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

Goodbye Two By Four

Oxbow Commons, Napa, California, USA

February 8, 2017

"There's nothing like a nice piece of hickory." ... Clint Eastwood embodying The Preacher, Pale Rider

Sometime during the past forty six years, our global listening for transformation underwent a remarkable shift. In the hard-fought battle to bring the raging wildfire under control, you could say the wind suddenly shifted in the firefighters' favor. No one made it happen. It just happened. It was timely. So what was it exactly that happened?

With the onset of the work of transformation, a certain skepticism, a deep inbred doubt appeared that transformation, both personal and global, was even a possibility. And even if it were  possible (as the most zealous of skeptics may have argued), then it most certainly could never be disseminated in a so-called .... well ... conversation  for transformation. Werner Erhard's assertion that transformation could be disseminated face to face in a conversation for transformation over a couple of weekends (rather than, say, requiring years and years of contemplation in a convent or a monastery or a cave) was met with ridicule, if not outright hostility. "Talk is cheap" was the watchword of the day. But those were the days back when we hadn't yet gotten it's not talk that's cheap: it's we who cheapen talk. That came later.

What wasn't obvious in the matter of being skeptical of the possibility of transformation at the time, was the degree to which that skepticism is woven into  the fabric of being human. To be sure, it's a skepticism which looks  like it's the result of a carefully thought through opinion. But that's not what it really is. What it really is, is no-choice survival machinery. Nothing more. While skeptics exercised their intellect and powers of discrimination to negate and dismiss the possibility of transformation (and listen: by "skeptics" I want you to get I'm referring to regular folks like you and me), what was overlooked was being skeptical of transformation isn't necessarily the sign of a learned, intelligent, rational, erudite person. Rather it's simply a sign of being human  ie it's simply the sign of being an ordinary, average Joe. Really it is.

To meet this ordinary, natural inbred skepticism, the conversation for transformation took on being confrontational. Spoken with rigor, it took on being confrontational enough to get beyond peoples' natural barriers. There are some confrontational conversations that leave people diminished. The conversation for transformation stood apart from those: when it was confrontational, it was confrontational with ruthless compassion, so it left people more  in touch with who they really are, not less. This made for mighty, dramatic theater. Some critics described this heretofore unseen extraordinarily confrontational style of ruthlessly compassionate communication, as a (quote unquote) two by four across the head. Of course, we all tend to exaggerate. And comparing the conversation for transformation to a (quote unquote) two by four across the head, was clearly an exaggeration. Nonetheless in terms of the milquetoast  style of communication which preceded it, and in terms of the intentionality of communication required to break through skepticism and let transformation present itself like a possibility  (arguably for the first time), it was a fitting descriptor.

And then came a shift in the wind. Confronted, we did hear transformation, often in spite of ourselves. We really  heard it. Upon hearing transformation, our skepticism cleared up and vanished. And the more global skepticism cleared up, the easier it became to get transformation simply by being in a conversation for transformation. And now, not resisting being in a conversation for transformation, the erstwhile confrontational style of communication is no longer required. We've made a full circle. Today people are coming to the conversation for transformation already having a sense of what's to be gotten, and wanting to get it as soon as and as fast as and as fully as possible. The requirement for being confrontational as a method of powerful communication, is now no longer called for, having served its purpose beautifully.

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© Laurence Platt - 2017, 2018 Permission