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


Get A Life

Jacksonville, Florida, USA

September 25, 2009



It's easy to be a critic. It's easy to be a commentator. It's easy to be a reporter. It's easy to be a Monday morning quarterback. It's easy to be an armchair pundit. It's easy to gossip. It's easy to tell tales. It's easy for me to regard myself as better than other people. It's easy for me to consider myself to be different  than other people. It's easy for me to make other people wrong and to make myself right. God!  It's so damn  easy.

All of the above  are really just ways of expressing an opinion, aren't they? And everyone has an opinion, don't we?

One of the most shocking discoveries of my life was when I found out I have an opinion. I'm using the word "when"  literally, exactly, and rigorously for emphasis.

Let me explain. Discovering I have  an opinion wasn't shocking. When I first discovered I have an opinion, it was as if I'd reached around to touch the back of my skull and discovered, for the first time, my cranial bones protrude a certain way. Everyone's got cranial bones, and everyone's cranial bones protrude a certain way. Everyone's got an opinion, just like everyone's got protruding cranial bones. Nothing shocking about it. No big deal.

No, the shocking  aspect of this discovery for me, rather, was in discovering I have an opinion, I saw my opinion as distinct from "the truth".

Until that moment, I'd never made the distinction between my opinion and "the truth". Until that moment, my opinion was  "the truth" for me. Aghast, I saw because it's so easy  to have an opinion, it's also so god‑damned  easy to obfuscate "the truth" with my opinion. Worse than that, when I obfuscate "the truth" with my opinion, I almost never notice  I'm doing it.

We often use the phrase "to grow up"  to convey reaching the age of adulthood. We ask "Where did you grow up?"  when we want to know in which city and country someone lived between birth and the age of eighteen as if it will tell us something profound about that person. Yet even if they say they grew up in in Wichita Kansas USA, for example, it hardly tells us anything profound about them - at best, it only sheds light on their accent. I grew up in Cape Town South Africa, yet the fact that I grew up in Cape Town South Africa, actually tells you next to nothing about who I really am as a human being. A more pertinent question to ask, rather than "Where did you grow up?", may be "When  did you grow up?" - and I'm not alluding to any particular year  either.

Rather than a particular year, the domain of "When  did you grow up?" is the critical insight or collection  of critical insights into who you really are which tip the balance away from childish ways and toward true adulthood. There's at least one  insight into who you really are as a human being which tips the balance away from childish ways and toward true adulthood, toward seniority, toward transformation  - in other words, during which you can truly say you grew up  - in the full dignity of the phrase.

And it's not a momentary insight, it's not something temporary, it's not even a peak experience  either. If it's authentically the insight during which you really grew up, you didn't just have it once, reveled in it for a while, and then tired of it, forgot about it, moving on instead to pastures greener. If it's the  insight during which you grew up, it's stayed with you. It's more than that, actually. If it's the  insight during which you grew up, it's become a stand you've taken for the rest of your life.

One of the insights during which I grew up was the insight that my opinion is distinct from "the truth". It wasn't necessarily a pleasant  insight. As I said, I was aghast  when it first came on, given how heavily I was invested in being a critic, in being a commentator, in being a reporter, in being a Monday morning quarterback, in being an armchair pundit, in gossiping, in telling tales, in regarding myself as better than other people, in considering myself to be different  than other people, in making other people wrong and myself right. In fact, it was humbling and unpleasant. Nonetheless, it was an insight during which I grew up, during which I got  my life, during which I got  who I really am.

When you get who you really are, that is to say when you literally get a life, when you get your own  life (and, face it: before you get who you really are, you don't have a life - you may be alive, but you don't yet have a life), you start to notice it's your human-ness, your humanity  which makes you magnificent. Yet paradoxically, your human-ness, your humanity  isn't who you really are, although it's what makes you a human being. Being a critic, being a commentator, being a reporter, being a Monday morning quarterback, being an armchair pundit, gossiping, telling tales, regarding yourself as better than other people, considering yourself to be different  than other people, making other people wrong and yourself right? That's what human beings do.

Cows go "Moo moo!", pigs go "Oink oink!", chickens go "Cheep cheep!", and human beings go "Blah blah blah!" (as Old MacDonald may have said).

Old MacDonald was a wise, wise man. "Blah blah blah!" is just what we human beings do. It's our sound and fury  which vents and justifies us, yet doesn't change one ... god-damned ... thing!

Here's a pertinent comment on how language, when reduced to jargon, is disempowered. Typically when we say to someone "Get a life!", it's spoken with disdain ie it's a derogatory comment. But spoken rigorously, "Get a life!"  really directs people towards the source of their own power, towards the distinction between their human-ness ie between their humanity, and who they really are - in other words, towards the distinction between their opinion  and "the truth".

It's life altering. It's a context shifting  insight.



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