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


Cosmic Joke:

Suspension Of Disbelief

Exertec, Napa, California, USA

November 13, 2013

"There are certain things you can only know by creating them for yourself."  ...   quoted by Richard Feynman, Nobel Prize-winning physicist 
This essay, Cosmic Joke: Suspension Of Disbelief, is the companion piece to Act Three.

I am indebted to the participants in the Eranos Conference in Ascona, Switzerland in June 2006 who inspired this conversation.




I'm going to say something about transformation and especially about listening  transformation. But before I do, I'm going to tell a joke:


A baboon walks into a bar and asks for a bottle of Coca Cola.

The barman, completely taken aback, uncaps a Coke and gives it to him, staring, totally dumbstruck. After a moment of awkward silence, the baboon says impatiently "OK come on now: how much do I owe you?". The barman stammers "Oh! ... er ... yes ... er ... five dollars.". The baboon gives him a five dollar bill, sits down on a barstool, and begins sipping his Coke. The barman just stares and stares and stares at him.

Pretty soon the baboon says irritably "Hey Man! What are you staring at?", and the barman says "Er ... I'm sorry, but it's not ... you see ... very often, you know ... er ... that a baboon comes into my bar - and a talking  baboon at that - and orders ... er ... a bottle of Coca Cola.".

And the baboon says "I'm not surprised, at five bucks a bottle!".
OK tell the truth now: when I was telling the joke, did you think "That could never happen: a baboon would never  go into a bar. I don't believe you ...", or did you think "That's impossible: baboons don't even like  Coca Cola. I don't believe you ...", or did you think "Wait a minute: baboons can't talk. I don't believe you ...", or did you think "That's crazy: baboons don't carry money. I don't believe you ..."?

No of course you didn't. You didn't think anything remotely like that because you knew I was telling a joke. If you weren't clear it was a joke, then  you would've disbelieved me. But because I introduced it as a joke, you suspended disbelief when you listened it ... and you got it. If you listen a joke with disbelief, then you won't get the joke, yes?

<aside>

In addition to noticing you don't disbelieve a joke while it's being told, it's also pertinent to notice you don't believe a joke once you've gotten it.

After you get a joke, you suspend belief. While the joke is being told, you suspend disbelief.

<un-aside>

Like that, the best way to listen each essay in this Conversations For Transformation internet series of essays, is to listen it like you listen a joke. Be careful: that doesn't mean you listen the essay like you expect it to be funny. It means to listen the essay and get it, you have to suspend disbelief. To be sure, you could believe the essay after you've listened it - if that's what you want to do. But notice transformation, like gravity, doesn't require your belief.

All that said, here's a joke Werner tells. It's a cosmic joke  so it's not funny per se, but the punch line is important. Like all cosmic jokes, it's very simple so it only has four lines (three lines plus the punch line, actually).

This is Werner Erhard:


1)  THE PAST HAS NOTHING TO DO WITH WHO YOU ARE AND HOW YOU ACT IN THE PRESENT.

2)  WHO YOU ARE AND HOW YOU ACT IN THE PRESENT IS GIVEN BY THE FUTURE INTO WHICH YOU ARE LIVING.

The third line of Werner's cosmic joke is a question:
3)   WERNER, HOW COULD THAT POSSIBLY BE TRUE? WHEN I WAKE UP IN THE MORNING AND WALK INTO THE BATHROOM, I LOOK IN THE MIRROR AND SAY, "WHO IS THAT?". I KNOW WHO IT IS. IT IS ME, THE ONE THAT I SAW THE NIGHT BEFORE WHEN I BRUSHED MY TEETH. IT IS OBVIOUS THAT AT LEAST A GREAT DEAL OF WHO WE ARE IS GIVEN BY THE PAST. SO HOW COULD THOSE FIRST TWO LINES OF THE JOKE POSSIBLY BE TRUE?

The punch line is:
IF IT IS TRUE THAT THE FUTURE INTO WHICH YOU ARE LIVING GIVES YOU BEING AND ACTION IN THE PRESENT, AND IF ONE PUTS THE PAST INTO THE FUTURE, IT WILL APPEAR AS THOUGH WHO I AM IN THE PRESENT IS GIVEN BY THE PAST. BUT IT WILL ONLY APPEAR THAT WAY.
Listening a joke, and especially listening a cosmic joke, and especially listening Werner's cosmic joke in particular, requires suspension of disbelief  if you want to get the joke. Similarly (and now here's the point I promised I'd make in my opening statement): listening transformation requires suspension of disbelief. Suspension of disbelief while listening transformation, works in two distinct ways:

The first is: we begin Life, for the most part, with no  listening for transformation. When we first hear transformation spoken, we're likely to listen it (that is, if we listen it at all) through a filter (a defense mechanism, if you will) of whether we disbelieve it or not. But transformation simply can't be listened that way. Listening transformation requires suspension of disbelief ie it requires suspension of the disbelief filter ie of the disbelief defense mechanism. Then once you've listened transformation, you may choose to reinstate your disbelief filter. However if you get the cosmic joke, you may choose not to.

The second is: a conversation for transformation is a perfect opportunity to try on for size  distinguishing disbelief as an already always listening. It's not so much that we disbelieve transformation. It's that we listen transformation through an already filter of disbelief. Listening transformation through an already filter of disbelief is in contradistinction to listening transformation openly, to listening transformation with nothing in the way, to listening transformation with nothing going on.

This, by the way, isn't a better  way of listening transformation. Rather, listening transformation openly, with nothing in the way, with nothing going on, is a powerful  way of listening transformation. And distinguishing listening itself this way, is a powerful access to transformation. It's almost as powerful an access to transformation as distinguishing how rarely we listen  transformation openly, with nothing in the way, with nothing going on.

You get transformation, then, the same way you get Werner's cosmic joke, really, or the same way you get my joke about the baboon who goes into a bar: through suspension of disbelief. Until you're willing to suspend your already filter of disbelief (at least temporarily) you won't get any of them.



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