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

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In Dire Circumstances

Mandalay Beach, Oxnard Shores, Ventura County, California, USA

August 29, 2020

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This essay is the companion piece to Under All Circumstances.

It is also the fourth in a sextology on Circumstances:

In dire circumstances, urgency is palpable. Bad news thrives on that the direr the circumstances, the greater the urgency for restoring normalcy. The good news is: ... no, wait: there's really not a lot of good news in dire circumstances. That's their distinguishing feature. What's worth looking at instead, is that in the midst of dire circumstances, what there is, is the way it is  (and the way it isn't). I assert there's power  in this distinction (which I'll tease out in this conversation). Wishing, hoping, wanting, and praying for good news, is natural (indeed, it's very human)  in the midst of dire circumstances. We're thrown  to look to and for imminent good news. It's our own brand of frenzied, hopeless optimism. We're sure "with all this manure, there must be a pony  in here somewhere" (as James Kirkwood may have said).

Yet consider that doing so, as human as it is, may actually (and inadvertently) obfuscate the possibility of real, powerful, authentic  transformation in the face of all circumstances, no matter what  the circumstances. Why should that be? What would make it so? Listen: this is counter-intuitive  territory. It's counter-intuitive because dire circumstances obscure the ongoing possibility that transformation is available at all times, no matter what the circumstances - and primarily in the midst of dire circumstances, we look to change (ie to prevent) the circumstances. It's only secondarily that we look to bring the possibility of being transformed, to bear - if at all.

Maybe it's because as machines, we're wired to survive, so we have no choice but  to be that way in the face of any real or imagined threats to our survival. Maybe it's because (if we tell the truth about it) we've cast transformation as little more than a colloquial change ie as a benevolent force for the good, as a "fixer", as the righter of wrongs  (if you will), as the restorer of balance. But transformation is none of the above. And it can't and won't do any of the above - much to the contrary of how we cast it, what we wish, hope, want, and pray for, and (standing in the futility of it) much to our chagrin, disappointment, and fear. It just doesn't happen by itself.

If wishing, hoping, wanting, and praying worked in the face of dire circumstances (that is to say if wishing, hoping, wanting, and praying had any power  in the face of dire circumstances) and indeed had any power at all over  the circumstances, we wouldn't merely vanquish all dire circumstances in which we find ourselves: we would prevent them entirely  ie we would have them not show up at all in the first place (and let's face it: our many attempts to do that, aren't going well for us, are they?).

Try this on for size: what makes circumstances dire  (as distinct from regular, vanilla, common or garden variety circumstances) is the degree to which they overwhelm our ability to cast them as the way it is, and to accept them that way, and so to relate to them powerfully. In other words by definition, circumstances are dire when they overwhelm our ability to be  with them. And that (I really want you to get this) doesn't begin to speak to changing them or preventing them from re-occurring - which we may yet do ie which we may have to do for posterity. The thing to get here is being transformed as a possibility is invented prior to changing or preventing.

Transformation (wholly and in part) pivots on our ability to distinguish between who we really are ... and our circumstances. And dire circumstances (which pose wholesale and imminent threats to life, survival, and property for example) threaten us to the degree that we lose sight of our power to cast circumstances as what's so. That's why transformation is disempowered when it's cast as change. Transformation happens prior to change. The domain of change is circumstance. The domain of transformation is who we are (and who we intend to be) like a context for life  in the face of any circumstance - the direst of which notwithstanding. That's power.

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