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
April 4, 2016
is the seventh in an open group
Conversations With A Friend:
in that order.
- Privilege At Daybreak In The Battle
Between Good And Evil
- Future Perfect
- This Is What It Means To Be!
- Empty Cup
- Conversation With A Friend: A Symphony Of
- The Sound Of Your Voice
It is also the sequel to
It is also the prequel to
in that order.
- I've Got Nothing Left To Do But
- What Are You Present To Now?
Unlike most of the other
the body of this
embeds no links to other
or even to other
in omitting these useful links from this particular
the space of all but the absolute minimum required material so you
can be with it and give it your full
with no distractions, allowing you to
the exchanges portrayed in it as accurately as possible for yourself.
the exchanges portrayed in this
accurately for yourself, that you'll get to own its experience in its
Part of my shtick ie part of my strong suit is being
ready ie being prepared. The less variables are left to chance, the
better things seem to work. I'd spent months preparing for this
conversation. I'd allocated the final twelve hours in the countdown to
fine tuning my notes, and to reconsidering subjects I'd distinguished
as valuable uses of our time, to see if they still qualified.
Another thing I'd planned on doing in the final stretch was cleaning my
entire house - dusting, sweeping, vacuuming etc, the lot. I wanted the
space to be pristine, immaculate, impeccable, sparkling for the
conversation. With twelve hours to go I was halfway out the door at
sunrise for a forty five minute swim, when my cellphone rang. Not
wanting to be interrupted or side-tracked, I let it go to voicemail.
Then, while walking to my car, I listened to the message.
My heart nearly stopped beating - or at least it skipped a beat or
three. It was him. I groaned, I just groaned. I'd missed
him! It was worse than that: he'd called me, and I let him go to
voicemail. I couldn't believe I did that to him. Nooo! Yet even so
early on in the upset, I got that somehow there must have been a
breakdown in the sequence of communications between us, which resulted
in him being twelve hours early - or you could say it would have
resulted in me being twelve hours late. There was no call back number.
Waiting for a new time slot which matched both our schedules for
another personal call opportunity, could have delayed us weeks if not
months. I was in tears, tears of frustration. You've never seen
anyone press buttons on a cellphone as fast as I did then.
Call it luck, call it intentionality, or call it divine
providence, but I connected to all the right people up the
international chain of links between us, and eight minutes later my
cellphone rang again. It was him calling back. I had tears in my eyes,
tears of joy and relief this time as I pressed [ANSWER], my heart
pounding all the missed beats it skipped earlier, all at once.
It's actually not a bad thing to be caught unawares ie to be caught
unprepared when your shtick ie when your strong suit is being ready ie
being prepared. It's not a bad thing to be confronted by your own game.
It leaves you with the way you are, rather than the way you'd like to
be. That's transformational. Actually everything around him is
transformational - obviously (on this occasion) even a breakdown. It
took but seconds to clean up the error in timing, and then the
conversation was on, full bore, open, soaring, an outright privilege,
and profoundly enjoyable too - even though my subjects were
un-reconsidered, even though my place wasn't dusted, swept, or
vacuumed. In the realm of possibility, there's no proof. And yet
what's so uncanny is how living in this realm allows things (ie
everything) to work better.
What I had in mind for us ie what I'd composed was a script for our
conversation with three distinct acts (if you will - just
like in a play). The first act was to discover how his personal life is
going, and to share mine with him. The second act was to look at new
ways I can continue working with him. And the third act was to ask
those big, open questions which unleash new, unheralded, unplumbed
depths. That was the idea - at least in theory. What actually
happened was the conversation unfolded all by itself without strictly
following my script. Items from each of my proposed three acts, came up
randomly in their own order. Yet it was all one seamless whole, not
anything like the order I'd planned, yet everything got covered and
appropriately addressed anyway.
Almost as soon as the initial pleasantries were completed, I delivered
the #1 item on my list which is what's come to be known as the
"class action love suit" (rather than the class action
law suit, it's the class action love suit).
Hundreds of people like you, ask me to give him their love. Hundreds.
I'd love to do it. I'd love to deliver each and every single individual
greeting in its entirety. The trouble is all of those hundreds of
greetings would take so much time to deliver that it's all we'd be
doing for hours and hours and hours, and we don't have
hours and hours and hours. There has to be a better way. And so I said
"This is from everyone: WE LOVE YOU!".
