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

Cheap Talk

Muir Beach, California, USA

June 27, 2010

"Talk isn't cheap: you cheapen talk."  ... 
This essay, Cheap Talk, is the companion piece to Start A New Conversation (If You Don't Like The One You're In).

It was a complete eye opener  for me (perhaps I should say it was a complete "ear  opener" for me) when I first heard Werner assert it:




What opened my eyes / ears is this: until he asserted it, I'd always believed  "talk is cheap". It's what I'd learned in school. It's also one of those sayings "everyone knows"  is true. But truth be told, it's really just an old wives' tale. It's really just folk lore, and I'd blindly accepted the folk lore of it, unexamined, as true. Yet even though I'd accepted it, it's never really sat right with me. It's never really sat right with me because when I speak, there's a sense of being present  which is more profound than in any other activity in my life. So believing "talk is cheap" while experiencing this profound sense of being present when I speak, diminishes the realest  experience I have: the experience of who I really am as my word.

I started looking at it through his eyes. I started looking at where I cheapen talk. But at first I wasn't looking directly at where  I cheapen talk: at first I was looking at if  I cheapen talk. The if  resolved itself very quickly: I do. I saw I do - no doubt about it. As for the where, I only noticed what I considered to be trivial wheres  eg where I cheapen talk by lapsing into small talk and chit chat;  where I cheapen talk by giving over to gossip  where I cheapen talk by being witty  or saying something funny which, more often than not, realized or not, only serves to avoid being intimate. If I don't lapse into small talk or chit chat, if I don't give over to gossip, if I'm not being witty or saying something funny to avoid being intimate, then whatever I'm speaking at the time  wouldn't be cheapened - I see that.

The trivial wheres  however, turn out to be not so trivial after all. Talk is either cheapened or it isn't. And if it is cheapened, that's never trivial. It's never just a bit  cheapened. You're either pregnant or you're not. You're never pregnant trivially. You're never just a bit  pregnant.

My observations of where I cheapen talk are all valid. But if I tell the truth about them, they're not inspiring. And even though they're all arguably true, they're merely luke warm, half assed  in fact. They have no ring of profundity  - I hadn't reached that yet. So I continued looking.

I noticed there isn't a conscious commitment or intention  on my part to cheapen talk and therefore to invalidate who I really am. At least there's none I can discern, none I can easily come to grips with. Not noticing any commitment to cheapen talk or any uncoverable intention to do so, I realized I have a certain thrown-ness to cheapen talk (else I wouldn't do it!) which accounts for my cheapened talk, arguably swept along and fanned by peer pressure, the heat of the moment, and wanting to look / sound good.

This explains some of the where, when, why, and how I cheapen talk - but it only accounts for a fraction of the total impact on my life of cheapened talk. Then I shifted the focus of my inquiry away from what I do which cheapens talk, towards what I may be minimizing, towards what I may be omitting which cheapens talk, towards something left out, the re-presencing of which would create the very antithesis  of cheap talk.

That's when an entirely new possibility came into clear and loud focus, a breakthrough  which not only transforms my life but also alters the way I speak and the way I regard speaking as the manifestation of who I really am  forever. It also leaves me suddenly, undoubtedly, totally clear talk isn't cheap. The saying "talk is cheap" suddenly becomes what it really is: an old wives' tale at best, a naïve unenlightened point of view at worst, a pedestrian business as usual  way of regarding the possibility of speaking and language.

Until then, until he made his assertion which provoked my inquiry, what I'd minimized to the point of almost totally omitting them from my speaking are linguistic acts  and the impact of linguistic acts on my life and on Life itself. It's so blindingly  obvious in retrospect: minimizing to the point of entirely omitting linguistic acts from my speaking is the mechanism which cheapens talk. With hindsight it's so stoopid simple. And it's not powerful to consider we live in a state of un-cheap talk like a possibility  which we cheapen by minimizing or omitting linguistic acts. Rather, what's powerful is to consider our ground of being ie our thrown-ness is cheap talk which we have the inherent ability to un-cheapen by deploying linguistic acts ie by acting linguistically.

What are "linguistic acts"?. What is it to "act linguistically"?.

For example, when I make a promise, when I say "I promise ...", it's a linguistic act. My promising is my action. Promising is an action I can only speak. A linguistic act is an action constituted entirely in speaking. A linguistic act is an action constituted in language.

Other linguistic acts in addition to include Werner's examples of

and more.

Isolating this selection of linguistic acts teases out ie points to a way of being ie distinguishes a way of speaking ie spotlights a talk which isn't cheapened. Talk is cheapened when it's devoid of these linguistic acts, when this way of speaking is absent, when what's present instead is the way of speaking variously called small talk, chit chat, and gossip, in which being witty is the socially approved pass for avoiding being intimate. It really distinguishes an authentic way of speaking, a talk which isn't cheap. It really calls for a way of being in conversation in which I ongoingly presence who I really am as my word.

It's the conversation in which who you really are is ongoingly presenced as your word like a possibility  which is cheapened ie which is rendered as cheap talk when it's devoid of linguistic acts, ensuring who you really are as your word isn't fully presenced. Cheap talk is what's left when the conversation in which who you really are is ongoingly presenced as your word like a possibility  becomes a casualty of small talk, of chit chat, of gossip, of being witty in order to avoid being intimate.

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