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

Intimacy In A Crowded Place

Chicago, Illinois, USA

Fourth of July, 2017

"A miracle* is something that validates who you are rather than diminishes who you are." ... 
"'What I did is not OK (end of story)' works better than 'I apologize for what I did.'." ... 
This essay, Intimacy In A Crowded Place, is the companion piece to
It is also the first in the ninth trilogy Visits With A Friend:
  1. Intimacy In A Crowded Place
  2. What Goes On Internally
  3. Riding The Horse Revisited
in that order.
The first trilogy Visits With A Friend is:
  1. Second First Impression
  2. Do Artists Retire?
  3. Presence Of Love
in that order.
The second trilogy Visits With A Friend is:
  1. Black Brick
  2. Wet Water
  3. On Saying Nothing
in that order.
The third trilogy Visits With A Friend is:
  1. Master Of Life
  2. Face To Face
  3. Love And Kindness
in that order.
The fourth trilogy Visits With A Friend is:
  1. Personal Piece
  2. Magnum Opus
  3. Walk A Way With Me
in that order.
The fifth trilogy Visits With A Friend is:
  1. Natural Expression
  2. Essential Question
  3. There Is No "The Answers"
in that order.
The sixth trilogy Visits With A Friend is:
  1. Sophisticated Palate
  2. Open To Everyone
  3. Portal
in that order.
The seventh trilogy Visits With A Friend is:
  1. Meetings With A Remarkable Man
  2. Being Directed By The Unanswered Question
  3. Out Here
in that order.
The eighth trilogy Visits With A Friend is:
  1. Read To Us
  2. Seven Fingers
  3. Smart People
in that order.
The ninth trilogy Visits With A Friend is the sequel to A Request Asked Harder.

It is also the prequel to Reinventing The Game.

It is also the tenth 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.


Unlike most of the other essays in this Conversations For Transformation internet series of essays, the body of this essay, Intimacy In A Crowded Place, embeds no links to other videos, photographs, quotes, papers, music, music videos, other websites, or even to other essays.

My intention in omitting these useful links from this particular essay is to clear the space of all but the absolute minimum required material so you can be with it and give it your full attention with no distractions, allowing you to recreate the exchanges portrayed in it as accurately as possible for yourself. It's in recreating the exchanges portrayed in this essay accurately for yourself, that you'll get to own its experience in its entirety.

The first thing I do when I arrive, is say hello to, one by one, the veritable team it takes to fulfill his vision. He's nearly eighty two now. Yet he runs this group, some of whom are a third of his age, ragged keeping up with him. Ordinarily when you pay a personal visit, you expect intimacy to equate to privacy - which is to say, that you'll be alone with whomever you're going to be intimate with. That's not necessarily so around him. There's a complex personal space he's brilliant at structuring for people. And one of its brilliances (if you will) is it's a deeply and profoundly intimate space, regardless of how many people are in it. Soon I'll be sitting at a table with him, face to face, in a conversation sharing my most intimate details imaginable (in which it's a good bet I'll be moved to tears on more than one occasion) with seven of his squad all sitting working close enough around us for me to reach over to shake their hands. This isn't your typical setup for intimacy. But this is his  space. So is it any wonder it works better for intimacy than any more typical ie any more traditional setup for intimacy I've ever known? No not really. I'm on fire with anticipation.

Photography by Laurence Platt

Chicago, Illinois, USA
10:23:01pm Monday July 3, 2017

1992 Opus One by Robert Mondavi / Baron Phillippe de Rothschild
Opus One 1992 Vintage
I actually don't see him come into the room (my attention is on another aspect of this marvelously creative space) until I hear his voice in my ear, welcoming me and hugging me (it's as if the physical universe itself has suddenly grown arms, enveloped me, and is hugging me). He's excited to see me - I can tell. It's palpable. There's no standing on ceremony or politeness here with him. It's his high-octane welcome which kick-starts the entire promise of what's to come - like a Harley-Davidson's  full-throated roar at the start of the ride.

I've brought him a gift. I actually bought it for him years ago. But this is the first opportunity I've had to give it to him. It's a bottle of Opus One  of the 1992 vintage. It's therefore now twenty five years old. It's a classic, a collector's item. I make the following request of him: "As classic, prized, and as highly rated as this is, if you taste it and it isn't perfect, then please promise me you'll pour it down the drain.". There's Zen in that. He loves it. He promises. He says he'll keep it for a few more years, then savor it. "Opus One" of course is "Great Work". That's him. The logo has the profiles of its co-creators merged. Everything about it is perfect as a gift for him from me.

Around him I'm as open as a human being can possibly be - naked, unveiled, transparent. In the course of taking the conversation to a bone-numbing level of intimacy, I confess things I've done which aren't OK with me, things I can't stand that I've done, things which are my worst memories which I can't erase. I share with him I've contacted each and every single person in those memories, and that I've apologized to all of them, and that they've forgiven me. But at the end of the day, I can't forgive myself. The memories haunt me.

What he says next rocks  me, tips my world off its axis. He says our apologies only get us off the hook  with people. And you can't get off the hook with yourself. He differentiates between apologizing for what we did, and acknowledging what we did wasn't OK. What I did, wasn't OK. That's  the truth (end of story). That's where it completes. I look: there's nothing left. It's gone very quiet in my head.

He asks about my family, my children, my life in general. He's surprisingly up to date with my entire life. I say "surprisingly" because he doesn't have to be. I don't expect it. But he is. He celebrates my children's successes with me. I acknowledge the contribution he's being to my success as a father. I thank him. He takes extra time to acknowledge his respect for my breakthrough in my relationship with my ex-wife, the mother of my children, for communicating with her and re-establishing the connection after a ten year absence.

He shares his own now healed absence from his family with me. What I get is he's clear what he did was not OK. There's no making it right. No apology can do that - even if it's tried as a more traditional path. It's his knowing what he did wasn't OK, that completes it for me. I nod, amazed. He just proved to me his "What I did is not OK (end of story)" works better than my "I apologize for what I did.".

An aide serves us cups of piping hot green tea as we speak, replenishing them from time to time. At some point the cups stop being replenished. He calls out loudly, startling everyone within earshot: "CAN WE HAVE MORE TEA OVER HERE  ... THE TWO PEOPLE?". The two people? That's he and me, the two of us. This is intimacy in a crowded place. The cups are replenished. Another aide lights a stick of fine Sho-Kaku  Japanese incense, placing it nearby in a holder. It's not pungent or smoky like other incenses - in fact I can barely detect it. But when I move my head to intentionally draw it into my nostrils, it's sublime - divine, in fact. It's clearly something worthy of being showcased in this extraordinary space - obviously well chosen for this specific purpose. In this crowded place you'll find the very best of everything.

Being around him like this ie having been granted the access to be with him, is a privilege - plain and simple (there's no two ways about that). Something happens in these exchanges of ours during these visits, which manifests itself in me as an altered form of creativity ie as a powerful expression of who I really am. The result of it (which I no longer try to understand) is this Conversations For Transformation internet series of essays in which I, in turn, get to make him accessible to you too. That he allows me to take this out of our relationship and into the world to share with you like this, is a gift of ultimate trust. He trusts me - period. But his is no ordinary trust. His trust is a gift he bestows, not something I have to earn. When I really get what a gift it is to be trusted like this, it's all I can do to show up trustworthy.

Listen: that's  a miracle* - in the truest sense of the word.

* Werner's "A miracle is something that validates who you are rather than diminishes who you are" isn't the use of the word "miracle" as it's interpreted in the Bible. But it is the most accurate, all-encompassing use of the word.

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