It's an analogy, and all analogies are effective up to a point. After that, if they continue to substitute for direct experience, they become counterproductive, if not outright misleading. What that might look like is going into a Denny's  restaurant and eating the menu because printed on it is a photograph of the steak.

The catapult analogy is effective because it creates a sense of potential, a sense of possibility, a sense of something is about to happen  - indeed, a sense of something is impelled  to happen. The drawing back in the catapult analogy doesn't refer to with-drawing, and nor does it refer to darkening of the light  (as the I Ching  may have said). It neither refers to taking a rest, taking a break, or retreating to gather strength before advancing. It doesn't refer to the practice of meditation  - at least, this  catapult analogy doesn't refer to the practice of meditation, even though similar analogies have been built around and for the practice of meditation.

Instead, the drawing back I have in mind here refers to making contact with, or re-making contact with, or (better yet) re-familiarizing  yourself with the sense of joy with simply being with what's there (as Werner Erhard may have said). In term of simply being happy, in terms of coming from  happiness, simply being with what's there is a causal state. In fact, arguably it's the  causal state. But for now, to-call it a  causal state is good enough for jazz.

At some point along the path to growing up, it becomes obvious there's no happiness, there's no joy out there  in the world. No, I'm not suggesting that growing up requires becoming a skeptic. So-called learned  skepticism (call it acquired jadedness  if you like) is a cop out from the responsibility for being the source of the quality in my life. It's not a rite of passage I require.

Rather than touting skepticism as evidence of having grown up ie of having become a so-called realist, try this on for size: if there's any happiness and joy out there in the world, it's temporary, fleeting - illusory  may be a more apt descriptor. No matter how hard you try, no matter how much of it you accumulate, there's never quite enough happiness and joy out there  in the world to produce satisfaction, let alone to endure and persist. Waking up unsatisfied and incomplete into a world which at best provides only temporary, fleeting, illusory happiness and joy is a losing proposition from the get go. Nothing out there, with all its gorgeousness, magnificence, breathtaking beauty and majesty will ever suffice if our fundamental experience of life itself starts off  devoid of satisfaction and completion. Nothing out there  fills it. Driven to excess, eventually we discover (much to our chagrin) even too much of anything is never enough (as David Bowie may have said).

The drawing back of the catapult I'm referring to is the granting credence, the granting being to the sense of joy with simply being with what's there. That's the starting point. That's where to come from. But where this analogy differs from the yogis' or the mystics'  perspective is there's no use staying there. It's true, following Werner's idea, it's plain stupid  if the sense of joy with simply being with what's there, becomes the goal, becomes the target of aspirations - or (worse) if we make that the point  of it all.

I'm no mystic. But I get the great lesson, the cosmic endgame  of the mystical monastic life. It's this: the entire world is a monastery. Yet I don't require a retreat. You don't have to stop the world for me. I don't want to get off. I like it here, and I'm enjoying the ride. That said, it's neither the world nor the ride which gives me enjoyment. My enjoyment comes from simply being with what's there. For me, the most enjoyable aspect of the world is the mere fact that it shows up.

Coming from the simple sense of joy with being with what's there, is the catapult drawn back. But once experienced, to not then release, to not then get out into the world, to not then take it  out into the world, is more than just plain stupid. Life being what it is, to not then take it out into the world is to entirely miss out on what's possible for living.

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