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

Fireside Chat

Santa Barbara, California, USA

December 7, 2013

This essay, Fireside Chat, is the second in the eighth trilogy Questions For A Friend:
  1. Once In A Lifetime
  2. Fireside Chat
  3. Whole And Complete
in that order.
The first trilogy Questions For A Friend is:
  1. Prelude
  2. Ask Me Anything
  3. Coming Around Again
in that order.
The second trilogy Questions For A Friend is:
  1. Familiar Unfamiliar Territory
  2. Interview
  3. Straight Talk
in that order.
The third trilogy Questions For A Friend is:
  1. Dancing With My Mouth
  2. Cave Paintings
  3. Velvet Tsunami
in that order.
The fourth trilogy Questions For A Friend is:
  1. Creating Creating
  2. Tell Me Something About Nothing
  3. Lucid Disclosures
in that order.
The fifth trilogy Questions For A Friend is:
  1. Closer And Closer
  2. Tête À Tête
  3. Dancing With Life
in that order.
The sixth trilogy Questions For A Friend is:
  1. What Would I Ask You If I Could Ask You Anything?
  2. Wonderings About Nothing In Particular
  3. Tipping Point
in that order.
The seventh trilogy Questions For A Friend is:
  1. Beyond Breathing Underwater
  2. Bold Faced Truth
  3. What You Create For Yourself About Me
in that order.
The ninth trilogy Questions For A Friend is:
  1. Questions For A Friend
  2. Nothing Else I'd Rather Be Doing
  3. Free To Be And Free To Act
in that order.
The tenth trilogy Questions For A Friend is:
  1. Attracted To Dance
  2. I Told A Friend I Love You
  3. Terse Transformed Communication
in that order.
The eleventh trilogy Questions For A Friend is:
  1. A Context Worth Playing In
  2. Tie The Brush To My Hand
  3. Unimaginably Terse
in that order.
The twelfth trilogy Questions For A Friend is:
  1. What Will I Do When You Die?
  2. Access
  3. The Newest Piece Of Work
in that order.
The thirteenth trilogy Questions For A Friend is:
  1. Worthy Of The Company
  2. Creating Them For Myself
  3. Standing With Masters
in that order.
The fourteenth trilogy Questions For A Friend is:
  1. This Context Of Privilege
  2. I'm Not Going To Let It Go
  3. Questions For A Friend XIV III: Not Yet Titled (working title)
in that order.
This essay, Fireside Chat, is also the ninth in a group of twenty written in Santa Barbara:
  1. Santa Barbara
  2. Unbelievable
  3. Give Me Money (That's What I Want?)
  4. True Gold
  5. Getting Into Your World
  6. You Say Stop: About Resisting Transformation
  7. The Cavalry's Not Coming
  8. On This Team Everyone's The Leader
  9. Fireside Chat
  10. The Next Best Thing
  11. Full Circle, Full Spiral
  12. Truth, And What's True
  13. Snowflakes In A Furnace
  14. Something In The Air
  15. Vocal Prowess
  16. Flames In My Rearview Mirror
  17. Back Nine
  18. Chess II
  19. But And And II
  20. My Baby Girl, Now A Bride
in that order.

I am indebted to Joseph "Joe" Kempin and to Reg Leonard who contributed material for this conversation.

I've developed some experience doing this. This being the eighth set of questions in the Questions For A Friend series, I can finally articulate what it takes to come up with questions appropriate to this particular conversation.

The process is akin to putting my mind through a sieve.

The idea isn't just to ask questions. You can do that. I can do that. Anyone can do that. Any time. About anything. This particular conversation, however, is a very specific opportunity. And it's an opportunity, really, to ask questions which are a cut below those we ask in our more trivial, jocular, locker room conversations. Yes, it is a cut below, not a cut above (think about it ...).

The following ten questions were created over the course of a week during which time I cleared my desk of all other distractions so I could put my full attention on engaging with them uninterrupted with as few distractions as possible, trying them on, sometimes (in certain cases) rejecting them for not fully capitalizing on the privilege, as not out-here  enough, and coming up with new ones until I'd accumulated ten I can stand for completely.

Ten Questions And All My Cards On The Table

 1)  Recently you shared with us some of the projects you're working on. I'm eager and interested to know the progress of these projects, and how close to completion they are.

First question:

"Where are you at with the book on integrity, the paper you call The Mastery Talk, the paper called A New Paradigm Of Performance, the completion of The Leadership Course, and the article for In‑House Consulting company's magazine?"

 2)  The Leadership Course is a triumph, a tour de force. Like everything you do, I suspect creating it and delivering it provides an opportunity for you to break yourself open at yet another level, a level at which whatever's next for you is already within reach and starting to take shape.

