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

Expectation, Or Possibility?

Napa Valley, California, USA

September 20, 2013

This essay, Expectation, Or Possibility?, is the fourth in an octology on Enrollment: It is also the seventh in an open group on Possibility: It is also the sequel to Being Upset: This Side Of A Breakthrough.

It was conceived at the same time as

One of the skills called for in sharing Werner's work with people is sharing it in such a way that they don't hear you saying or even implying they need  it - because they don't. Another facet of this skill is sharing it in such a way that they don't hear you saying or implying there's something missing (or worse, saying or implying there's something wrong)  which Werner's work will provide (or fix) - because there isn't (and it doesn't). Rather, the effective way to share it is as an access to possibility. Possibility, being what it is for people, is real for every last person on our Planet. Be mindful that people may consider their sense of possibility to be private  and / or personal, at least to start with, so the idea of its principles being scrutinized and shared by millions of people around the world may be daunting to start with.

And so I happened to be in a conversation with a really nice person who hasn't participated in Werner's work and who didn't know I have. But that soon changed (not dramatically, mind you) when she asked what I did, and I shared a bit about Conversations For Transformation and their inspiration, with her. Then I asked her to say something about herself.

She described herself as a happy  person. She also said she has a positive outlook  on Life. Both of those qualities are attractive to me - at least initially, and at least on the surface. And (for the most part) they come with a generous mileage warranty  - which is to say, you can go far with either or both of them. But I wanted to explore deeper than that. It was that  kind of conversation.

I asked her what makes her happy. There's always a lot of overlap with what makes people happy, especially if you're a person of good heart, of kind and generous demeanor - you know, we all tend to want the same sort of things for the greater good. But to be provocative (it was  that kind of conversation), I asked her: "If you don't have any of the things that make you happy, are you still happy?". "Yes" she said "I'm a happy person.". I persisted "So you describe yourself as a happy person like you're a natural blonde, right? But you don't create the color of your hair, do you? It just grows that way, yes? You really have no say in it, do you?".

There was quiet for a few moments. It's a pivotal point. If you describe yourself as happy, and you don't have any say in what makes you happy, is that really happiness?

"I'm always expecting good things" she said. "In other words" I continued, "you would say you have a positive outlook  on Life.". "That's right" she answered, "I do. I expect good things.". Ah! Expectation. It was an opening I was waiting for.

From the Cambridge International Dictionary:


the feeling that good things are going to happen in the future

There's nothing wrong with this dictionary definition. It fits what expectation is for us. And that's food for thought: expectation is predicated on what? On a feeling  ... and a feeling is predicated on what? The autonomic nervous system?  Axons? Dendrites? Synapses? Hormones? Enzymes? That's not what I would call a strong foundation for making things happen. If I say I have a feeling good things are going to happen ... it's my own expectation which leaves me powerless  in the matter of what actually happens - which is to say it's my own expectation of what will happen, which leaves me without power in the matter of what actually happens.

This is risky talk, this conversation for transformation, this teasing out  possibility as a distinction with power. It's the skill I alluded to earlier. And it's a learned skill, a skill learned through practice. In all likelihood, you didn't get the distinction access to possibility  until someone went out on a limb and shared it with you - I certainly didn't. Similarly, sharing Werner's work with people as an access to possibility, requires going out on a limb. Drawing a distinction between expectation  and possibility  in a conversation, for example, isn't your business as usual  water cooler small talk chit chat. Drawing a distinction between expecting  to be happy, and the possibility of being happy  in a conversation, isn't your Monday morning quarterback's bloated opinion.
Werner Erhard opens up the world of possibility by asserting language  is its access, its blunt instrument. It's a simple enough assertion. But then again, all great truths are simple once they're known. Simple, yes. But easy?  That's for you to decide. That's for you to try on for size. I asked Werner about this as we sat alone having a drink together (nothing more than room temperature filtered water - that's all): "Can we really be happy just by each of us saying 'I'm happy'?". I'll share his answer with you. I suggest you listen it as possibility - not as positive thinking and certainly not as "the truth". Rather, as I said, just try it on for size. He said (I'm paraphrasing - my recreation here of what he said is pretty darn accurate, but it's not a verbatim quote):

Whenever you say "I'm ...", the very next thing to come out of your mouth  shapes your world. Whenever you say "I'm ... unhappy", it's the simple linguistic act  of saying "I'm unhappy" which is  "I'm unhappy.". Similarly, whenever you say "I'm ... happy", it's the linguistic act of saying "I'm happy" which is  "I'm happy.". And this (I added it for her - he didn't say this next part exactly) is being happy like a possibility  not like an expectation. There's an enormous  balance of power in favor of what you can command (which is to say, in favor of what you can have)  as the result of the possibility invented by a linguistic act as opposed to the result of an expectation ie as opposed to the result of a feeling - in other words, as opposed to the result of the random machinations of the autonomic nervous system. Again, that's not "the truth". Rather, just try it on for size.

She got it - I could tell. What she got was the enormous balance of power in favor of what you can command (which is to say, in favor of what you can have) as the result of the possibility invented by a linguistic act as opposed to the result of an expectation. She said she would register herself to participate in Werner's work at the earliest available opportunity.

"Congratulations!" I said. "Thank you. It sounds wonderful" she replied, adding "I expect good things from it.". "Stop doing that" I winked at her, smiling.

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