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

Ding Dong Bell

Cliff Lede, Yountville, California, USA

December 6, 2006

"Ding dong bell, pussy's in the well." ... Mother Goose

This essay, Ding Dong Bell, is the companion piece to


How do you describe being free?

Not in a political sense. Nor in a financial sense. Not even in a just got out of jail  sense, although admittedly the latter does come close to what I intend to have this conversation bring forth.

What I'm referring to here is being free like a clearing. Being free like an opening. Being free and standing free like a wheat field rippled by the tyranny of the mind without forfeiting integrity to it. I'm not referring to a widely misunderstood yogic  purpose to silence the mind. I'm referring to being who we really are: the space of anything's possible, the space of the possibility of possibility itself. The mind is a component of all of it, just like an arm or a leg or a nose. Silencing the mind is about as futile as cutting off your nose to silence odors: it only spites your face.


When do you need to know the opposite  in order to appreciate the quality? It's often said, for example, that until you know sadness you can't appreciate happiness, until you know darkness you can't appreciate light, until you know black you can't appreciate white.

I don't think so.

The thing in itself  is good enough for me. More than that, such artificially induced dichotomies distract. War is war. Peace is peace. I'm not required to play one off against the other before I take a stand. Also, it just takes too long to characterize war as the absence of peace and to characterize peace as the absence of war. Why waste the time? Play now! Life is almost over.


If you've ever fallen down a well, you'll know it's an unexpected experience. This is my story of how it feels - which means it really happened to me, or it didn't.

One minute I'm stepping along in walking meditation just being there  in that slightly out of body  way people get to be from time to time. Perhaps I'm frolicking, not paying attention to where my feet land. Perhaps the opening of the well is hidden, overgrown with weeds, punctuated with twigs and drifting pieces of bark.

Suddenly I'm falling ... down  ... down  ... down  ...

The well is wide enough and its sides smooth enough for me not to hurt myself on the way down. And there's deep enough water at the bottom to break my fall when I get there. It's biting shards of chill shock me awake - both to my discomfort as well as to my predicament.

I'm alone. I'm wet and cold, treading water. I'm helpless. I'm scared. I'm really  afraid - panicked, actually. I'm at least a hundred feet down in the ground. I'm claustrophobic. No one can hear my calls for help which return to me again and again in diminishing echoes mocking and underlining my savage isolation. And no one knows I'm gone so no one knows I'm missing. There'll be no search party to come and get me out. With abject horror I realize I'll be awake until I inevitably slowly die.

* * *

Alan W Watts, the episcopal priest who became a world
 renowned voice of Zen, is the author of "The Book On The Taboo
 Against Knowing Who You Are"
Alan W Watts
Now that I've told the story, here's the thing: it didn't really happen. I didn't really fall down a well and die. Rather, I created the experience of falling down a well just to see if I could create a real experience out of nothing. All the physical sensations were there. Everything was there that goeswith  falling down a well (as Alan Watts may have said). I proved to myself I can author my experience - any  experience.

With some experiences, I'm clear I'm the author. With others, they seem to happen to  me. I have no sense of mastery over them, no sense of authoring them.

Whichever is "true", ultimately I take the stand it's inauthentic for me not to own my own experience. And if I don't own my own experience, I at least own my own reaction  to my experience. Even when I don't get I'm the author of the events themselves, I'm clear I'm the author of my reactions to the events, how I interpret them, what I make up about them.

If not, I'm just a pussy in a well.

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