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


Empty And Meaningless Revisited

Silverado Trail, Napa Valley, California, USA

December 26, 2013



Early on: "Life is empty and meaningless, and it's empty and meaningless that it's empty and meaningless."  ... 
Later on: "You  are empty and meaningless, and it's empty and meaningless that you're empty and meaningless."  ... 
This essay, Empty And Meaningless Revisited, is the nine hundredth in this Conversations For Transformation internet series. That doesn't mean anything. It's just what's so.

I am indebted to Mark Spirtos and to Joseph DiMaggio who inspired this conversation.




Outside of the context and the discipline and the structure of Werner's work in which a certain listening and commitment have already been demanded and rigorously agreed on, there are challenges ante-ing up  in just any old conversation with the assertion "Life is empty and meaningless.". The first challenge is to convey "Life is empty and meaningless" should be tried on for size experientially  rather than intellectually  - and the already always listening  is almost certainly going to try it on for size intellectually rather than experientially. The second challenge is to not short-change  the full impact of "Life is empty and meaningless". The full impact of "Life is empty and meaningless" is this: "Life is empty and meaningless" is itself  empty and meaningless. If you make "Life is empty and meaningless" mean something, it compounds the problem, it adds to the arrogance, it muddies and obfuscates the entire awesome possibility.

This isn't existentialism. Yes, "Life is empty and meaningless" harkens to existentialism. But this isn't that. This is "Life is empty and meaningless ... and  ... it's empty and meaningless that it's empty and meaningless". This is an experience  rather than a philosophy, rather than a belief system, rather than merely another item on the agenda for the debating society. You either have  the experience, or you don't - which is to say, you either distinguish  the experience, or you don't. Whether you agree  with the experience or not, whether you believe  in it or not, whether you argue against it or for it, is actually irrelevant.

We are  that "Life is empty and meaningless" is neither palatable nor plausible, and it doesn't become palatable or plausible either, until we own and take responsibility for assigning meaning  to everything in Life. What is the meaning of a rock? What is the meaning of an hour? What is the meaning of war? What is the meaning of pleasure? I reach the frontier of transformation in the instant I take responsibility for whatever meaning a rock has, for whatever meaning an hour has, for whatever meaning war has, for whatever meaning pleasure has. It isn't intrinsic to the rock. It isn't intrinsic to the hour. It isn't intrinsic to war. It isn't intrinsic to pleasure. In and of itself, a rock has no meaning. In and of itself, an hour has no meaning. In and of itself, war has no meaning. In and of itself, pleasure has no meaning. Whatever meaning they have is whatever meaning I, in my very best of being human, assign to them.

The moment I own that, the moment I distinguish I assign meaning to them (in other words, the moment I discover I - not they - am the source of their meaning), the moment I confront the meaning‑making machine  I am, is a moment of pure joy, the onset of unbridled freedom. I've been around on the planet for but a few decades. However, from what I gather, human beings have been obsessed with finding the meaning of Life  for millennia. Well, guess what? Life has no meaning. It's empty and meaningless. And it's empty and meaningless that Life is empty and meaningless. Get over it. Be empowered.

Photography by Wayne Williams
Werner Erhard
We've been in this conversation now, in this conversation which is Werner's work for nearly forty five years. We're ready to boldly go where no human has gone before - so to speak. We're ready for the next ramification of "Life is empty and meaningless" - which is to say we're prepared for the next sequenced experience  after "Life is empty and meaningless". Consider this: "You  are empty and meaningless" (and it's empty and meaningless that you're empty and meaningless).

No, not like a value judgement. Not like an assessment. Not like a qualification. Not even like your or my preference  for how we'd like to be. Rather, like an experience of who we really  are - or (if you prefer) of what  we humans really are.

Isn't it magnificent? Isn't it pristine? Isn't it vast?  Doesn't it shine? Doesn't it shimmer? Doesn't it move you to tears? You are empty and meaningless, and it's empty and meaningless that you're empty and meaningless. Wow! Let's play.

Now, if you don't get that, if you don't like  that, if you want to debate it with me, if you want to argue against it with me, then take a tag with a number and form a line - a long, long  line. And if you do get it, if you do get the fabulous cosmic joke  in it, then let's have a really good belly laugh about it together ... and then we'll take it out into the world.



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