A lesser human being would say "Thank You!" politely, and move on. Not
he. He stopped talking, and I could literally hear him
getting it. He was touched. Moved. Deeply. Then he said "It's very nice
that people send their greetings and love to me. Please tell them I
send my love to them". That's a mere twenty one words which carry total
acknowledgement, complete recognition, full appreciation, and intimate
relationship to everyone (around him, you quickly get to know the power
I finally had the opportunity to ask him a question I've really waited
thirty or forty years to ask him: how does he see himself next to other
people who are known as great coaches, great leaders, great teachers
etc? You know who they are. You've seen them on infomercials on late
night television. They're authors of one or more New York Times best
sellers list books. They're the focus of fund raising drives on public
service channels like KQED. They're the pastors of megachurches. I'm
only expressing my own opinion when I say for me, much of their
messages are about how to survive and success, and much of their
conversations are just talking about. Now there's nothing wrong
with surviving and success, and there's certainly nothing wrong with
talking about. But what's missing for me in what they bring forth, is
the being of human being, and the demonstration of the being of
human being. More than that (I can't prove it), I'm pretty damned sure
they know it's missing too.
His answer was really quite simple. It was more than what he said. It
was where he was coming from when he said what he said. He
acknowledged the other guys for what they do, noting they've all made
big contributions, and they all have big if not huge
followings. He, on the other hand, said he's not interested in having
followers ie in being followed. What he's interested in is the
ideas which generate the context for transformation, and
in writing and publishing these ideas. He's not interested in
figuring it all out. What he's interested in is seeing what
presents itself with being. He's not interested in developing
survival strategies, coping methods or success schemes, nor in
understanding things or explaining them. He's just interested in being
with life, then seeing what presents itself when he's being with
"Yes! That's what makes him who he is for me and for
everyone who loves him" I thought to myself, not saying it out loud (it
He spoke at length about a particular way of being with life, about how
moved he is by people who are willing to have their mental
and emotional vicissitudes, and realize their internal states don't
have much to do with who they really are. He's moved by people who
are willing to say "What I have going on right now are anger thoughts"
(true, big) rather than "I'm angry" (not true, small). The former is
spoken as a possibility, the latter as a certainty - and it soon
becomes clear in his vista, that what we consider to be
certainties are often really impediments to great freedom.
He introduced me to his use of the term heuristic. "What I have
going on right now are anger thoughts" is a heuristic - which is to say
it works, you can't prove it, yet you can use it for personal
I wanted to know about his health. I had to ask. Listen: his health is
no one's business but his own. And yet there are reports in the media
which I wanted to check up on. After speaking with him, I'm clear that
like many other things, reports causing concern about his state of
health are exaggerated, even flat out distorted and off target. He's a
dignified octogenarian now, and he's aging powerfully. He's fully
responsible for maintaining a fitness regimen which is designed and
finely tuned to be of maximum support to, yet not interfere with what
he's up to in the world. I shared with him where I'm at physically at
sixty six. "You're really sixty six? That's hard to believe!" he said
(we met when I was twenty eight). "I know" I said, "I'm sixty
(expletive deleted) six". He said "You sound
like you're forty.". And that's where it's at for me: who we are is our
speaking. In his listening, I'm not sixty six. I'm forty. In my
listening, he's ageless. There are no health impediments to speak of.
I wondered (as I always do with him) what he'll be doing next after he
completes his ongoing work in progress, which is the Leadership Course.
He surprised me when he told me there's not some next big
thing soon to be revealed (such was my anticipation of it)
and instead said he was focusing himself on reworking and further
developing the Actor's Workshop. He'd invited me to be his guest as he
developed the first Actor's Workshop one month shy of ten years ago.
Had you asked me at the time, I would have said I'm not an actor - at
least not in the thespian sense. Yet I took something away from that
experience simply as a guest (not even as a participant) which was
profoundly moving and pivotal for me. It's that I am an
actor, and I'm starring in the lead role of a movie titled "My
Life". That's what he'll be working on furthering next. He's also
consulting for Landmark Worldwide, developing new material which no
doubt (I surmise) will eventually find its way into their flagship
program the Landmark Forum, and other courses. To say that he's 1,000%
committed to and in support of Landmark, is a gross understatement.
I then asked him about something he supposedly said (it was credited to
him in a newspaper article) which echoed something I've long been
concerned about myself. When you go out to dinner, you're likely to see
young people sitting on opposite sides of the table, staring down at
their smart phones texting each other rather than speaking
to each other. The millennium generation ie the
millennials are being robbed of their humanity by tech.
Tech will come to them. Big time. But at what cost?
