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

Gossip Column

Napa Valley, California, USA

May 1, 2011

This essay, Gossip Column, is the companion piece to The Only Worthwhile Fame.

It was written at the same time as

I'm not much good at cocktail parties. I'm hopeless around the water cooler. I'm really bad at Monday morning quarterbacking. I'm terrible at armchair punditing. And as for locker room banter, I'm nothing short of a total disaster.

Small talk and idle chit chat  aren't among my strong suits - I don't do them very well. They're not among my natural talents. They've never been among my gifts. If anything, small talk and idle chit chat are on the other end of the spectrum for me: they're challenges.

But if small talk and idle chit chat are challenges for me, they're like a walk in the park  compared to what happens for me when small talk and idle chit chat become personal  about people. When small talk and idle chit chat become personal about people, then they're gossip. And when gossip becomes the mainstay of the conversation ie when gossip becomes the talk of the moment, then it's time for me to up and leave the party.

That's not because I hold any strong moral  views on gossip. Neither do I have any heavily invested judgements or opinions about people who gossip. Honest I don't! - they're just people. It's simply that I'm not good at gossip. I wouldn't get along well in any  group who spoke a language I couldn't speak, until I learned the language - as I learned French during my sojourn in Paris. There I had an attraction and a motivation to learn French. But I've never been attracted enough or motivated enough by gossip to put in the practice time  to get good at it. And I'm not likely to do so in the future either because I'm not called  to learn the skills required to get good at gossip.

From the Cambridge International Dictionary:


a conversation or reports about other people's private lives which might be unkind, disapproving or not true

The thing for me about gossip isn't what it's about. In other words, for me gossip isn't about what (or whom) it talks about. It's not merely that gossip is small talk and idle chit chat about other peoples' personal affairs. Neither is it that gossip almost always occurs when the people being gossiped about aren't present. In other words, it's not that gossip is almost always snide and behind peoples' backs. Neither is it that gossip is often unkind and tacitly disapproving ... and mildly vicariously voyeuristic  and judgemental to boot.

It's also not that gossip is mostly rumor  with no basis in truth at all. In fact (if I were to bring my own two cents worth  into this) neither is it that I'm not particularly good at gossip and small talk and idle chit chat. It's not because of any of the above  that I eschew gossip.

The thing for me about gossip is it's almost never distinguished as gossip by people who gossip. That's why I eschew it, and that's the only  reason I eschew it. But for me that's enough. Don't get me wrong: there's nothing wrong with gossip. Really there isn't. There's nothing wrong with talking about  people. If we didn't talk about  people, Life as we know it would cease to function.

My only quarrel with gossip is it doesn't generate anything new like a possibility. Gossip isn't generative language. It's the "cheap  talk" in the phrase "Talk is cheap.". And being the cheap talk in the phrase "Talk is cheap", it cheapens all  talk, even talk which isn't cheap - like my word, for example. My word isn't cheap. My word (that is to say who I really am as language)  isn't cheap. Rather it's we  who cheapen talk. It's we who cheapen talk with gossip. It's we who cheapen talk with gossip and with small talk and with idle chit chat, none of which bring forth anything new  like a possibility.

Decent Dirt

That's where I stand on gossip. Here's where I stand on being gossiped about:

The details of my personal affairs aren't worth much. Really  they aren't. They're not worth talking about. But If I'm going to be talked about, that is to say if I'm going to be gossiped about, you won't find much excitement in what I do in private. I live a simple, almost boring life, the entirety of which is in service to and engineered to support my promise and commitment to write two of these Conversations For Transformation every week for the rest of my life.

So if I am going to be talked about, if I'm going to be gossiped about behind my back, here's the only worthwhile thing to say about Laurence: he marshals his language to express transformation in his day to day conversations, and he even writes some of them down - and when we read what he writes down, we get our own language as the vehicle for ie as the possibility of  our own transformation.

This truth about my life may not make it into a supermarket checkout line tabloid's gossip column. But it's actually the only decent dirt  on me worth dishing.

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