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

Essential Question

Chicago, Illinois, USA

May 15, 2009

This essay, Essential Question, is the second in the fifth trilogy Visits With A Friend:
  1. Natural Expression
  2. Essential Question
  3. There Is No "The Answers"
in that order.
The first trilogy Visits With A Friend is:
  1. Second First Impression
  2. Do Artists Retire?
  3. Presence Of Love
in that order.
The second trilogy Visits With A Friend is:
  1. Black Brick
  2. Wet Water
  3. On Saying Nothing
in that order.
The third trilogy Visits With A Friend is:
  1. Master Of Life
  2. Face To Face
  3. Love And Kindness
in that order.
The fourth trilogy Visits With A Friend is:
  1. Personal Piece
  2. Magnum Opus
  3. Walk A Way With Me
in that order.
The sixth trilogy Visits With A Friend is:
  1. Sophisticated Palate
  2. Open To Everyone
  3. Portal
in that order.
The seventh trilogy Visits With A Friend is:
  1. Meetings With A Remarkable Man
  2. Being Directed By The Unanswered Question
  3. Out Here
in that order.
The eighth trilogy Visits With A Friend is:
  1. Read To Us
  2. Seven Fingers
  3. Smart People
in that order.
The ninth trilogy Visits With A Friend is:
  1. Intimacy In A Crowded Place
  2. What Goes On Internally
  3. Riding The Horse Revisited
in that order.
The fifth trilogy Visits With A Friend is the sequel to Close Up, Face To Face, Larger Than Life, And Twice As Natural.

It is also the prequel to Mint Condition.

It seems to bode well for interest and possibility whenever a conversation (or a new chapter in an already ongoing conversation) starts with someone saying "So ...". Not "So ..."  like the beginning of a response or as a precursor to the rebuttal of an argument ie like a negation or like a challenge. Rather "So ...", before which there's nothing and after which is a listening pregnant with anticipation.

In a quiet moment somewhere between the Schramsberg Blanc de Noirs  2005 and the Opus One 2005 (clearly 2005 was a very  good year), I take the opportunity to lead us into a new chapter in this already ongoing conversation. I want to hear from the source about a moment in time I've heard about and read about which really defines a modern day miracle.

I say "So ... you're driving over the Golden Gate Bridge ... and your life transforms.".

In an instant his face turns directly to me, his crystal steel blue eyes lock on mine, and there's the barest perceptible nod. He's right there, fully present, listening intently, receptive, and available.

You're driving along commuting to work (what could be more mundane than that?), and your life transforms. IT  happens. The universe turns inside out on itself. You're clear through the other side of a black hole  ... or is it a white  hole? You're down the rabbit hole, you're through the looking glass, and nothing will ever be the same again. And yet everything  will only  be the same from now on. It's a completely extraordinary occurrence, an amazing happening. Transformation has just shown up on Planet Earth for the first time, and you're there to witness its arrival, and you're closer to the action than anyone else because amazingly, out of 6.8 billion human beings (there were 3.7 billion people at the time) to whom it could happen like a possibility, the one it's happening to is YOU!

I gotta  know: what led up to it? What happened immediately prior to it  which made it possible? At the time, there wasn't an est  Training, and neither was there a Landmark Forum. So you couldn't have gotten it from a program which reliably and predictably delivers transformation over and over and over again because they didn't exist then.

Did you get it from books you read? Did you get it from reading Think And Grow Rich  by Napoleon Hill? Or from How To Win Friends And Influence People  by Dale Carnegie? Did you get it from your experience selling? From selling cars with Lee Iacocca? From selling Parents  magazine for Grolier? I see a possible connection between the experience of selling, and one of the components of transformation: enrollment. Here, when I refer to the experience of selling, by the way, it has more to do with being with people and listening, rather than with being able to persuade  people to buy something they don't necessarily want or even need.

Did you get it from the disciplines  you immersed yourself in? Repeatedly I see the same threads  running through transformation as run through Zen. Did you get it from Zen? Did you get it from people you studied with? Or simply admired? Did you get it from Alan Watts?

Perhaps there was a unique physical  condition which catalyzed the coming of transformation. As a youth, you fractured your skull in an accident, cracking it like the shell of a crushed egg. That's almost metaphorical  right there: "breaking out"  of confinement into transformation. Was that it? Was that what did it?

You listen quietly and intently to all my conjectures. When it's clear I'm not saying or asking anything more, when it's apparent I've asked what I've always wanted to ask you and now it's me who's in receptive, intent listening mode, you take another sip of the Schramsberg Blanc de Noirs  2005 letting it's delicate floral notes  romance your palate, then you slowly put the flute down on the table and you say "Actually Laurence, it was none of those.".

That's not  what I'm expecting you to say! And the way you say "none  of those" lets me know even though I left out many other possible explanations, I'm already getting the sense not only is it really "none of those" but it'll stay "none of those" no matter how many more likely sounding explanations I come up with, no matter how many more scenarios I conjure up in an attempt to explain what happened on the Golden Gate Bridge when the man in the car on the freeway was transformed  (as Professor William Warren "Bill" Bartley III may have said).

"So ..." (there it is again, that opener, that conditioner of clear listening  to come) "... what was it then?" I ask, hardly able to contain my thirst to know.

And then you proceed to share with me what it was. And as you speak, I realize it could only  have been be that. I'm present to great privilege. I'm being allowed to look through the Hubble telescope, looking back toward the dawn of time. And, to be sure, what I see leaves me no doubt everything else made a contribution. All the books, all the sales experience, all the people, all the disciplines, perhaps even the physical impacts and accidents provided something essential. But when the truth is told, all those other  contributions simply occurred inside of  what was at the heart of generating the context  in which everything else valuable to the first halcyonic  experience of transformation showed up.

As far back as when you were fifteen years old, you've been asking yourself the question "What is it to be a human being?"  which later became more rigorous, more sophisticated, morphing  into "What's the possibility of being for human beings?".

Everything you did from fifteen years old on occurred inside of this essential question. Everything you took on was in service to this essential question. Everything revealed by your many other pursuits was held up to the light, was looked at through the lens of this essential question.

What happened on the Golden Gate Bridge wasn't the result of accumulated book knowledge, although it made a contribution. It wasn't the result of door to door  sales experience, although it made a contribution especially to your enrollment skills, and everyone knows  you're simply wonderful  with people. It wasn't the result of the disciplines you practiced although they, too, left their tracks on your ability to draw illustrations from the classic paths  humanity's great religions have traversed. And although you're the first to lavish acknowledgement on those who've contributed to your life, what you got didn't come from any particular person either.

In the end, what happened and what's ongoingly happening and continuously unfolding is simply the result of a question you've engaged in since you were a boy. And it's not the answer  to the question you've been engaged in since you were a boy which eventually reached critical mass and allowed transformation to burst forth onto the world stage, front and center. It's simply that you've engaged in the question. Period. The trouble with answers  is when you get them, them's the answers  and them's all  the answers. Whereas if you stay in the question, you get lots and lots and LOTS  of answers. And if it's answers you want, there's no question quite like "What is it to be a human being?"  or "What's the possibility of being for human beings?". It's the essential question. Engaging with it generates the context in which transformation can show up.

I realize my jaw has dropped in astonishment while I'm listening to you, so I shut it. A ripple of a delighted smile starts from my toes, vibrates up through my body and dances on my lips. I see you're smiling too.

I reach for my glass of the Opus One 2005, take a sip, and raise it in salutation to you. You raise yours. Clearly 2005 was a very  good year. But I like 1971 better.

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