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

Conversations With A Friend VII

Cowboy Cottage, East Napa, California, USA

April 4, 2016

This essay, Conversations With A Friend VII, is the seventh in an open group Conversations With A Friend:
  1. Privilege At Daybreak In The Battle Between Good And Evil
  2. Future Perfect
  3. This Is What It Means To Be!
  4. Empty Cup
  5. Conversation With A Friend: A Symphony Of Notes
  6. The Sound Of Your Voice
  7. Conversations With A Friend VII
  8. Space For Redemption: When "I'm Sorry!" Isn't Enough
  9. What Did You Do To Me?
in that order.

It is also the sequel to Friend III.

It is also the prequel to
  1. I've Got Nothing Left To Do But Do
  2. What Are You Present To Now?
in that order.


Unlike most of the other essays in this Conversations For Transformation internet series of essays, the body of this essay, Conversations With A Friend VII, embeds no links to other videos, photographs, quotes, papers, music, music videos, other websites, or even to other essays.

My intention in omitting these useful links from this particular essay is to clear the space of all but the absolute minimum required material so you can be with it and give it your full attention with no distractions, allowing you to recreate the exchanges portrayed in it as accurately as possible for yourself. It's in recreating the exchanges portrayed in this essay accurately for yourself, that you'll get to own its experience in its entirety.

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 of terse).

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 life.

"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 wasn't necessary).

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 discovery.

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. None.

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 conversation.

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 closed.


After we completed our conversation, I finished my incomplete task cleaning my entire house. I dusted, swept, vacuumed. The space is now pristine, immaculate, impeccable, sparkling.

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