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

Gratitude III

Sheraton Petaluma, California, USA

September 26, 2019

This essay, Gratitude III, is the companion piece to No Greater Love.

It is also the third in the trilogy Gratitude:
It is also, with Further Down The Road, the prequel to the trilogy The Mastery Course:
  1. The Mastery Course: Holding Myself Out Into The Nothing
  2. The Mastery Course II: We've Got It All On Tape
  3. The Mastery Course III: You Have To Discover It For Yourself
in that order.

The very languaging of being grateful defines what's possible for gratitude. A certain languaging of being grateful allows for ordinary gratitude. Another languaging of being grateful allows for extraordinary gratitude. To wit, languaging ordinary gratitude references an object. What do you mean by that, Laurence? I mean when I'm ordinarily grateful, I say things like "I'm grateful for  ..." or "I'm grateful because  ..." (where the dot-dot-dot  represents the object of my gratitude). But gratitude per se  only sometimes requires an object - in other words, being grateful only sometimes requires a for or a because. When I language gratitude without an object, it's extra-ordinary gratitude. To wit, extraordinary gratitude is just being grateful  - period, like a space to come from, a space which stands alone (no object is required).

Ordinarily I'm grateful if someone gives me something valuable. Just as ordinarily, I'm grateful if someone does something of value for me. But until speaking with you for the first time forty years ago, I had no concept of being grateful outside of the context of someone giving me something valuable, or of someone doing something of value for me. Today if I strip it down to the studs, I have two takes on the extraordinary way of being grateful like a space to come from ie like a possibility.

The first is I'm grateful for being, just for being  - period. In particular, I'm grateful for being around you, and for being alive on the planet at the same time as you. I could have been born at any other time in history, in any other millennium. Likewise, you too could have been born at any other time in history, in any other millennium. As it turned out, like the overlapping circles in a Venn  diagram, we were both alive on the planet at the same time. And I'm grateful for that. To be explicit, my gratitude is not so much for something you gave me (I'll get to that in a moment). Neither is it so much for something you did for me (I'll get to that in a moment too). It's simply that I'm grateful I had the opportunity to be alive on the planet at the same time as you. That opportunity made my impossibles possible. But look: even that outcome, is just the what happened  ie it's just the result. It's not the being grateful I'm coming from per se, the being grateful I'm speaking.

The second is I'm grateful you gave me nothing, and that you did nothing for me. Really. Now clearly  that's not ordinary gratitude. It's extraordinary gratitude. And lest I understated it, neither is it ordinary nothing. It's extraordinary nothing. Those of you who know that nothing to which I refer, will get it. And those who don't, may not. See, I'm not using the term "nothing" colloquially. "I'm grateful you gave me nothing" and "I'm grateful you did nothing for me" flies in the face of ordinary gratitude requiring an object or a for or a because (it harkens to a Zen koan "You gave me so much  when you gave me nothing."). The nothing you gave me, and the nothing you did for me, allowed me to experience just being. My gratitude for that, is the very space I come from. This is what being grateful is - like a possibility.

Now: what about this "nothing" you gave me? What about this "nothing" you did for me? To get that, requires being steeped in your work and / or being steeped in Zen (one of its precursors). For starters, it let me experience gratitude both ordinarily as well as extraordinarily. But much  more than that, it's a generous act of Zen to give someone nothing and to do nothing for them. In this context, it allows people to experience who they really are. And that's a priceless gift (no, it's arguably the ultimate  gift). It's certainly not what we think of when we talk about giving someone nothing. To be sure, while enlightenment isn't what we ordinarily consider to be something that's given (especially the result of being given nothing), these Zen exchanges (of which you are a master) were never ordinary exchanges to begin with.

Around you I'm being grateful. That's my platform for being grateful for and grateful because, neither of which are required. This gratitude is enough. It'll last forever.

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© Laurence Platt - 2019 Permission