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


Sonoma Valley, California, USA

March 9, 2008

"We cannot put off living until we are ready. The most salient characteristic of Life is its coerciveness: it is always urgent, here and now  without any possible postponement. Life is fired at us point blank."
 ... Jose Ortega y Gasset read out loud by  

When I first ambled onto the American scene in 1976 I didn't realize I'd missed a turn while walking innocently in the woods and was strolling instead directly onto the gridiron  in the middle of play during the Superbowl.

From the Cambridge International Dictionary:


a field painted with lines for American football

Try as I might, I couldn't reconcile my life as I wanted it to be  with the way it was really going. What I'd envisioned was akin to a walk with nature, mindful and respectful of the surroundings, educational, inspirational, exciting, making a contribution. What I got instead was being bowled over and trampled underfoot by the rushing scrum who were only doing what they should have been doing on the gridiron, not alerted to nor mindful of my wayward wanderings.

It wasn't the gridiron's fault. And it wasn't any wonder I felt I was in the wrong place at the wrong time.

But later I came up with another interpretation, one which worked better for me as an explanation  of what was happening to me. I saw it was I who had the wrong idea  about the place I was in ... AND  ... the place I was in was the right place for me to be in at the right time.

Once you put yourself on the gridiron, you have to play. And the thing is this: in life, it's all  gridiron. Anyone like me who's ever intentionally immigrated to these United States has a premeditated sense of what we're coming to, and why. But like anything else that's prejudged from afar with no real direct, intimate experience on which to base sound judgement, my raison d'etre  for coming here was simply an interpretation  of what life might  be like (hopefully), once I arrived.

Interpretations as foundations for actions are at best risky, and they're especially risky when used to fuel life altering decisions. Whatever it is I imagined life in these United States may or may not be, once I arrived here I was subject to the rules of the gridiron, whether I was familiar with them ... or not.

Now there's nothing wrong with playing on the gridiron even before you've developed the experience of a professional. How else do we learn? But playing on the gridiron using a walk in the woods as the school of experience to draw from can produce its own set of problems. One way to deal with such problems is to develop a well thought out belief system  proclaiming what's wrong  with the gridiron. The trouble with expounding what's wrong  as a way to deal with problems on the gridiron is at best it's simply an opinion, a variation of which everyone  has. Having an opinion about what's wrong isn't an innovative strategy for effectively developing a move, for powerfully leveraging a play. Opinions live in one domain. Strategies for leveraging a play live in a different domain.
Werner Erhard said to me "Opinions don't forward the action.". That's not an evaluation. It's a distinction. If you hear it as an evaluation, you'll obfuscate something great. Let me clarify.

One of things I, an immigrant, have discovered gets lost on the gridiron is the recognition of how great it is to have the right to express an opinion. No, I'm not saying I place any value  in opinions. That's different. Personally I'm wary of all  opinions: others', yours, mine, especially  mine. I am, however, saying it's pretty darn great here where you have the right to express an opinion if  that's something you place value in, and you're respected for it.

If you haven't spent any time in Cuba, Iran, or apartheid era  South Africa, the privilege it is to have this right may elude you. Yet once you realize the privilege it is to have the right to express an opinion, it's an act of greatness to choose to devalue that right entirely for yourself, choosing instead to distinguish who you really are  prior to, separate from, and paramount to your opinions. Opinions don't forward the action. Who you really are does.

You could say, then, that the first adjustment for successfully playing on the gridiron as opposed to merely frolicking in the woods is to own  that you put yourself in the game, that you didn't merely get here by accident. It's sometimes argued we don't have much choice being born  although many people do claim this choice. Even if you assert you had no choice being born, if you find yourself on the gridiron, it's no accident you put yourself here.

The second adjustment for successfully playing on the gridiron as opposed to merely frolicking in the woods is to distinguish between opining  about play as a strategy for success, as opposed to bringing who you really are  to bear on the play which forwards the action. Opining lives in an individual's world. Fowarding the action lives in the team's world.

Life isn't sitting in a diner next to a guy with an opinion and no consequences over an omelet and hash browns. Life is on the gridiron. Life is hardball.

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