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

Listen To The Children

Calistoga, California, USA

June 26, 2005

This essay, Listen To The Children, is the first in a group of eleven on Listening: It is also the first in a quintology on Children: It is also the prequel to In Unison.

I am indebted to my children Alexandra Lindsey Platt and Christian Laurence Platt who contributed material for this conversation.

Photography by Marissa Carlisle

Sunrise Montessori School
Salvador Avenue, Napa, California, USA

1999 (est)
My children Alexandra and Joshua and Christian

All my children, Alexandra, Christian, and Joshua became graduates of Werner's work before the age of ten.

Children say remarkable things about transformation and about getting off it in particular. From a parent's point of view, that's great. But what's really awesome is not whether after graduating children continue to generate conversations for transformation of their own volition. It is once they are introduced to conversations for transformation and are given the opportunity to be responsible for them, they have the opportunity to include themselves in conversations for transformation initiated and generated by adults.

When adults distinguish transformation, in all likelihood they distinguish transformation ... then not  transformation ... then transformation ... then not  transformation ... etc. When you get it you get it. When you don't get it you don't get it. And as soon as you get you don't get it, you got it again.

But for young children for whom identity is not yet chiseled into the rock, transformation may be all there is.

There are times any parent will attest to when children drive you cr-a-a-a-zy. It doesn't matter what you say. It doesn't matter whether you're right or wrong. There are times when their job in the world is to disagree with you - whether you agree with them or not.

"I agree with you.". "No you don't.". "OK, you're right. I don't.". "Yes you do.".

You can't win.

Then they graduated from Werner's work. Frankly I was thrilled. And I wondered what would happen next. I could share something potent from what each of my children experienced. Instead I've chosen something Alexandra experienced to represent what all three of them experienced. Here's what happened.

* * *

She was upset. I interpreted her as manipulating. I began to speak with her about it. I began to reason  with her about it. Nothing I said worked. "Alexandra, I agree with you.". "No you don't.". "OK, you're right. I don't.". "Yes you do." ... you know, she had it on automatic.

I was going nowhere fast.

Then, almost as an afterthought, I turned on my heel, walked away, and left her alone with whatever was going on with her. It was actually hard for me not to stay entangled with her - I love her that much. The love between a father and a daughter is something fierce. Even entanglement may be worth being in when it's with your own daughter.

Yet now she was a graduate, so I bit my tongue and walked away from her. But not too far away. I walked into the living room where I could still hear her and, out of the corner of my eye, I could still see her ... even if I pretended I couldn't. This is what I heard and saw.

* * *

She had her arms tightly crossed over her chest. She was in what I call a sulk. Her lips were pouted. Her brow was furrowed. She was talking to herself. This is what she was saying:

"This is not working for me. Whenever I get like this, I think I'll get something out of it but I never do. I don't know why I stay in this mood. I want him to notice me. Yet even if he does notice me when I get like this I'm still not happy. This doesn't work. This doesn't work for me. It should. But it doesn't.".

She went on and on and on talking to herself, posing scenarios, responding to herself, always coming up with the same conclusion: she expected a certain result which was just not happening.

I listened and watched literally spellbound, pretending I didn't hear or see.

Then my dear, precious, darling Alexandra threw up her hands and said to herself: "This is not working  for me. Why do I keep doing this to myself?".

* * *

Had she been an older woman, you may have heard her adding: "Damn it!". But she is a child so she said it in a way a child says it.

And then in front of my amazed eyes, she uncrossed her arms, lit up her face with a smile like all the neon in Las Vegas suddenly came on all at once, and she literally danced and skipped away from the corner of the wall against which she had held herself captive. She smiled and she danced and she skipped and she smiled and she danced and she skipped. She barely noticed me standing there. Almost as an afterthought she looked over at me and ... smiling and dancing and skipping ... said offhandedly: "Oh, Hi Daddy!".

Faced with the choice to stay on it or to get off it, my daughter Alexandra chose to get off it.

* * *

Was the result of Werner's work in my children's lives short lived? Was it just once Alexandra got off it like that? No. It's ongoing. Do my children get on it after graduating from Werner's work? Of course they do. They are, after all, human beings. Whenever they get they are on it, they have the choice to get off it. When they get it they get it. When they don't get it they don't get it. And as soon as they get they don't get it, they have the choice to get it again.

I listen my children. I'm committed to their commitment.

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