Second question:

"What will be the sequel to The Leadership Course?"

 3)  This thing, this time we call "now": we refer to it as if we're facile with it. We talk about it somewhat glibly, as if we know what it is. But it's easy to show upon closer examination that whatever now is, is actually quite elusive.

Third question:

"You speak about the 'theoretical now' as distinct from the 'episodic now'. The exact moment in time I call now is really an instant - so brief it's not real for me. Is this the theoretical now? What's real for me is a longer period in time I call now, an episode with a beginning and a middle and an end. Is this the episodic now? Am I in the ballpark?"

 4)  When I asked you recently what keeps you going, you replied "Dancing with Life.". I've waited for this opportunity to revisit your answer.

There's dancing with life the way many people do it ... and then there's dancing with life  the way you do it. The difference between other people who dance with life and you, is they dance occasionally, sometimes with long breaks in between each dancing session, whereas you've been dancing with life literally without a break for fifty years straight  ... and more.

Fourth question:

"You're unimaginably busy. The enormous volume of your creative output is legend. What's the essence of creating powerfully we can learn from the sheer velocity with which you've worked non‑stop 24 / 7 / 365 for half a century?"

 5)  I've also been looking forward to this opportunity to ask you this next question. It's a question which is very on topic  in the general listening right now. It's about the relationship between integrity (as honoring my word) and making promises / keeping my word (as making happen what I said I would make happen). More specifically, it's about the relationship between integrity and breaking  promises ie it's about the relationship between integrity and not  keeping my word.

Fifth question:

"When I listen you speak integrity, you speak about revoking a promise with integrity. This runs against what I learned growing up. I learned integrity was keeping my promises. Integrity wasn't included in revoking ie in 'breaking' promises. How can you break a promise with integrity?"

 6)  One thing I can say with 1,000% certainty from talking with people who know you, is your physical presence is greatly missed. While we all know how your focus and concentration on your current projects preclude you from being as public as you once were, we can only wonder if it's more than just wishful thinking to envision you on a public tour open to large audiences again soon.

Sixth question:

"The presentation you gave with Michael Jensen on Creating Leaders at New York University's Skirball Center for the Performing Arts in November was remarkable in that it was your first widely advertised open public event in the United States in many years. What prompted this welcome change? Will you be giving more?"

 7)  I've got a sense of what you refer to when you speak about 'ontological constraints'. Are they ways I'm being (in other words, who I am for myself) that I'm limited in some ways, and those ways are 'just the way I am'? Seeing these ontological constraints is hard, if not very difficult. And as for casting them off entirely, that seems almost impossible.

Seventh question:

"You distinguish the impact of ontological constraints on one's freedom to be and act. Please give us an example of ontological constraints. Can their impact ever be entirely mitigated?"

 8)  Where you operate from (at least in my view) is the center, the vortex of a very powerful place, the fulcrum for great leverage we all have (at least, like a possibility) which I call the axis of ecstasy. I've often wondered what could be accomplished ie what life on Earth would look like if this vision, this power were directly applied at the source of the key institutions which run the world.

Eighth question:

"If you could enact one decree as Secretary General of the United Nations, what would it be? If you could enact one decree as President of the United States of America, what would it be?"

 9)  Many of the abstracts you distinguish are so unique and beyond the scope of our ordinary day to day conversations that they require an extraordinary concentration and listening just to follow and keep up with you. Yet in this oftentime arduous process of keeping up with you, my listening is challenged in ways which break up dullness and deadness, making something new and wonderful available: real integrity, honoring my word as myself.

Ninth question:

"In your presentation at New York University's Skirball Center for the Performing Arts in November, you posed the question 'Where is your word when it comes time for you to keep your word?'. If I ante up with either 'In my promise / commitment to act' or 'In your listening / counting on me to act' or both, am I in the ballpark?"

 10)  I love you. I love what you make available. I love what being around you makes available. In particular, I love who I am when I'm around you. I'm clear participating with you in this work we do is like climbing a mountain with no top. Yet even if we'll never reach the top, there's a quality of life which I know you know this kind of climbing makes available right here and right now.

Tenth question:

"Being in integrity is obviously an act of workability because without integrity nothing works. And being in integrity, because it works, enhances the quality of our relationships. So would you consider being in integrity, in addition to being an act of workability, therefore also to be an act of love?"


The context for this conversation, for this fireside chat  if you will, is the joy and the privilege of profound friendship. It's the kind of friendship which is at once both intimately personal and at the same time readily available between each and every one of us human beings not because of anything we do, deserve, or qualify for, but rather just because of who we really are.

What I have in mind for the outcome of this fireside chat is that some if not all of its intimacy and friendship will become generally accessible and available to everyone, not only in fireside chats but also in all conversations everywhere all the time.

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