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

Images Of You II

Frog's Leap, Rutherford, California, USA

January 6, 2012

This essay, Images Of You II, is the companion piece to Images Of You.

It is also the twenty sixth in an open group Encounters With A Friend:
  1. Showing Up
  2. Poet Laureate
  3. A Man In The Crowd
  4. Real Men Cry
  5. A Different Set Of Rules
  6. Nametag: A True Story
  7. Half-Life
  8. Waiting On You
  9. Erotica On Schedule
  10. A House On Franklin Street
  11. NeXT
  12. Reflection On A Window
  13. Here And There
  14. How To Enroll The World
  15. Demonstration
  16. Two Of Me II: Confirmation Not Correction
  17. Holiday Spectacular
  18. Hello! How Are Things Going For You?
  19. Regular Guy
  20. A Scholar And A Gentleman
  21. Images Of You
  22. With Nothing Going On
  23. Where No One Has Gone Before
  24. Attachment: Causeway Between Islands
  25. If You're Not Then Don't
  26. Images Of You II
  27. Living Where Life Is
  28. Create Me The Way I Am
  29. How Do You Spell The Sound A Ratchet Makes?
  30. You Don't Ask "Why Me?"  When It's Raining II
  31. The Stink Of Zen
  32. Sitting Quietly In A Room Alone
  33. Footsteps On Metal Stairs
so far, in that order.

I am indebted to Maz Iqbal who inspired this conversation.

Let's say you want me to get to know a friend of yours. How could you introduce him to me? There are various ways.

One way is you could write about him ie you could share your experience  of him. You could share vignettes  from your experience of him, intending I get  them and get to know him through your sharing.

This works, yes? Of course it does. Conversations For Transformation prove it works. In them (or rather through  them) I share vignettes from my experience. Of the vignettes I've already shared, some are quite detailed recreations. By "detailed recreations" I don't mean long  recreations. It's not my intention to make Conversations For Transformation long. Powerful conversations don't have to be long.

The following vignettes of five pertinent moments aren't so much detailed as they're terse. There's no setup, no explanation, no commentary, no inside  information, and no hidden meanings  (god forbid, they're not meant to be parables  ...).

1: Reading Glasses

Photography by Gurmeet Khurana - On Mastery: An Evening with Werner Erhard - Delhi, India - 8:30pm Monday November 10, 2010

I'm not expecting anyone to be in his office as I walk by. Especially with no one inside, his office is a magical place for me - like Picasso's studio when Picasso is away. It's the space in which the master works. It's certainly magical when the master is in and at work. Yet in a way, it's even more  magical when the master is away and the space is empty. My anticipation is palpable as I approach the door and peer inside.

He's sitting there, making notes on a yellow legal pad with a sharp HB  pencil. Although I'm silent, he turns and looks at me standing in the doorway, tilting his head forward to look at me over the top of his reading classes. Maybe words are exchanged, maybe they aren't. To tell you the truth, I don't have a sense of words. What I have is a sense of being instantly included. If the roles were reversed, if I was working and interrupted by someone at the door of my office, I might be polite. But really  I would be wanting them to leave.

Not him. I'm included. It's tangible. Am I standing here, eye to eye with him, for a minute? Or is it an hour? Or is it eternity?  I don't know.

When I pass the office again, it's empty. This time I simply take in the space. I notice the yellow legal pad. On it is the sharp HB pencil ... and his reading glasses!  "He's forgotten his reading glasses" I think, reaching over to pick them up and take them to him.

I find him in his living room, surrounded by about twenty five other people. Carefully, tactfully, so as not to intrude, I go up to him and, when he's unoccupied, say "Here! You forgot your reading glasses", and hand them toward him.

He reaches into the lapel pocket of his impeccably tailored classic navy Brooks Brothers  blazer, takes out a pair of reading glasses, and shows them to me.

"I have them" he says, smiling.

2: Handshake

Photography by Gurmeet Khurana - On Mastery: An Evening with Werner Erhard - Delhi, India - 8:30pm Monday November 10, 2010

I see him standing on the flagstones of the old cathedral. It's an extraordinary sight. The full noon sun shines through a stained glass window behind him, bursting colors everywhere, so bright I can't view it directly, so bright I can't take it in all at once. Although I can't clearly discern his face at first, it's his unmistakable profile  backlit by colored light pouring forth  from the celestial light show, which stands out. At first, lost in the timelessness of the sun shining through the cathedral's stained glass window, I don't realize it's him. But when I do, when I recognize his silhouetted profile backlit so gloriously by the refracting prismatic glass, I say (to no one in particular) "It's perfect.".

Slowly I walk over to him, greet him, and reach out my hand. He takes it. We shake hands. He has a firm grip (not unexpected). We shake hands up and down a few times - you know, the usual vanilla  way people shake hands.

But then, just as I'm about to let go, just as I'm about to disengage, he does something else, something unexpected, something delightful. After the third or fourth up and down  shake just when I'm about to let go, he extends his arm, pushing our clasped hands away from him toward me. Our clasped hands, once equidistant between us, are now extended further away from him, closer to me, now about three inches from my solar plexus.

