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


Integrity Doesn't Imprint Like Balance

Cowboy Cottage, East Napa, California, USA

June 18, 2015



"Without being a man or woman of integrity you can forget about being a leader. And, being a person of integrity is a never-ending endeavor. Being a person of integrity is a mountain with no top - you have to learn to love the climb.".
 ... 
This essay, Integrity Doesn't Imprint Like Balance, is the thirteenth in a group of sixteen on Integrity: It is also the sequel to Distraction / Consolation: Getting Away From Who I Am.

I am indebted to Commander Dreyvan Dayse, Indian Navy (ret), and to Owen Gusman who inspired this conversation, and to George Swan who contributed material.




You all remember the first occasion you rode a bicycle successfully without falling down. Even if you didn't say it this way at that tender age, what you did was you distinguished balance. From then on, it wasn't necessary to first distinguish balance before riding your bike again: you simply got on and rode. Balance, once distinguished, is permanently imprinted. And once you'd distinguished balance, riding your bike (and everything else in the entire physical universe, for that matter) entered a new realm of possibility.

You also remember the first time you distinguished integrity as honoring your word. And once you'd distinguished integrity as honoring your word, living and life itself entered a new realm of possibility in which integrity plays a pivotal role, if not the essential  role. Yet although they're both learned distinctions, integrity doesn't imprint like balance. It's not its nature. Unlike balance, you have to generate integrity again and again over and over and over on each and every single occasion.

That's the essence of a conversation a friend and I were enjoying in which he was reflecting on having distinguished balance once and, from then on, never losing it. He was, from then on, never off balance (so to speak) - or we also could say he was "never out of  balance" if you will. But he was, as he ruefully noted, unable to get to the same place with integrity ie a place where, having distinguished it once, he would be, from then on, "never out of integrity". He knows the cost of being out of balance. Yet he doesn't have to generate balance over and over again. Balance imprints. Yet even knowing the cost of being out of integrity, he has to generate integrity over and over again. Integrity doesn't imprint like balance - even though knowing the cost of being out of integrity, imprints. This is how it is with integrity.

The pull, we both observed, is towards balance, not away from it. Yet the pull is away  from integrity, not towards it. Distinguishing integrity (and in particular, distinguishing the cost of being out of integrity) doesn't ensure integrity. Yes that's a good start ... but that's all it is. You have to generate integrity ongoingly, otherwise there's no integrity. The bad news is: you're a human being: you can always be pulled, skewed, and tempted away from integrity. The good news is: you're a human being: you can always generate integrity.

Listening Werner speaking integrity, I get that being in integrity is like climbing a mountain (it's not like walking on flat ground - that's too pedestrian). And it's actually more than like merely climbing a mountain: it's like climbing a mountain with no top, so you can never make it to the top. More than that, this topless mountain keeps on growing, so even when you think you've made it to the top, you're not there yet!  In this case, it's best to learn to love the climb. So it's naïve to speak of being in integrity in the same breath as acquiring balance. Integrity's not like that. That's not the way it works. Integrity's generated. It's not imprinted ie it doesn't  imprint.

The implications of these assertions perhaps fill some of the gaps in our knowledge of human nature. People who grew up in an environment with no integrity, can still generate integrity. And people who grew up in an environment with  integrity, may not generate integrity. Vice versa, the same could be said for whomever's pulled away from being in integrity. People who grew up in an environment with integrity, may not recognize the pull away from integrity, and then live out of integrity. And people who grew up in an environment with no  integrity, may yet recognize the pull away from integrity, and then choose to generate integrity. Integrity isn't a function of the environment we grew up in. It's a stand we freely and ongoingly choose to take. It's not conditioned behavior. Integrity doesn't imprint like balance.



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