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


Living In I Don't Know

American Canyon, California, USA

July 14, 2007



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



When I don't have answers, I want answers.

Wait. You assume you know what I mean. There's many ways you could interpret what I just said. There's "I want answers" said like I'm the head of an investigation team directing my subordinates to do the work and get answers, to find out. There's "I want answers" said like we failed to produce, and out of a commitment, I want to get to the bottom of why we failed so we can correct. There's even "I want answers" said to relate, to inspire, to drive, and to motivate some understanding.

It's none of the above. The way I'm saying it doesn't imply any of these possible scenarios.

When I say "I want answers" I mean it like I'm reacting. It's an autonomic  response, a knee jerk reflex  in reaction to, in avoidance of  the profound experience I don't know. There's no leadership in it at all. It doesn't reflect any commitment whatsoever. I'm not trying to correct anything. And there's nothing even remotely related, inspiring, driven, or motivated about it. There's no creativity in it. None. When I say "I want answers" in this context, it's simply axons, neurons  and dendrites  flashing, their triggers fired by I don't know. That's all. And the trouble with it is if I don't make this distinction fast enough, I then set off down a path of authentic inquiry  to get answers. That authentic inquiry, therefore, is based on, is built on, is predicated on, is founded on nothing more than a stimulus / response  reflex.

If and when I do make this distinction fast enough and therefore notice the reflex and do nothing  with it, only then is there the possibility of authenticity right from the get go. The way to being authentic with I don't know  is not  to get answers although arguably that's got a reasonable pull  to it. Rather, the way to be authentic with I don't know  is to be with it, to live in I don't know, to do nothing  with it but let it be, to keep my fingers out of the machinery.

On those rare occasions when I catch myself in time to make this distinction, I can observe the entire play  of the phenomenon. "I don't know" leads quite naturally to the self-effacing "I should  know". More likely it leads into "I'll find out". "I'll find out" is what I'm supposed to do  when I don't know. It's not that I was taught what I'm supposed to do  in this regard per se. We as individuals, as human beings, as a society and as a culture are loath to let I don't know  be. And so we don't tolerate it. We eschew it. Pretty soon eschewing I don't know becomes de rigueur  so we all eschew it and we encourage others to eschew it too. Born of popular agreement, a tidal wave of eschewing I don't know  rises up. Eventually everyone assumes it's the right  thing to do.

That's when, for better or for worse, we've taught ourselves it's authentic  to be inauthentic. We then teach it to others. We then teach it to our children. Before we know it the inmates are running the asylum. Soon afterwards life stops working, struggle and effort set in, and we're left wondering why. Even if it wasn't stated quite this way at the time, I've been taught from an early age what I'm not  supposed to do when I don't know is to be with, is to live inside of I don't know.

What exactly is the result of, what exactly is the consequence of breaking the rule (and also, by the way, of breaking the mold) and doing nothing at all  when I don't know, then simply living an act of Zen in I don't know?

Of course, there's never a result  of an act of Zen. There's never a consequence  of an act of Zen either. If there were a result, if there were a consequence, by definition the act of Zen wouldn't be an act of Zen. The result of an act of Zen, the consequence of an act of Zen is the thing in itself. The result of living in I don't know  is simply living in I don't know. The consequence of living in I don't know  is simply living in I don't know. In the simplicity of living in I don't know  I get to experience who I really am. I get to experience the foundation, the ground zero  from which the autonomic reflex fires up.

Life being what it is (and what it isn't), sooner or later I may indeed have to find ways to get to know what I don't know. But for now, for the time being at least, I'm reveling in living in I don't know. I'm basking in simply being who I really am.



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