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

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It Shows Up Personal But It Ain't Personal

Calistoga, California, USA

August 3, 2006
Reposted January 5, 2021

This essay, It Shows Up Personal But It Ain't Personal, is the companion piece to Born Into It: A Way For Family.

It is also the prequel to On Not Taking It Personally: A New Freedom.

We're crazy  for comfort. It's as if we're cheated when we're uncomfortable. It's as if there's something to do which we haven't yet done, the doing of which will eliminate being uncomfortable. We've got it wired that life should  be comfortable. The truth is life is sometimes comfortable and sometimes it isn't. Even when it's uncomfortable, the show goes on.

Life didn't come with a manufacturer's guarantee that it will always be comfortable. Interestingly enough, when life is comfortable we ease up. By that I mean life is more likely to go unexamined  when it's comfortable. When life is comfortable, that's when I'm most likely to let it run on automatic. But when it's uncomfortable, when there's a palpable sense of dis-ease, when there's a sense of I don't like, that's when I'm most likely to question. That's when I'm most likely to reflect. And my first take after reflection when I'm uncomfortable, is often "There's something wrong  here.".

But if the truth be told, the interpretation that something's wrong here when it's uncomfortable, is also on automatic.

I've noticed when it's uncomfortable, that there's a sense that it's personal. And there's even a predictable conversation that goes along with it, which sounds something like this:

"I'm not comfortable  with this. I don't like this. This isn't right. It shouldn't be  this way. Something's wrong. This shouldn't be happening. This shouldn't be happening to me.".

The sense that it's personal is pervasive. But it's not  personal. It's just what we inherited along with human being. And because there's no immediate recognition of that, we rarely inquire into its impersonal nature because we have it that it's personal. Actually it's more than that: it's we're thrown  that it's personal. But look: you don't ask "Why Me?"  when it's raining, do you? That's right: you don't.

Since we're more likely to question when life is uncomfortable, what's the distinction in life being uncomfortable which, when distinguished, creates the space to simply be with the experience of life being uncomfortable  so that what's there, is labeled neither as uncomfortable nor as comfortable, but rather ... simply ... as life being life - just the way it is and just the way it isn't?

Consider this: it shows up  personal ... but it ain't personal.

No, not as a rule. Neither as a formula. It's not a discipline either. And, to be sure, if you turn it into a belief, it loses all its power. But as a place to stand and look from, it's really powerful. Try it on for size. You may notice when life is comfortable, we

 a)  assume it's the way it's s'posed to be, and
b)  we go along with it.

You may also notice when life isn't comfortable, we

 a)  assume something's wrong, and assume it's somehow personal, and
b)  we try to change it.

Yet if you examine each, you'll see they're both quite arbitrary and automatic.

It doesn't require a vote on your part. Entertaining the point of view "It shows up personal ... but it ain't personal"  creates the space to be, and the clarity to see. Use it like a lens to examine human being  and whatever goeswith  the territory of being human (as Alan Watts may have said). There's a certain freedom in discovering that much of the stuff  in life that we take personally, both that which we don't like and that which we like, isn't personal at all. We simply inherited it by being born.

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