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

Initial Objective

Jessel Gallery, Napa, California, USA

May 7, 2009

"When you're up to your ass in alligators, it's hard to remember your initial objective was to drain the swamp."  ... 
This essay, Initial Objective, was written at the same time as

Photograph courtesy Getty Images
Alligators Wanting To Bite Your Ass In The Swamp
Getting back to where I was ie recalling my frame of reference  when I became aware for the first time of the idea of enlightenment, I had many ideas of what it might be like. I also, by comparing it (or whatever I considered it to be) to the state I considered my life to be in at the time, had many ideas of what it might not  be like.

What I didn't realize at the time ie what I had no way of knowing  at the time, is I'd unwittingly obfuscated "transformation" with "enlightenment" - mainly because Werner Erhard hadn't yet appeared on my horizon, so the distinction transformation  hadn't yet entered the realm of possibility in my universe.

In the absence of the distinction transformation, I took material from what was available to me ie from what I'd heard and from what I'd read about enlightenment. I related to it. It sounded more and more like what I was looking for, like something I wanted in my life, like something I should  find out about, like something worth going  for.

It was more than that, actually. I'd started believing enlightenment was the only  thing worth going for, like something worth (for want of a better word) attaining. It became a full time job. If you consider you aren't yet  enlightened, then attaining enlightenment is a full time job. Attaining anything you aren't  is a full time job. I didn't get that until much later. I was entrenched in a belief there's a path  to enlightenment. Being entrenched in a belief  means I didn't realize it was a belief. For me, it was simply "the truth"  that there was a path to enlightenment. Being on the path to enlightenment became a spiritual quest.

Now, here's the thing: any quest, almost by definition, is an obsession. What I also didn't realize at the time is there's something pernicious, something counterproductive being obsessed. It's especially pernicious being obsessed with a spiritual quest. Paradoxically all things "spiritual" are supposed to be free from obsession, free from attachment. It was self-defeating from the get go  to be on a spiritual quest. Only I didn't know it. I was obsessed. I hadn't figured that out yet either.

In hindsight  (and hindsight is always 20/20  vision), I was also entrenched in another belief in my already elaborate belief system about enlightenment: the belief I was un-enlightened. The belief I was unenlightened was a very strong belief, a kind of conviction  really. It went hand in hand with another equally strong conviction: being un-enlightened, I would have to work on myself long and hard  to attain enlightenment. I had no idea I was setting in concrete two of the single biggest barriers  to enlightenment: the beliefs a) I was un-enlightened, and b) with long hard work I could attain enlightenment.

Then came transformation. You could call transformation enlightenment. But the trouble with calling transformation enlightenment  is enlightenment has a kind of mystical  connotation, a spiritual  slant, an eastern  context. Transformation requires none of the above. In a transformed life, nothing changes. Everything is the same ... AND  ... what's newly available is authentic presence of Self, a powerful context in which possibility (new ideas, fresh intentions, powerful original actions) can show up where before there was no chance  for possibility.

All the things I'd been putting up with  and trying to change? All those things I thought enlightenment would fix, forgive, cure, render irrelevant, or save  me from? Unworkability in relationships? Things I knew  I'd never 'fessed up to? Destructive behavior? Self sabotage? Past based patterns? With Transformation there's a powerful new context  in which to deal with them by taking responsibility for them, thereby allowing them to clear up and disappear just in the process of life itself. Transformation doesn't void  my responsibility in the matter. It's not a magic get out of jail free  card. Transformation goeswith  the willingness to be responsible (as Alan Watts may have said).
Werner Erhard famously observes the myth  problems will diminish  after transformation. Instead, against the empowering background of presence of Self, there are more problems to take responsibility for, there are bigger  problems to take on. Another way of saying this is there are bigger games to play. It's counter-intuitive: playing bigger games, taking on bigger problems effectively renders smaller  problems less significant if not entirely irrelevant. Figuratively speaking, a big problem like the amputation of an arm effectively renders a smaller problem like a sprained wrist insignificant. In other words, from a transformed perspective, taking on big problems solves small problems. Transformation doesn't fix, forgive, cure, render problems irrelevant to, or save you. Rather, it provides a bigger arena, a vast  context in which to take on bigger games to play. Taking responsibility for playing bigger games relegates small problems to insignificance.

The alligators wanting to bite your ass in the swamp just when you're about to achieve your initial objective of draining it, come in various forms. They may simply be whatever's there for you to handle next  ie all the things which happen to you while you're busy making other plans (as John Lennon may have said). Or they may be like moths attracted to the flame of transformation: people who without contributing any light of their own volition, get in the way yet have no malice aforethought. Or they may be bona fide Princes of Darkness  who make it their business to interfere in whatever way they can whenever transformation makes its presence known on our planet.

Transformation isn't a magic get out of the swamp free  card. It's not a magic get saved from the alligators  card either. Whatever they are, whatever form they take, you have to take on alligators if your objective is to drain the swamp. You can listen them. You can learn a lot from them even if they do want to bite your ass. You could allow them to train you, for example, to take on a much bigger games  - such as reinventing yourself as an alligator whisperer.

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