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

"How?" Questions:

By Consideration Alone

Soledad, California, USA

January 3, 2010

This essay, "How?" Questions: By Consideration Alone, is the companion piece to The Final Frontier: "Why?".

It is also the sixth entry in The Laurence Platt Dictionary: It is also the prequel to By Consideration Alone II.

My answers to "How?" questions can be the showstoppers of conversations.

Here I'm speaking about answers to questions in the class of "How"  do we create?  or "How"  do we interpret?  or "How"  do we think?

I'm not speaking about answers to questions in the class of "How"  do we bake a cake?  or "How"  do we dismantle an atomic bomb?  (as U2 may have asked) or "How"  do we get to the north pole?. You can read books which provide answers to questions in this class.

Answers to questions in the class of "How"  do we create?  or "How"  do we interpret?  or "How"  do we think?  or even "How"  do we walk?  are answered (accurately, I might add, although not always palatably)  in similiar ways like this:

We create by consideration alone. We interpret by consideration alone. We think by consideration alone. We even walk by consideration alone.

More about consideration  later. In the meantime, if I'm asked "How"  do we create?  or "How"  do we interpret?  or "How"  do we think?  or even "How"  do we walk?, I might answer to all of the above "I don't know" (which really is the truth for me), and then, after a pause for emphasis, offer the vintage Erhard  quote "Understanding is the booby prize.". For me, understanding "how" I create, isn't required before I create. For me, understanding "how" I interpret or "how" I think, isn't required before I interpret or before I think. For me, understanding "how" I walk, isn't required before I walk. To create I create. To interpret I interpret. To think I think. To walk I walk.

Then, if there's a listening for this, I'll point out "I don't know" can either be obfuscated with ignorance, with not having the facts, with not being successful getting the answers  ... OR  ... "I don't know" can instead be an opening, a clearing in which new knowing  can show up. In other words, "I don't know" and the willingness to tell the truth about "I don't know" and the willingness to stand in the possibility  of "I don't know" can instead be, counter-intuitively, a very high  space.

If there's no listening for this, the conversation is often harumphed  to an unceremonious end.

It's hard to get it's enough to be, and not have understanding (ie "how?" questions) interfere with the process of being at all. We're so heavily invested in "how?" questions. We're addicted to the answers. Yet how profound is it when we have the answers  to so many "how?" questions, when we understand so, so much, and yet our lives don't work any better as a result?

The best answer to any "how?" question I've heard is Werner's answer to "How"  do you invent? He replied "You invent by considering something invented like a possibility. You invent by consideration alone.".

From the Cambridge International Dictionary:


from the verb consider (POSSIBILITY)
to spend time thinking about a possibility or making a decision

Given the way this lands for me with the notion of thinking about a possibility  being too heavy  and unproductive (not to mention not powerful), plus the fact that consideration as I use it, doesn't require spending time, what I realized may be wanted and needed here is an entirely new definition of the abstract noun "consideration" which the existing dictionary definition starts to tease out but doesn't quite fulfill on. So I've defined a new definition of consideration which includes what in my opinion is missing from the existing dictionary definition of consideration.

Here it is, hot off the press of The Laurence Platt Dictionary: "consideration".

from the verb consider (POSSIBILITY)
to call a possibility into existence, to make an idea or an action manifest, or to make a decision then act

Let's try out the efficiency of this new tool on "How"  do we walk? Everyone  knows how we walk, right? If you're disabled and you're unable to walk, choose another of your everyday activities for this exercise - like raising your hand. Everyone  knows how we raise our hand, right? Let's see.

We walk by putting one foot in front of the other. Yeah but ... "How"  do we put one foot in front of the other?  We put one foot in front of the other by lifting one leg and moving it forward, then lifting the other leg and moving it forward. Yeah but ... "How"  do we lift one leg and move it forward, then lift the other leg and move it forward?  We lift one leg and move it forward by contracting the muscles  of the leg etc etc. We contract the muscle of the leg by sending it a signal from the brain etc etc.

Now, pretty soon, if you follow this chain of how do we etc  all the way back its origin, you realize you wouldn't understand how  to send a signal from your brain to a muscle in your leg even if your life depended on it. Yes, you can walk - you do it all the time. But if you tell the truth about it, you're totally clueless about how you send a signal from your brain to a muscle in your leg, and if that's the start of your understanding of how  we walk, the unavoidable truth is you don't understand how you walk. Really.

I prefer Werner's answer to the question "How"  do we walk?  which is we walk by consideration alone ie we walk by considering ourselves walking. "We walk by considering ourselves walking" roughly translates to the very Zen "we walk by walking". Walking doesn't require understanding how  you walk (so much for "How?"  questions ...). You walk all the time. You're not focused on contracting the muscles of your legs. You're not focused on sending signals from your brain to the muscles of your legs, ordering them to contract. You ... just  ... walk. You consider yourself walking ie you make the idea  of walking manifest ... and voila!  ... you're walking.

Now, some wise ass is going to say "Yeah but ... how  do I consider myself walking? ... how  do I consider?"

If I were a Zen master, at that moment I'd stand up, walk over to him, and slap him upside the head with a wet noodle.

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