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


It's A Blank Canvas

Grgich Hills, Rutherford, California, USA

December 28, 2014

"There are certain things you can only know by creating them for yourself."  ...   quoted by Richard Feynman, Nobel Prize-winning physicist 
"The monotony and solitude of a quiet life stimulates the creative mind." ... Albert Einstein

"It doesn't always have to be like this ... all we need to do is make sure we keep talking." ... Stephen Hawking




It is said that Life presents us with a blank (for the most part) canvas on which we can create (just about) anything of our own choosing. I've qualified that assertion twice: once with "for the most  part", and again with "just  about". That's not to say there are things we can't  create - our creativity (indeed, creativity itself) knows no bounds. Rather what it addresses is the likelihood that some of the things we could  create, simply wouldn't work as well as others - creating anything, for example, in violation of the law of the land  or in violation of integrity being two obvious cases in point.

Most often when we work with canvas, the way we create something on it, is by painting. And most often when we apply paint to canvas, we do so with a brush. But that's not the only way to create something on canvas. There are works of art of which I'm particularly fond, which were created by the artist pouring  paint onto the canvas rather than applying it with a brush in the more traditional way. And then there are other more avant garde  works of art created by the artist throwing ie flinging  paint at the canvas, the results of which can be both dramatic and intense.

Developing the analogy of Life as a blank canvas further, what media are available to us with which we can paint anything (ie anything that works)  on Life? Consider this: rather than oil, pastel, or watercolor paint, it's our words  which we apply to Life's canvas. Sometimes we brush our words on. Sometimes we pour them on. Sometimes we fling them at Life. And the canvas which results ie the work of art which results, is a product both of our words, and of whatever method we deploy when we create whatever we create with our words - that is to say whether we brush our words on Life, whether we pour them on, or whether we fling them on.

Here's the essential difference between an artist applying paint to canvas to create a work of art, and you and I applying words to Life to create whatever it is we create: an artist is aware  it's her paints applied to the canvas which result in her work of art looking the way it looks, whereas you and I are (for the most part) un‑aware it's the words we apply to the canvas of Life which result in our lives looking the way they look ... and  ... which have the power to transform its quality. Indeed, they're the only things which ever have.

I like the Einstein quote which starts this essay: "The monotony and solitude of a quiet life stimulates the creative mind.". Einstein is far from ordinary. Yet I selected it because it's the most brilliant, terse rendition I could find of how we ordinarily  regard the source of creativity - and for a brilliant and terse idea, who better than Einstein? Ordinarily we regard the mind as the source of creativity, and our words as the conveyer  (if you will) of whatever results from its creativity. I can only speculate what might have transpired had Einstein, like Richard Feynman (another Nobel Prize-winning physicist) after him, fortuitously inquired into the source of creativity in a conversation with Werner Erhard. Would he have considered a one hundred and eighty degree reversal of his position? Would he have considered his words  to be the source of creativity rather than the mind, and the mind  to be the conveyer of whatever results from their creativity rather than his words?

Arguably it's a moot point anyway, given it was whatever Einstein ultimately spoke  which altered the possibility of life on our planet for everyone - which begs a very real question: if Einstein had not  spoken, would his ideas have had as much of an impact? If Stephen Hawking had not spoken, would his ideas have had as much of an impact? Before Einstein there was only a blank canvas onto which he brushed, poured, and flung the words which eventually comprised his theory of relativity  (now universally accepted as de rigueur). Before Stephen Hawking there was only a blank canvas, onto which he brushes, pours, and flings the words which will eventually comprise his theory of everything  (still a work in progress).

Whether this is "the truth" or not (and God! I hope you're not assuming I'm proposing this like it is  "the truth" - saying this like it's "the truth" will completely ruin  it for you ...), it's worth considering that all  of Life is a blank canvas onto which we're empowered to brush, pour, and fling our words. It's these linguistic acts  which will eventually result in our lives looking the way they look, for worse or for better, and which by the same token have the power to transform them.



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