He holds my hand in his grip this way for a few imperceptible seconds longer, and then he disengages, then he lets go.

It's the first time I've experienced his handshake. In a way, it's like any other experience I've ever had of him, with or without a handshake: he leaves me unerringly more toward myself, having been around him, than I was before.

3: Time Together

Photography by Gurmeet Khurana - On Mastery: An Evening with Werner Erhard - Delhi, India - 8:30pm Monday November 10, 2010

I arrive in good time for our meeting. I'm here as his guest. It's a privilege to be here.

As I enter the room, I gasp audibly. The place is filled with people, many of whose faces I'm well acquainted with. They're the titans  of his work, legends who deliver his programs, indeed some of whom collaborate  with him creating his programs. To say I get nervous is an understatement. What's closer to the truth is I develop a sudden case of severe stage fright.

"O  ... K  ..." I say to myself, and face my mounting panic. It's not easy ... but soon I'm mustering enough verve  and audacity to push through it and blend right in. It's actually not so bad. My panic, not getting the attention it craves, quickly dissipates.

He sees me (he's expecting me), noticing me through the throng from across the room. I wait. Soon he comes over and embraces me.

"OK everybody out!"  he calls out loudly. "Lar and I need some time together.".


Lar  is his term of endearment for me, from the Roman god of the house.


The room empties immediately. Now it's just him sitting on a couch, and me sitting in front of him on a straight back chair. Nothing else imposes into the space except silence, anticipation, and the palpable pregnancy of my unasked questions.

4: Holding Down The Floor

Photography by Gurmeet Khurana - On Mastery: An Evening with Werner Erhard - Delhi, India - 8:30pm Monday November 10, 2010

Somehow she's falling. I hear a sickening thud  as she hits the floor. She's probably also impacted herself on a chair or two on the way down. Did she faint? Did she trip? I don't know. But one thing's for sure: whatever happened, she's in trouble now.

Instinctively I stand up to assist. But I'm not moving with the speed I should be moving with, given the severity of what I've just witnessed. I don't know what that's  all about. I'm too slow to pick up on what needs to be done? I'm assuming someone else  will take care of her? (and no one does).

Then suddenly out of the corner of my eye, I see him running  over to where she's fallen. I mean ... he's sprinting  across the room, covering the distance between him and her in seconds, his feet pounding  the floorboards. He reaches her and kneels down next to her. She's groaning. I can hear. She's obviously in distress.

"Don't move, Sweetheart" he says to her ... and then (to no one in particular) "Somebody call 911" - cool as ice.

He speaks to her, calming her. She's still groaning, but she sounds  as if she's in less distress, now that he's with her. Soon her groans stop, and he's still with her, still kneeling beside her, the only one beside her, everyone else now simply watching him with her.

Then he says to her "You're doing a great job holding down the floor, Sweetheart.".

After a moment's uncertainty, she laughs, a relieved  laugh which breaks the silence and the tension in the room. Soon everyone  in the room is laughing and relieved.

"You're  ... doing  ... a  ... great  ... job  ... holding  ... down  ... the  ... floor  ... Sweetheart"  ...

Very soon the emergency personnel arrive and attend to her.

The next day I find myself sitting next to her. She doesn't look any the worse for wear. We're both listening him speaking from the podium in the front of the room. In the next break I ask her how she's feeling. She says she's fine. I ask her what happened. She says she doesn't remember. She says she remembers him kneeling over her ... and that's all. I ask her "Do you remember what he said to you?". "No" she says. "What did he say?". I tell her: "You're doing a great job holding down the floor, Sweetheart.".

She's quiet, getting it, letting it sink in. Then she says "He said ... that?". "Yes" I reply "when you were down.".

Wordlessly she turns away from me and looks at him at the podium. I have a feeling she doesn't want me to see the tears filling her eyes. I can tell she loves him very much.

5: Sprite

Photography by Gurmeet Khurana - On Mastery: An Evening with Werner Erhard - Delhi, India - 8:30pm Monday November 10, 2010

With a tray in my hand and an apron around my waist, I'm picking up empty glasses and taking them back to the kitchen. It's been a great event. He's created the space in which the people working with him on a project, can experience being acknowledged and appreciated. People are standing around in pairs, in threes, and small groups, talking.

I look around for him. At first I can't see him anywhere. Where is  he? ...

Over in the distance I see a figure seated on a cushion on the ledge in a bay window. I position myself so I can see around the people in my way and get a cleaner line of sight. It's him. No doubt about it. There's no one talking with him. People surround him, talking among themselves, but no one's talking with him. I go over to him to look for empty glasses around him to clear away. There are none.

So being there, I say "Please may I get you anything?". He doesn't answer immediately. At first I think he may not have heard me. Then I realize he's considering  my request ... and after a brief moment he says "Yes thank you. I'll have a Sprite.". "A Sprite coming right up, Chief" I say.

I return with the Sprite which I've poured into a glass with some ice. He's still sitting there in the bay window with people talking all around him but not with him. He looks up at me and I hand him the Sprite.

"Thank You" he says, taking a sip.

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