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

Independence Day

Chimney Rock, Napa Valley, California, USA

Fourth of July, 2006

This essay, Independence Day, is the second in a group of sixteen written on the Fourth Of July:
  1. Anticipation: Accounting For An American Love Affair
  2. Independence Day
  3. I'd Rather Be With Me
  4. Do It For Nothing
  5. The Only Way Out Is Through
  6. Under All Circumstances
  7. Word Power
  8. When There's Nothing To Say
  9. The Possibility Of Being Independent And Free
  10. Intimacy In A Crowded Place
  11. What Goes On Internally
  12. Imprints Of Love
  13. Bookends: A Reflection On Mortality
  14. Come Back To Being
  15. Nobody Is Responsible Except You
  16. Like A Monk In A Cave
in that order.

The fourth of July. Independence day.

Today we celebrate our independence as a nation. There's no question the United States has achieved what no other nation in the history of this planet has even come close to achieving. Yet the jury is still out determining whether the United States' stewardship of the planet will leave a malevolent or a benevolent legacy for our children, indeed for our children's children's children. The scientific and sociological experiment called the United States of America is still inconclusive.

How can this be? How can it be with all our power and with all our might and with all our will, we're still not sure how this will turn out?

I assert it's because we've traditionally considered independence  to be on the win  side of a win / lose  coin. But independence isn't and never was that. Even if it were, it's not powerful when regarded that way. All independence would be good for would be to perpetuate the futile struggles between good and bad, between right and wrong, between win and lose.

Independence, in its purest and most potent  sense, is really a possibility  of being for human beings.

What's the possibility of independence for human beings?

As an idea but not as a rule, the possibility of independence for human beings isn't separation. Neither is it standing alone. The possibility of independence is inclusion. The way to be independent of anything is to include it, to have it be the way it is and the way it isn't. Total independence is, quite literally, being totally who you are. Paradoxically, that includes everything.
What's the possibility of independence for creativity?

In those times when I'm most creative, I notice there's very little pre-planning. Whether I'm speaking or painting or writing, I've a sense of witnessing something new emerging  in the moment rather than of bringing forth something already formulated.

What that looks like when I'm speaking (for example, when leading seminars) is there's a sense of I'm listening to what's being said and hearing it for the first time just as anyone in my seminar audience hears me speak it.

What that looks like when I'm painting is something happens between the brush and the bristol paper that wasn't going to happen before I picked up the brush. When I see what appears on the bristol, that's the first time I know what it's going to be. Clearly it's what I intended to paint. Yet it's only after the fact I get to see what it is.

What that looks like when I'm writing is there's a sense of purpose and a sense of intention to write something which empowers and makes a difference, inspired by the ideas of Werner Erhard. Yes, there's a direction in which I know I would like to go. But the content of my writing itself, just as with my speaking and with my painting, seems to find its own voice. In other words, once it's written (or, to say it more appropriate to the medium I work in, once it's typed)  and I've read what I've written, that's really the first time I find out what I intended to say.

In this context, the possibility of independence for creativity is courage. By that I mean this: as an expression of the ongoingly creative universe, every  human being is creative. I'm not saying we're creative like we have a skill  or like we have a talent. I'm saying it like creativity is our true nature. Being creative calls for the courage to be who you really are.
What's the possibility of independence for mind?

The possibility of independence for mind (the voice)  is listening / observing - plain and simple. Listening / observing the voice creates the distinction listenerobserver / the voice. It's the act of listening / observing the voice which brings forth the being, the listener / observer, as distinct from the voice.

As a corollary of that, the barrier  to mind independence is the tacit agreement that listening / observing the voice is either not possible, is not viable, is apathetic, has no intrinsic value, or is simply misguided. But the voice isn't listened / observed as a tool nor as a technique nor as leverage for advantage nor as a method nor as a cure. The voice is listened / observed as a stand for being. And that which stands  is the listener / observer. That's the possibility of independence for mind.
What's the possibility of independence for money?

My business took me to a different state every week for almost twenty years. Making money for my children made it seem worthwhile. One day in a Holiday Inn somewhere (I forget where) (or was it in a Sheraton? ... but at any rate, in a scene straight from If It's Tuesday, This Must Be Belgium), I looked in the mirror and asked myself how it profited me to make money for my children when the cost was not seeing them three or four days a week.

I now have a more modest income - less than a quarter of what I earned before. I work close to home. I can be with my children. When they call me if they need me I can drop everything at a moment's notice and be there. Here's what I've noticed:

I earn X amount of dollars. I'm uncomfortable and concerned at the end of every month about meeting my financial obligations. I wish I had more money. Yet when I earned five times  more than I earn now, I was just as uncomfortable  and had the same concern  at the end of every month about meeting my financial obligations. That aspect of it stays the same - except now, earning less, I'm closer to my children. You can't buy that for love or money. How can I buy back time lost from my children?

Consider this: if money could buy transformation the affluent would all be transformed by now.
What's the possibility of independence for health?

I eat salads and light protein once a day. I swim a mile twice a day. Left to themselves, those habits don't endure. If I miss a salad and take fast food instead, in an instant the trend of years of good eating is broken. Soon I'm looking out for McDonalds rather than Fresh Choice. If I miss just one day swimming, my body immediately starts generating excuses to shut down further exercise.

You don't have health except for when you create it. We've known for a long time what works for health: diet and exercise. Taking them on with positive thinking and hope like new year's resolutions, never works. The possibility of independence for health is tenacity.

There's a short half-life for health benefits of diet and exercise. As soon as you stop, all earned benefits start degrading. There's no accumulation, no resting on laurels, no standing still. If you're not exercising, if you're not watching your diet, you're backsliding. If you're exercising and watching your diet tenaciously, it works only until you stop. There's no carrying forward of benefits. There's no 401(K)  retirement plan for health without tenacity.
What's the possibility of independence for relationship?

When I first listened to Werner distinguishing what's arguably the most missed  and yet, with hindsight, the most obvious  aspect of being human, it changed everything about the way I relate to people, how am in relationships, and how I regard (or disregard, as the case may be) relationship as a fulfillment of need.

We human beings, all six billion of us alive at last count, are already related  ... yes? No wonder, then, as we forage around in a self made world of relationship as scarcity  do things look complicated, troubled, hard, incompatible etc. We've got it ass backwards. There's nothing to do to be in relationship. We already are.

As with anything Werner stands for, that's not a rule. Nor is it a recipe or a formula for relationship. It's simply a place to stand, a point of view to try on and see what's possible in relationship when looking from that vantage. And if what occurs looking from that vantage works, use it. If not, discard it and try on something else.

The possibility of independence for relationship is generosity - recognizing being  in and granting being  to all human beings. Since all human beings already have being, that's not merely a good  way to be or the right  way to be: it's appropriate, smart, and prudent.
Photography by Alexandra Lindsey Platt - Galleria dell'Accademia, Firenze, Italia - 1:07pm Friday April 29, 2011
by Michelangelo
When Michelangelo was asked to explain the process by which he sculpted David from the marble slab, he said he didn't sculpt David from the marble slab. He said David was already whole and complete inside the marble slab. His job was simply to remove the excess marble. God!  I love  Michelangelo's way of seeing things ...

So it is with independence and inventing the possibility of independence. We're already independent. Our only work is to process out the extraneous material.

Given the direction of the world today and our probable almost certain future in the direction we're headed, it behooves us to consider what the future could be if we, the United States of America, took responsibility for creating independence not like the win side of a win / lose coin but rather like a possibility of being for human beings.

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