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

From Context To Language

Silverado Country Club, Napa Valley, California, USA

August 8, 2006

Werner's work like that fish walking up onto the land for the first time, matured in two distinct iterations. Congruently I've experienced two major breakthroughs in this journey I've been on with him.

The first was distinguishing context. "Context" is the answer to the question "What  am I?".

The second was distinguishing language. "Language" is the answer to the question "Who  am I?".

Getting an answer to a powerful question isn't  a good idea necessarily if the answer is definitive and final. Why stop at one  answer? A question is really  powerful if it calls forth lots and lots  and LOTS of answers. Having said that, for the purposes of this conversation "Context" as the answer to the question "What  am I?" and "Language" as the answer to the question "Who  am I?" are good enough for jazz.

The very sense of the abstract noun transformation  (replete with its embodiment of the root verb transform)  implies a shift  of something, a shift of state  if you will. I assert when a human being is transformed (that is to say, when a human being transforms their life) what shifts is twofold: and then (the distinction is subtle) The first breakthrough (the first iteration of Werner's work) is the essential  breakthrough which makes all other breakthroughs possible, comes in response to the question "What  are you?". An untransformed person may say "I'm an American". A transformed person may say "I'm the context for the events in my life".

Prior to transformation the distinction between what we are and who we are is blurred. It's also likely prior to transformation the distinction distinction  isn't distinguished yet, and it's more than likely that's  not yet known either. Prior to transformation we know ourselves as our names, as what we do for a living, as our nationality, and - in a more fundamental sense - as our identity. After transformation we know ourselves to be the context (or, as Werner originally stated, the space) in which all the events of our lives occur. In other words when we transform our lives our sense of what we are  shifts from the content  of our lives to the context  for our lives.

The line between what  I am and who  I am  is razor thin. If what  I am is the context for my life, then who  I am  I am is what I say. Who  I am  is, quite literally, my word  or, from a slightly different cut, who I am is language. I make who I am known by speaking. You get to know who I am by listening.

The second breakthrough (the second iteration of Werner's work) was creating who I am as language ie living as my word coming from  being what I am as context or, from a slightly different cut, as possibility. In answer to the question "Who  are you?" an untransformed person may say "I'm Ronald McDonald.". A transformed person may say "I'm the possibility of communication.".

It doesn't end there. If who you are is language then by declaring "I'm the possibility of communication" you create an opening for communication. Conversely, without the declaration "I'm the possibility of communication" there's no possibility of communication ... if who you are is language.

When Werner first brought forth context, like that fish walking up onto the land for the first time it was a breakthrough of epic proportions for life itself when along with that fish walking up onto the land for the first time came elephants and eagles like a possibility.

Then something even more astonishing happened: that fish started speaking. And since then nothing has ever been the same.

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