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

Liberated By I Don't Know

Napa Valley, California, USA

November 30, 2008
Reposted March 29, 2021

This essay, Liberated By I Don't Know, is the companion piece to Living In I Don't Know.

It's not getting to know what I don't know, that's liberating. It's being willing to entertain the possibility that I don't know what I already  know, that's liberating.

A person who's very, very dear to me canceled an arrangement we'd set up, to which I was really looking forward. I hadn't seen her in a while. I love being in her company. When I'm with her, there's nothing to do. There's no agenda. There's no items to tick off a to-do list  either. There's never anything to do when I'm with her, except be with  her. Whenever I'm with her, it's an experience of two beings of pure love swimming in a pool of pure love together.

There are some people with whom being-with is simply business. There are other people with whom being-with is an expression of friendship. Then there are those people with whom being-with is a reward, with whom being-with is the validation of Life itself. She's one of the latter people. We had a meeting planned, to which I was really looking forward. And she canceled - at the very last minute.

My meaning-making  interpretation machinery revved into high overdrive.

I knew  someone I'm familiar with, said something to her about me which caused her to rethink our relationship and cancel our arrangement. She didn't say  she was told something about me which caused her to cancel our meeting. But I knew  she was. It was very clear to me. It was obvious. She'd been turned against  me by a mischief-making  intermediary who has an axe to grind with me. Nobody had to tell me that's what happened. But I knew. It was obvious.

Now ... the point I'm making here (with perfect 20/20  hindsight vision), is there was no way  I could have known her cancellation meant she'd been turned against me. I'm not psychic. I'm not gifted with ESP  either. And no little bluebird alit on my shoulder tweeting it in my ear. There was no way I could have known what I knew. But neither was there the distinction "You don't know what you know, Laurence.". And if the truth be told, I didn't know that I didn't know it. It had all the hallmarks of "the truth"  - no, it WAS  "the truth". And the thing is the conclusions I was drawing from this truth, this truth that wasn't "the truth", were all leading me toward making a colossal mistake (any time you act knowing the truth when it's not the truth, that's a colossal mistake).

Now that the smoke has cleared, now that the incident has faded into the distant past, it's easy to distinguish the meaning-making interpretation machinery which was at play. But at the time, there was no such distinction. There was no distinction "'Somebody turned her against me' is only an interpretation.". There was only my knowing  somebody turned her against me. The entire fantasy was replete with authentic sounding  detail. I knew  who turned her against me. I knew why. And, what made it worse, I knew  I couldn't win her back. I was sick at heart, angry, frustrated, disempowered, and saddened. I was also the "shot-through-the-heart" victim  in the drama. But I didn't see that until later ... much  later.

Perhaps it's because I love her so much that my whip-fast  tendency to dismiss people, to write them off  in situations like these, was momentarily impaired. I didn't like not being with her. I liked her cancellation even less. And as for her being (supposedly) turned against me, the fact is I hated that ... but there it was, and there was nothing I could do about it.

Or was there? Even though I'd realized it might be a good idea to cut her some slack, in truth I didn't know how. I lived with the disappointment for two days looking for an opening, and I saw none.

And then on the third day, something broke open for me. I can't really lay claim to having figured it out  because I didn't. I can't really lay claim to having drawn on past experience, because in this regard I have none. Rather, in a discontiguous  non-linear breakthrough in the processing through of what had happened, something shifted  in my thinking, and a new question  popped in, and this new question challenged me to answer it.

The question was this: "What if you don't know?  What if you really don't know why she canceled? What if you really don't know anyone turned her against you? What if you really don't know what you already know?".

I started to consider "I don't know" like a possibility, like a "What if ... ?", like a "Try this on for size" ... not like it's "the truth".

The air started to clear immediately. I didn't know (not really)  there was anything sinister about her cancellation. No one had said so. I didn't know (not really)  if anyone had turned her against me. No one had said so. The entire episode  started to break up. All that had happened is she canceled. And that's all I knew. I didn't know anything else. All the disempowerment, all the sadness, all of that  which lived in whatever I knew, not knowing I didn't know it, disappeared.

She called me a few days later. I was delighted to hear her voice. There was absolutely nothing left over in the space from the earlier upset. She, too, was delighted to hear me. She apologized for canceling. An urgent family matter had come up. She didn't apologize for what came up. She apologized for the inconvenience she may have caused me by canceling at such short notice. I thanked her and acknowledged her for being considerate of my time. We set another date, and by the time the conversation ended, there was, once again, nothing but love in the space, and the joy we both experience in (looking forward to) each other's company.

I'd stepped into "I don't know" like a possibility. I'd wrapped around me "I don't know" like a cloak of invisibility. "I don't know" rendered my already always listening  ie the way I know  things are, invisible. And in the possibility invented by I don't know, I found peace and liberation. Most importantly, I got the love of my life back.

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