Illustrating a point, he asked me "What are you present to now?". I
said "I'm present to you.". "Exactly. And if you were texting me
now, what would you be present to?". As I got it, a wave of sadness
washed over me: I'd be present to a ... keypad. I'd be present
to a keypad, a collection of silicon chips, circuitry, and a tiny
screen. "The consequence" he continued "is we're making less and less
happen by listening other human beings. We're creating less and less
where listening is involved. We are, in effect, talking to
ourselves more and more. It's what we're present to which
defines our humanity. And more and more, we're present to
smartphones.". Oh my! Oh WOW! I recoiled at the realization of the
direction in which, if there's no intervention, we're headed: we're
becoming more and more present to smartphones, keypads, silicon chips,
circuitry, and tiny screens, and less and less present by face to
face listening to other human beings. That's losing our
humanity - tech's cost.
It's a matter of privilege for me that I get to request personal
coaching from him. I shared with him my experience of being shy - more
than that: that I'm sometimes frightened of people. He commented that
it's not surprising, given that we're all competing for the same
resources. He also pointed out (not like being consoling but rather as
a powerful place to look from) that it's been determined our brains
stop developing in our early twenties. By then the mechanisms which
govern shyness and fright, are already in place for life. That's the
bad news. The good news is whatever keeps us stuck and frightened (like
a brain pattern conditioning) almost certainly always
originates in and before our late teen years. That locates it in time
where it can be examined and seen to have no real applicability (and
is thus redundant) in the current situation. When he said that, sixteen
other questions I had for him were suddenly rendered resolved, so I
drew pencil lines through them in my notes.
Then came the time in the proceedings for my report on this
Conversations For Transformation internet series of essays (they're
really our Conversations For Transformation, given it's
his ideas which are the foundation for almost all of them). I told him
the view count is approaching one million thirty five thousand, and the
total number of essays is approaching one thousand two hundred. I told
him how the website had been taken offline by a DOSA ie by
a Denial Of Service Attack. We don't know
who did it - yet we're all suspicious of the usual gang of suspects. My
internet service provider was most supportive. Free of charge, they
installed mechanisms around the website to protect it from being
attacked again. I said it's a badge of honor for me, because I stand
with him, to be taken down by a DOSA.
He asked me to explain to him what a DOSA is. I explained it in
technical terms. His mind is razor sharp. He's very quick
on the uptake. In a DOSA, dedicated computers bombard a website with so
many requests for page loads that the hosting server can't cope,
service is denied (hence the term denial of service), and the
target website effectively goes down. Fancy that: Conversations For
Transformation, the target of a DOSA! It's very poignant actually. It's
not so much this guy or that guy who did it,
or this group or the church of (oops, sorry!) who did it, but the mind
itself which steadfastly defends its own survival against the onset of
transformation. It's perfect. For me, the DOSA was a validation that
I'm finally getting this right.
I shared the state of relationship my three children and I have, with
him. I've been around him prior to my marriage and parenthood, during
my marriage and child raising years, through the atom bomb detonation
which is divorce in the life of a family and especially in the lives of
its young children, and afterwards. The way he stood for me, especially
during the fallout of my divorce, literally saved my life. And I shared
with him that now, years later, my children and I have all recovered
ourselves and each other, and our love for each other. We are in such
great shape as a family again these days, it's quite ridiculous. These
are the greatest times of our lives. "Congratulations!" he said - and
he meant it.
I wanted to be perfectly clear with him. I told him that no matter what
happened with my children and me, no matter the anguish, no matter the
pain, the shock, the disappointment, eventually I found out only one
thing worked: whenever I spoke with them, individually and as a family
group, I would be for them who he is for me. When I
finally started being this way with my children, things started healing
fast. We never looked back. Today we're an exemplary family again. Each
of my children are exemplary people with exemplary lives. "Thanks to
you" I said. "That's great" he replied. And he meant it too: under his
breath I thought I heard him say "Wow!".
As our scheduled time together drew inexorably to its conclusion, I
said "You know, I know who you are. Man! I really
know who you are. And I've grown up in my ability to share who you are,
with people. In my younger years, I spoke a lot about you and shared a
lot about you. I still do. But what's shifted for me in my appreciation
of how this process works, is these days I bring 'who I am for
myself' into the picture more. It works to be responsible for
demonstrating transformation myself, better than only sharing someone
else ie you who demonstrates it.". When I said that, it was the closest
I experienced myself to be with him in the entire conversation - and I
experienced myself to be pretty close with him throughout the entire
At the end of our time together he said "Goodbye Lar" ("Lar" is his
term of endearment for me, from the Roman god of the house), "you have
my love ..." which he almost always says, and then he added "... and my
respect" in that rich, deep, Philadelphian accent, which I
wasn't expecting. It went straight to my heart.
"I love You. I'll see you soon" I said, then snapped my flip phone
my incomplete task
my entire house.
I dusted, swept, vacuumed. The
immaculate, impeccable, sparkling.