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 Life As A Story:

The Folly Of Being Human

Cowboy Cottage, East Napa, California, USA

October 15, 2015



"Life can always be told as a story, but no matter how engrossing, what difference does a story make?"  ... 
"If past history was all there was to the game, the richest people would be librarians." ... Warren Buffett
This essay, Living Life As A Story: The Folly Of Being Human, is the companion piece to Soap Opera.

I am indebted to Nancy Scott who inspired this conversation.




It's a sentiment which always causes me to do a wryly amused double take  because when it's said, it's mostly said earnestly as if it were true. Yet all it does really is demonstrate being unclear on the concept. It's the expression "It's the story of my life"  - or something similar and / or compatible. The exception I take with it is this: whatever "it"  is, isn't your life. That always seems obvious when it's distinguished clearly after it's said ie after the fact. Yet for the most part, we are  that our stories of our lives, and our lives, are one and the same. That is to say we are that our stories are  our lives. They're not. And the degree to which we are that they are, is the degree to which we're not fully alive, and not fully free to be and free to act.

So when we say "It's the story of my life", it isn't. It's just a story (and the suffixed phrase "of my life" is simply gratuitous). It takes a certain bravery ie it takes a certain guts  (spontaneously, without being confronted, prodded, reminded, or coached - ie purely as a Self-driven act) to isolate which of the fabrics of our lives (ie those which we erroneously consider to be the reasons for why  we are the way we are), are little more than stories which we tell over and over and over again (to others as well as to ourselves), preferring their timbres and righteousnesses to (in many cases) Life itself. It takes a certain courage to let go of our stories ie to simply drop them, and to relinquish our investment in the payoff  we expect to get from telling them, and from keeping them in existence. It takes a certain verve  to see our stories as a function of (and therefore as rooted in) the past, and thus devoid of any and all power ie devoid of any and all juice and creativity, and to give them up.

Included in these past based reasons about how I got to be the way I am ie included in what I refer to as my stories, are both those in which I cast myself as the victim of the piece, as well as those in which I cast myself as the hero of the piece. Also included are those in which I cast myself as the villain  of the piece, as well as those in which I cast myself as the judge and jury  of the piece. All  stories about how I got to be the way I am, just like all photographs of my face, are of the past (listen: any photograph, given what it is, is never  of the present, and it's never of the future: a photograph is always  of the past, yes?). I can choose to see myself (which is to say I can choose to identify  myself) as a function of everything that's happened to me in the past  ... OR ... I can choose to see myself as a function of being alive, and of what I'll create for the future (another way of saying this is I can choose to see myself as a function of being alive, and of the future I'll create).

When I start looking at my life as a function of being alive, and as a function of the future I'll create, rather than looking at my life as a collection of stories from my past, I notice something disconcerting (it's disconcerting because it rocks the boat  ie it defies the traditional folk lore yarns and tales which I accepted as true, of how I got to be the way I am). It's this: I'm really not a function of my stories at all ie I'm really not a function of my past at all. Rather, I'm a function of my future and of what I'll create next  - which is also to say the quality  of my life is a function of my future and of what I'll create next. Traditional folk lore yarns and tales aside, I'm not constrained by the past I had - and, to be honest, I am (or at least I was)  heavily invested in that I'm constrained by the past I had. What's more likely is I'm constrained by the future I haven't yet created  - or (worse) I'm constrained by the future I don't  create ie I'm constrained by (to be honest) the future I avoid  creating. In this regard, my past (and my stories about what happened in the past) is so far down the list of what really  constrains me, as to merit no more attention.

As compelling as it is, as many people who do it as there are, as much agreement as there is for doing it as there is, living life as a story doesn't make any difference. It's more than merely that it doesn't make any difference. It's that it's our being invested in, and our being right  about the stories of our lives, and our justifying our roles in the stories of our lives, which keeps us stuck. There's no possibility in stories - just as there's no future in photographs. There's no juice in them. If our stories were really the juice of our lives, there'd be a lot more vibrant, expressive faces on the morning commuter train, and there'd be a lot more eye contact in the elevator on the way up to the office boardroom (y'all know what I'm talking about). Yet we are that our stories really are the juice of our lives. It's the folly of being human.



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