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


Life, Love, And The Whole Damn Thing

McCaw Hall, Frances C Arrillaga Alumni Center, Stanford University, Palo Alto, California, USA

November 16, 2017



This essay, Life, Love, And The Whole Damn Thing, is the sequel to the trilogy The Leadership Course:
  1. The Leadership Course: As Your Natural Self-Expression II
  2. The Leadership Course II: Leadership Is A Barefooted Girl
  3. The Leadership Course III: Pillar Of The Community
in that order (by the way: in a very real sense, any and all Conversations For Transformation essays written following the trilogy The Leadership Course are all  the sequels to the trilogy The Leadership Course).

It was written at the same time as American Genius.

I am indebted to Jan Miller who inspired this conversation.




Life keeps coming at me. It keeps making endless demands of me. "Here I am!" it unwaveringly shouts, always standing face to face, nose to nose directly in front of me. "Engage  with me!" it urgently insists. And for worse or for better for as long as this lasts, I have choice in the matter of how I'm going to respond. I can also choose to not  respond. But the latter never does me any good. It doesn't make life's demands go away - in fact it ensures they'll increase. Even closing my eyes at night into sleep / unconsciousness, only provides a temporary illusion that they're gone: when I wake in the morning, they're still here (they never go away). And in the new day, whether I respond to it or not, life still keeps coming at me, charging forward directly at me. It's relentless. That's life - as I'm distinguishing it.

One of the ways life keeps coming at me (ie one of the relentless  ways life keeps coming at me) is through people. As a principle, I say I'm open to everyone. As a practical matter (ie speaking authentically), the truth is I have preferences: I enjoy some people more than others. That's not always a conscious differentiation. Some people simply occur for me as "Uh oh ... here comes trouble.". Others show up as "Lovely to see you again my Friend!" (as the Moody Blues may have said). And then there are others who, when they show up, put me in a space of ecstasy, a space in which my heart sings and pounds uncontrollably like a star-struck schoolboy. Around such people I would give it all to spend the rest of my life. It's what I yearn to do. And I'm not even speaking to the practical matter of whether or not an ongoing relationship with me would or could ever actually work for them. Rather I'm speaking to what Emily Dickinson distinguishes when she says "The heart wants what it wants.". And when the heart doesn't get what it wants? Well ... we've all been there, yes? That's love - as I'm distinguishing it.

So there's life and the demands it makes on me ongoingly, and there's my responses to the demands it makes on me ongoingly (some of which fail, and some of which succeed) for as long as this lasts. And there's love, which includes "I love you" as a speech act  (that's tantamount to saying "Love is 'I love you')  that stands on the platform of unconditionally accepting another the way they are (and the way they aren't). But it also includes love like a star-struck schoolboy, that deliciously edgy being-in-the-presence-of-another  which, without explanation or warning, suddenly triggers all those dizzying responses in me we call (perhaps inaccurately if not poetically) "falling in love". In whatever space I have for life to show up the way it shows up, love shows up the way it shows up, along with everything else I'm given to deal with. That's life, love, and the whole damn thing  - as I'm distinguishing them.

Now here's my point: it'll all turn out the way it turns out. It'll go smoothly, or it won't. It will go well and rewardingly, or it won't. In this regard, every single one of us are dealt cards to play which, while each of our hands may be unique, are dealt with almost exactly the same odds  for being fulfilled and happy. Look: being wealthy doesn't equate to being happy. If it did, all wealthy people would be happy, and the happiest people would be the wealthiest - which is a postulation we know simply isn't true (don't be naïve: ask Charles Foster "Citizen"  Kane aka William Randolph Hearst about "Rosebud").

So what I've started looking at in depth ie what I've begun taking seriously  (which means I've started dealing with life, love, and the whole damn thing as if my life depends on it)  are the choices available to me which allow life, love, and the whole damn thing to work  better, choices which result in me not getting in their way, which in turn allows me to perform in ways which maximize my responses to them. I can either leave dealing with life, love, and the whole damn thing to happenstance (ie to chance), or I can live my life in a way that forwards the likelihood of it working, allowing me to perform more effectively. And watch: either way, life will still keep coming at me, always making demands of me, relentlessly - just as it will keep coming at you too, always making demands of you too, relentlessly (I'm sorry, but for us there's just no escape from that one).

Cue the impact of being in integrity, on life, love, and the whole damn thing: without integrity, nothing  works. The big mistake I made (at least initially) with integrity, was assuming it's a quality some people have and others don't, that's it's a desired way to be, that it's a good  way to be. The trouble with regarding integrity that way is it conceptualizes being in integrity, as "a"  way to play the game. But that's not  what integrity is. Integrity isn't a way to play the game: integrity is the whole game. A bicycle wheel with broken spokes, is clearly out of integrity, yes? You can't ride a bicycle with a wheel that has broken spokes. You can't play the game that way. It simply doesn't work. And if you do ride that bicycle whose wheel has broken spokes, you're certainly not going to ride well: the wheel doesn't work. And you're definitely  not going to be winning races any time soon riding a bicycle with a wheel that doesn't work. That's the impact of integrity on performance:  integrity is the foundation for workability, and workability is the foundation for performance. Without integrity, you can forget about your life working. And without your life working, you can forget about performing well as Life itself keeps coming at you, making endless demands of you.

Don't count on finding an easy way out of this. Life will go on making endless demands of us for as long as it goes on. That may be forever. And then  maybe it'll stop - may-be. But until then, life, love, and the whole damn thing is what we got (no, it's all  we got) without respite. It's the game that was going on before you and I got here. And it'll go on long after we've gone. It plays by its own rules. It's relentless, inexorable, ruthless. It doesn't care about what you want or about what you don't want. And arguably the only choice we can make that has any impact on how we fare in the game, is whether we play in integrity, or not. Any other choices we could ever make (or speculate we could make) are so far down the list of what really  impacts performance (aka living well) as to be almost totally irrelevant.



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