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


Failed Analogy

Sacramento, California, USA

February 12, 2010



I am indebted to Ken Ireland who inspired this conversation.



Your hand is your hand. It grasps, but it can't grasp itself. Your eye is your eye. It sees, but it can't see itself.

There's a certain poignancy in your hand not being able to grasp itself. There's also certain poignancy in your eye not being able to see itself. These poignancies form the cornerstones of a great many analogies grounded in Zen and also in other ways of seeing.

Yes it's also true with one of your hands you can grasp your other hand. Yes it's also true your eye can see itself in the mirror. But in both those also trues, the original poignancy is lost, or at least we've branched off and started an entirely new analogy altogether.

At some point, all analogies break down and fail, including my own ie especially  my own. They strive to ie their purpose  is to point to what's so. But then, to be really effective, they have to disappear. They have to get out of the way  and instead leave nothing but what's so. Analogies are powerful only if and when they point to and impart  real experience. Any analogy as an analogy  is a failed analogy when it gets in the way of real experience - which is almost always.

Someone asks you "What's transformation? What's it like?". If the next sentence coming out of your mouth starts with "Well, it's a bit like ..." as a prelude to a great explanation, as act one  in a clever analogy play, you've probably lost their listening right then and there. You can't explain  transformation. Any analogies you put to it will most likely miss their mark, and may even damage it. The reason for this is threefold.

One, an analogy, a comparison  to something else, isn't the thing itself. Transformation can't be fleshed out through explanation simply because it's the background for, it's the context in which  all analogies live. The very act of using an analogy for the experience of transformation therefore almost always  gets in the way of the experience of transformation.

Two, analogies ie comparative explanations, speak (possibly inadvertently) to the figuring it out  machinery of human beings. Once Conversations For Transformation become sucked into the turbines of the figuring it out machinery, it becomes harder and harder to distinguish between real, genuine, thrilling, alive  transformation, and the machinery, in which it's being evaluated. Although any analogy starts off with good intentions, they're really not immediate  enough, they're really not naked  enough to be a suitable vehicle for transformation.

Three (and this is the hardest one to give up), it's actually easier  to talk about transformation in terms of analogies, in terms of comparative explanations than it is to really be  transformed. It's easier to hide out. It's easier to be a Monday morning quarterback  than a player on the gridiron. It's more comfortable. But not transformed. What shows up when people are really being themselves, what's right there in your face  when people are coming from who they really are like a possibility  is an immediacy, a presence of Self which speaks louder than words. And even on those occasions when the most appropriate way to answer a question about transformation is to come up with the perfect analogy, if you're speaking analogously  without bringing forth presence of Self ie without bringing forth Being, there's no power in it. The wheels simply spin on the ice.

Deploying an analogy to describe transformation is like saying the hole in the sand looks like the stick you made the hole in the sand with. Holes in the sand and sticks are worlds apart. Putting transformation into words is like trying to describe a stick by telling you about the hole in the sand (as Werner Erhard may have said).

The idea is, I think, to leave people more empowered than when you first met them, to leave them with more of who they really are than they had access to when you first started speaking with them. In this regard only, the end justifies the means.



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