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

Consumed By Inherited Significance

St Supéry Estate Vineyards & Winery, Rutherford, California, USA

February 21, 2019

"Suppose you had no past. That would be an interesting place to be in."  ... 
"Until what is significant is created by you, you aren't living your life: you are living some inherited life." ... 
"Most of the trouble in the world is caused by people wanting to be important." ... Thomas Stearns "TS" Eliot
This essay, Consumed By Inherited Significance, is the companion piece to On Having No Past.

It is also the fourth in a quadrilogy on Significance:
  1. It's Only Significant If I Say So
  2. The Significance - Not What Happened
  3. No Inherent Significance
  4. Consumed By Inherited Significance
in that order.

Werner's brilliant musing "Suppose you had no past ..." is a powerful "What if ...?"  that brings something extraordinary into view. Protests I've heard to this, include "But Laurence, why bother? It's impossible  to have no past. We all  have a past.". True, we all have a past, each and every one of us. So look: this idea of not having a past? It's intended to be provocative. And so, suitably provoked, you may also wonder if the possibility of not having a past belies and / or negates all valuables we carry with us from the past (education, experience, discrimination, learning, figuring-it-all-out etc)? Doesn't all of that count for something? Isn't all of that important?

Look: the arena for this, is a conversation for transformation ie a conversation which creates a context rather than merely debates points of view. There's a formidable coaching to be gotten from "Suppose you had no past ..." which doesn't belie, negate, discount, or discredit what we carry from the past. Rather it honors it all as the past. To take on the possibility of having no past as a position to disbelieve or believe, to disagree with or agree with, is to miss it entirely. "Suppose you had no past" evokes how we may experience who we really are today  if who we are today wasn't given by the past. In making this not easy supposition, Werner spotlights how we typically live our lives: unexamined, given  by our past. But if we had no past  (just suppose) then how would we experience who we are today?  ie what would it be like? Just stand and look. Let it in. It sounds simple. But it's not easy - at least not at first. Yet if you stay with it, it gives who you really are. It's pure, vintage Erhard.

Engaging in that inquiry as I mapped this essay, I wondered why it's so untenable to look at who we would be today if we had no past. No, much more than that: it's I wondered why it's so untenable to look at who we really are today, without the past getting in the way. Maybe, just maybe, it's an untenable inquiry because we're so consumed by the significance we inherited from the past, that we mistake it for who we really are, to the point where it's not possible  to consider who we really are, without it. So what keeps us stuck in not knowing who we really are, isn't the past. Rather it's the significance  we inherited from the past, which keeps us stuck.

This then, is worthwhile: inquiring into the past to notice we've inherited layers upon layers of significance. What's not obvious is who or what determined what exactly is significant, and what isn't ie what's not obvious is who or what the qualification for significance was. I'd like to suggest significance is decided not by you nor by me, but by what the culture  dictates - in other words, from what family determines, from what the group determines, from what religion determines, from what politics determines. What becomes significant for us I say, is a matter of what environment we grew up in, and most of it wasn't ever created by us. Significance is simply inherited, and it's rarely if ever examined. We just take it on  as if for granted, out of a sense of cultural identity, group-belonging, obligation, and maybe blind loyalty.

That's what, for the most part, gets in our way of recognizing for ourselves who we really are. We can't see who we really are today because our experience of it is consumed by inherited significance  from the past. Given the past, it seems as if there's no possible way we could see who we really  are. That could be bad news ...

... if not were not for the good news. The good news is the holder today of the significance of whatever's significant to us, is you and I. We forget  (or pretend not to know) it's we who inherited significance in the first place. What's significant, consumes us. By taking responsibility for inheriting what's significant in the first place, I reclaim my power - because then I have say so over what's significant. Then I can choose whether or not to give up being consumed by it. If I'm not consumed by it, then what could show up like a possibility, is the experience of who I really am ie of who we really are. Now that  would be a very  interesting place to be in.

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