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

I Don't Believe In What I'm Doing

Caymus Vineyards, Rutherford, California, USA

March 26, 2014

"I don't believe in what I'm doing at all. I have absolutely no belief in what I'm doing. I already know how it's going to turn out. The way it turns out is fait accompli. I mean there's nothing I can do about the way it turns out. I know exactly how it's going to turn out. You know, it's going to turn out exactly like it turns out. It's been doing that for eons. So you say 'But then Werner: what's your motive? What are you working all those hours for?'. I'm not motivated. There isn't any motive. There's no damn vision  motivating me. You know, if I stopped doing it tomorrow, it wouldn't make a damn bit of difference. And if I keep doing it right to the end, it won't make any difference. The only thing that's going to happen is what happens. But that doesn't fit into our structure. That doesn't fit into our categories."
...   responding to an assertion that he believes in what he's doing because he's motivated by a vision 

It comes in various forms, in various articulations, in various flavors. If you can untangle it so the question calling it forth doesn't obfuscate its own answer by implying something way too jumbled and unnecessarily complicated, it gets to the heart of the matter of what the source of action  is. What is  the source of action? Asked another way, "Why do we do what we do?".


This is a conversation for transformation, so the answer to the question "Why do we do what we do?" may not be what you're expecting. It may also not be what's popularly touted.


It's a fascinating inquiry, one that's often intense. However the inquiry itself isn't the raison d'etre  for this essay although you'll find hints ie notes  of it strewn everywhere. Rather, the idea for this essay began when a friend and I were talking about why we do what we do, and she asked me rhetorically "Why do you write?" then, answering her own question, asserted "You write because you're realizing your dream of being a writer.".

I love her dearly. I love spending time with her. I love our conversations. Yet there were four things which for me were off  about her assertion. First, I don't have (and have never had) a dream of being a writer, so second, it was her interpretation  masquerading as "the truth", and she wasn't being responsible for the difference. Third, it was a "Why?" question (throw a dart at "Why?" questions' randomly generated answers pinned to a dartboard: any  answer will do). Fourth, it (like many "Why?" questions' answers) only accounts for false cause  and not for the real source of action.

Those four items, for the most part, are the very fabric of casual ie non-rigorous conversations. I made a mental note to look at them later to see if they were worth fleshing out for an essay. They were.

I had a similar experience on another occasion, this time in an online conversation with someone else who asserted "You obviously believe  in what you're doing" (his statement was predicated on the sheer volume of these Conversations For Transformation). What I noticed was both assertions, the online one (belief) as well as the earlier one (dream), gloss over (misconceptualize, indeed over  conceptualize, lack a rigorous inquiry into, misconstrue) the source of action, dramatizing instead reasons why  we do what we do, dreams of what we would be and could be and should be, and beliefs in what we do, as if they're  the source of our actions.

Before starting this essay, I searched for a quote from Werner speaking about this topic. The truth is I had no idea where to go to find a quote from him about this. However, given the nature of this particular playing field, given its conversational domain, I was pretty certain he's said something about it ... and  ... I surmised if he hasn't, then he's said something pretty darn close to it.

It took me a while to find that quote. But find it I did.


Here's the background for the seminar in which he spoke it, taken from the website which transcribes it:

"From their base at the Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley, California, members of the Center for the Study of New Religious Movements have been exploring ways to evaluate the confusing array of activities they define as spiritual, self development, or consciousness oriented. A continuing seminar at the Center has worked on criteria which lay people and professionals can use to discriminate between harmful and helpful conditions in groups pursuing such activities.
Werner Erhard and seventeen members of the seminar met in April 1981 to discuss some of the distinctions between authoritarianism and legitimate authority. The conversation covered other topics as well, and the seminar leader, Dick Anthony, later commented that it was 'one of the important turning points in our meetings'."

The quote appears in three forms:

 1)  embedded in the audio (streamed in three parts) of the seminar at

(the total running time for all three parts is one hour forty five minutes and six seconds);

 2)  embedded in the transcript of the audio at;

 3)  stand-alone, extracted from the audio like a needle from a haystack, as

this essay's source quote.


"Just like the front and the back of the hand, being
and action are distinct yet inseparable." ... Werner

Image by Wernher Krutein /

Valley Of The Moon, Sonoma County, California, USA

Thursday midday October 12, 1978
Werner Erhard
The quote in essence is "I don't believe in what I'm doing.". If that's it, if that's so, if that's viable, if I take it on  (which is to say if both "I'm not motivated by a dream of being a writer because there's really no god‑damned dream of being a writer"  and "I don't believe in what I'm doing as a writer" are true) then why do I do what I do?

Here's my answer: I do what I do because I do what I do because this is what I do.

It's very Zen. It's the straight answer. I would say it's the truth but the trouble with saying anything  is "the truth" is it imposes its own set of hazards such as forcing the truth into the entirely different epistemological domain  called "belief" in which the truth only exists as a lie. It'll drive you crazy if you try to figure it out. I do what I do because I do what I do because this is what I do. There's nothing else. I am, and I act. Being, and action - distinct, yet inseparable. Just like the front and the back of my hand.

So why do I write? I write because I write. There's no dream of being a writer motivating me. I don't believe in what I'm doing. Neither dream nor belief, as entertaining as they both arguably can be, are required.

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