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


False Bottom

Sailing On San Francisco Bay, California, USA

October 5, 2004



When the menu of emotions is passed around at the smorgasbord of life, I have very specific tastes. I have very little penchant for sadness. I am willing to cry albeit reluctantly. I resist tears. I avoid emotional pain if I can, both causing it as well as experiencing it. I prefer causing happiness as well as being happy. Indeed, who doesn't?

None of that has much to do with freedom of choice. The menu of emotions is driven by automatic avoidance of pain and sadness and by attachment to happiness. Automatic avoidance of anything is not freedom. It is automatic avoidance. Attachment to anything is not freedom. attachment. It makes very little difference whether I automatically avoid pain and sadness or whether I am attached to happiness, both simply being different colors of the sky of the morning I wake up into.

As every red blooded macho male will understand, I learned that a man withstands sadness stoically and deals with it internally. I learned (as immortalized by the rock group 10cc in their classic "I'm Not In Love") to "be quiet ... big boys don't cry ... big boys don't cry ... big boys don't cry". But withstanding sadness does not make for happiness. All withstanding sadness makes for is withstanding sadness.

If withstanding sadness does not make for happiness then what does  make for happiness? I know happiness when I experience happiness. But what makes for happiness? If I experience happiness without causing it, isn't that just more automaticity? Beyond the repetition of those things I am attached to that make me happy, what makes for real, thrilling happiness? At first, all that shows up in answer to that question is my own perplexity.

Werner Erhard puts forth that "happiness is a function of accepting what is". That seems like a good place to start. In fact, Werner mirrors the ancient Vedic notion of "satchitananda" which roughly translates from the Sanskrit to "the bliss of being conscious of the absolute".

If happiness is a function of accepting what is, then withstanding sadness is the same trap as wanting to be happy.

Brought on by a family breakdown, I have been reflecting on the gravity of sadness in my personal life. Whether or not I want the cards that are dealt to me, they are the cards that are dealt to me. Back at the smorgasbord of life, I notice that having very little penchant for sadness is simply not enough to avoid sadness. There seems to be no way out. No matter what I do to avoid it, there it is front and center stage when I go to sleep at night. And there it is again, front and center stage when I wake up in the morning.

I go this way to avoid it. I go that way to avoid it. I explain it. I share it. I communicate it. I rationalize it. I do everything I can think of doing to dissipate it. Pretty soon I have tried everything. Nothing works. The best space I get to is learning to live with it ie resignation. And the very, very, very  last thing on my mind to do is to turn around and face it. It's not that I've resolved not to turn around and face it. It's that having very little penchant for sadness, it doesn't even occur to me to turn around and face it.

Totally out of options, I give up. I yield. I surrender. I accept it.

I turn around and I face it. I walk unflinchingly directly into the open maw of the beast. Now I want to know its true nature. Or, failing that, I want to die trying or to be killed by it coming to grips with it.

* * *

Much to my surprise, continuing with the same intention that was thwarted and stopped at tears and pain, continuing and pushing through, I am in the clear. The impenetrable barrier is actually a false bottom. I push through and out the other side through the false bottom in spite of myself. I am not stopped. Wow! The Doors knew this singing "break on through to the other side".

In retrospect, I can see the tears and pain barrier of sadness was once the surefire sign to stop, telling me I had reached my natural limit. Magically, almost mystically, it is not a stop now. Something deeper more profound beyond it opens up: absolute being - vast, free, absolute being. Pure possibility.

I can't go around the tears and pain barrier of sadness. Try as I might I can't avoid it. Try as I might I can't get out of it. Authentically, all I can do is accept it and allow it to be. When I allow it to be, it allows me to be. When it allows me to be, I can experience it fully and go through it. The only way out is through. This is the way of the warrior.

We are called on to be absolute warriors in a world which pivots on emotion rather than on absolute being. The beauty of that is if the world already pivoted on absolute being, the game would be over and you and I wouldn't be here.



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