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


Cleaning Up The Past:

Access To My Humanity

Partrick Ridge, Mount Veeder Appellation, Napa Valley, California, USA

March 10, 2021

This essay, Cleaning Up The Past: Access To My Humanity, is the companion piece to I am indebted to Aaron Bartlett who inspired this conversation.

When I require an access to my past (ie on those occasions when it's actually useful to have an access to the past), I imagine my life as a made-for-TV reality show. That means everything I've ever said and done (and I do mean everything)  has been recorded on both audio and video, and archived. So when the tape is rolled for an audience of one ie moi, it's all there in painstaking, graphic detail on the small screen (or up on the big silver screen, depending on which medium I watch it on).

The take-away from watching my past play out on the screen as a reality show, is I'm OK with most of the actually-happened recorded scenes ie I'm OK with the way I acted. Other actually-happened recorded scenes sadden me. They're those in which I'm not  OK with the way I acted. And what's compelling about watching my life as a reality show, is that its action-replays on the screen leave me with no doubt that every scene actually did happen. So whether I'm OK with what I did or whether I'm not OK with it, I did it. There's no way to avoid the things I'm not OK with ie the things I did in inauthentic, inconsiderate, callous moments. I can't edit them out and pretend they didn't happen. The show doesn't only have scenes in which I'm OK with what I did. The evidence is conclusive. It's all caught on tape - so to speak.

At some point in the conversation for transformation, the gravity of cleaning up the past pulls ever more relentlessly until it's impossible to avoid and not confront. Avoiding life's clarion call to clean up the past, only serves to constrain our ability to move freely ahead transformed in life - as if one's foot's been nailed to the floor.

In the interests of processing through and cleaning up my past, I've engaged in two distinct inquiries after watching the action-replays of my reality-show life. The first is cleaning up whatever there is to clean up with other people ie those with whom I've acted inauthentically, inconsiderately, callously. The second is cleaning up whatever there is to clean up with myself, and the ways I've overly judged / been dramatically critical of myself and what I did with which I'm not OK. Listen: cleaning up the past is no trivial exercise, either with others or with yourself. It takes bravery, courage, guts, and a certain verve  to be so honest. But it's more than that ie there's more at stake here, much  more: cleaning up the past is the closest a human being can get to their own humanity.

In cleaning up whatever there is to clean up with others, what I've found works best is contacting all of those with whom the action replays show me being inauthentic, inconsiderate, callous, and / or leaving them incomplete. And if they're no longer alive or if they're simply untraceable, then calling them up in my own experiential space  (if you will) works (with a little practice, this is a marvelous tool to master, allowing us to be in communication with anyone, from any time, anywhere). To clean up the past with them, is to 'fess up to what I did, to own it, to apologize and be forgiven, to accept and be accepted, to compensate, to 'fess up and be 'fessed up to but not to justify, and where possible, to make corrections, amends, and reparations for it. That's what it takes to clean up the past with others.

But it's in cleaning up whatever there is to clean up with myself  and with what I've done with which I'm not OK, that I've discovered (this is so interesting) that many of the usual go-to  actions (ie apologizing and being forgiven, accepting and being accepted, compensating, 'fessing up and being 'fessed up to) only work to a certain degree. What works definitively with myself, is telling myself this bone-numbing, non-judgemental, non-critical, simple flat-footed truth: "What I did was not OK" - period. It's a mano y mano  conversation with myself, the result of which is the restoration of my power and dignity, and the cessation of the struggle with the past. It's also a way of getting back in touch with my human-ness, a way like no other I know to re-access my own humanity (for which I thank you profoundly, Werner).

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© Laurence Platt - 2021 Permission