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


Closed Door, Wide Open Future

Muir Beach, California, USA

August 26, 2012



This essay, Closed Door, Wide Open Future, was conceived at the same time as

Recently I came across and read a piece by a well known, widely admired, and dearly beloved best-selling writer in which he offers suggestions on what to do when you don't know what to do. It's a well written piece as all his works are. As I read it, I had the sense he was talking directly with me  - a great quality in a writer.

In it he gives reasons why  we don't know what to do when we don't know what to do. He talks about bringing spiritual awareness  to bear when we don't know what to do. He offers some very good and well thought through techniques to practice  when we don't know what to do. The piece, I thought, will prove to be another tour de force  success for him, one which his legions of fans will enjoy. I was impressed.

In my opinion there's three feet  to traverse (if you will) in the matter of finding out what to do when we don't know what to do. His piece, as all inclusive and as exhaustive as it is, covers the first two feet eleven and three quarter inches. By the time I had read it through to the end, I hadn't heard him include the one point I wanted to hear him include. This one point, the final quarter inch  if you will, had I been there with him when he wrote the piece, is the one I would have suggested he include. It's this:

What there is to do when you don't know what to do, is don't know what to do!  Said another way, what there is to do when you don't know what to do, is be in a dance with  not knowing what to do.

This is the Zen of it. This is the human-ness of it. What we often want (and it's mostly an undistinguished  want, but it's a want which runs us nonetheless) is to find a way out of the human-ness of it. We want to find a way of not  being human in the matter of not knowing what to do. It's worse than that, actually. It's we'll do anything, when it comes down to it, to avoid experiencing the human-ness of it, to avoid experiencing not knowing what to do, to avoid and try to fix  the experience of not knowing what to do, rather than simply having the experience of not knowing what to do - in other words, rather than simply experiencing it.

Now, is this an adequate strategy  (if you will) for finding out what to do when we don't know what to do? My answer to this rhetorical question is it's not only an amply adequate and  pragmatic strategy, but a strategy for finding out what to do when we don't know what to do may not even be required.
Werner Erhard tells a story about a student who approaches a master to find a way of getting rid of a headache, which is to say to find a way out of the human-ness of having a headache. It goes like this:

Student: I wish I didn't have this terrible headache.

Master: What's terrible about it?

Student: It hurts.

Master: Yes. Now what's terrible about it?

Student: Well, it's in my way. I can't concentrate.

Master: Why not have a headache when you have a headache and concentrate when you concentrate?

Student: You know, it's not really so terrible.

Master: Good. Now, have your headache.

Student: But it's gone!

Master: Good. Now, concentrate.

I speculate Werner could tell the same story tailored from a student who approaches a master to find a way of getting rid of a headache, to suit a student who approaches a master to find out what to do when he doesn't know what to do, which is to say to suit a student who approaches a master to find a way out of the human-ness of not knowing what to do when he doesn't know what to do.



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