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


Long Time Comin'

Hagafen Cellars, Napa Valley, California, USA

May 7, 2011

"It's been a long time comin'. It's goin' to be a long time gone." ... Crosby Stills and Nash, Long Time Comin' 
This essay, Long Time Comin', is the eighth in a group of twelve on Parents: It is also the tenth in a group of seventeen with titles borrowed from Songs: It was written at the same time as I am indebted to my mother Andee Platt who inspired this conversation.



During a recent conversation with my mother Andee she told me she loves me. In a conversation between a son and his mother, that's not exactly earth shattering news. Throughout my life my mother hasn't not  told me she loves me. What made it noteworthy on this particular occasion is neither that someone I love, my mother told me she loves me in a way that was clear to me without doubt  is real for her, nor the deep, genuine, authentic  way she said it. What made it noteworthy is how it took my breath away when the reality of it landed for me.



Who We Really Are Is "I Love You"



Photography by Paula Zolezzi - Tamboerskloof, Cape Town, South Africa - 9:42pm Saturday November 4, 2006
with my mother Andee at her 80th birthday celebration
If there's ever an unresolved, uncertain, or in doubt  issue for me about whether people love me or not, here's how it rolls out in the final analysis after all the second guessing, after all the assumptions, after all the interpretations, after all the mis-interpretations, and after all the figuring out: they love me. Period.

It's at the heart of it all for me. Furthermore I assert it's at the heart of it all for everyone. When you've said everything you've withheld, when you've said everything you want to say but haven't said, when you've said it all to all the people you've not spoken completely with, when you've 'fessed up  with all the people you've not been totally honest with, who you are  at the foundation of it all is "I Love You" (as Werner Erhard may have said). Not expressing "I Love You" is a withhold - plain and simple.

<aside>

I'm not saying "Not expressing 'I Love You' is a withhold" like a chastisement, like a finger wagging make wrong. Saying it like a chastisement, like a finger wagging make wrong provides no choice in the matter.

I'm saying "Not expressing 'I Love You' is a withhold" completely blandly almost like a technicality, like a possibility  with nothing attached, with nothing invested in its outcome. Saying it completely blandly almost like a technicality, like a possibility with nothing attached, with nothing invested in its outcome provides choice in the matter.

<un-aside>
So even if people don't actually tell  me "I Love You" ... they love me. That said, whatever comes up for me in the absence  of people telling me "I Love You" isn't a function of people withholding "I Love You"  from me. Rather it's secondarily a function of whatever I make up  about people withholding "I Love You" from me. In other words it's secondarily a function of whatever I make up about people not loving me. Primarily it's a function of making up they're withholding anything from me at all.

What I make up about people withholding "I Love You" from me, indeed making up they're withholding anything from me at all, is all it takes to hide the simplest, most profound  truth about people: they love me.


Originating Incident:
The Genesis Of An Epistemology



I can recall exactly when I made up my mother doesn't love me. I'm not saying it's true  my mother doesn't love me. It isn't true. She loves me. I'm saying I can recall when I made up  my mother doesn't love me ... and then I forgot  I made it up, living as if  it were true.

I was sixteen. It was October of 1966. My family lived in a rambling double story house called Shannon  on Firdale Road in Cape Town's Newlands suburb in South Africa. One day I came home from an awful day at school having been teased by some boys in my class. I sat down at the top of Shannon's staircase feeling resentful and helpless while my mother, who had a table where she did her sewing on the first landing of the staircase, sat sewing. I was silent. She asked me how my day at school went. I told her I didn't want to talk about it. She asked me why. I said "Because you'll just say I'm being too sensitive  about it.". She said she wouldn't. I said she would. She promised me she wouldn't ... so eventually I relented and told her some boys in my class had teased me and I felt resentful and helpless. I may not have had this exact vocabulary when I was sixteen but that was the gist of what I said. It actually felt good to tell her, to trust her, to let it all out. After she listened to my story, she said "Laurence, you're being too sensitive  about it.".

* * *

I couldn't believe it! In spite of my concern and my caution, I felt like she'd pulled the rug out from under my feet. I said I didn't want to talk about it because she'd just say I'm being too sensitive about it. She said she wouldn't. So I talked about it. And she said I'm being too sensitive about it! I felt like Charlie Brown  after Lucy van Pelt  pulls the football away just as he's about to kick it ... again. Right then and there, sitting at the top of Shannon's staircase when I was sixteen in October of 1966, I made up my mother doesn't love me. I also made up I can't trust her enough to share intimate and personal experiences with her.

<aside>

It's obvious to me now as an adult, I was  being "too sensitive about it". But as a sixteen year old I didn't get it. I wanted sympathy  and caring. When she said I was being "too sensitive about it" even though it was true, I made up she was being un-sympathetic and un-caring which therefore meant she doesn't love me.

<un-aside>

And that, for many years afterwards, was the epistemology of my relationship with my mother ie the context  for it: my mother doesn't love me and I don't trust her enough to share intimate and personal experiences with her. It wasn't true  of course. It was entirely made up  in a single hasty upset  moment just ... like  ... that ... which altered how my love and relationship and trust with my mother would show up for me for the foreseeable future.

But unknown to me at the time, it was more than that actually - waaay  more. Given the influence of a boy's relationship with his mother on the formation of all  his future relationships (with women in particular), it altered how love and all  my relationships and trust would show up for me for the foreseeable future. And the thing about this influence as I saw with chagrin much later is it wasn't started by anything my mother said - although that's exactly what seemed to be so in the moment of the originating incident. It was started by what I made up  about what my mother said in the moment of the originating incident.

I didn't get that then. I only got it when I met Werner Erhard twelve years later.



Background Soundtrack



If you're a sixteen year old it makes perfect sense to be clever  enough to realize who loves you and who doesn't, and who you can trust and who you can't. It's not only clever: it's the street smart  way to be in Life ... which is exactly  what sixteen year olds try to figure out: how to be street smart and how to be cool. But the trouble is when it's not true  that people don't love you and can't be trusted (which is to say when the line between what's true  and what you've made up  is blurred), a pivotal load bearing truss  (so to speak) is laid down incorrectly  into the growing structure of the life being built, which will eventually assuredly  cause more trouble than it's worth. It may take years and years  to discover it, to remove it, to adjust for it, and to correct for it ... that is, if it's ever discovered at all.

Building a life with a load bearing truss of what I make up about people without realizing  it's not necessarily true  about people, is like constructing a castle without realizing its foundations were misaligned from the get go and will never support the height of the structure. Or it's like building a yacht to sail the oceans of the world out of papyrus  and balsa wood  and sisal  yet all the while believing the materials are really fibre glass and titanium and kevlar.

Starting when I was sixteen, when people said "I Love You" to me and when I said "I Love You", there was always something else going on  about love and relationships and trust in the background  - even though it was many, many  years later before I even realized there was  a background. But it was there anyway, clouding and tainting any and all aspects of love and relationships and trust for me. Whatever I'd made up about love and relationships and trust going all the way back to that pivotal conversation with my mother on the staircase in Shannon, was always there in the background like the soundtrack  to the movie of my life's loves and relationships and trust. It was always getting in the way - even when I didn't realize it was getting in the way, and especially when I didn't want  it to get in the way.



Werner's Space



When I met Werner Erhard in 1978, his friendship and education enabled me to distinguish the soundtrack as soundtrack  and to take responsibility for it. When you distinguish something it no longer runs you. Distinguishing the soundtrack transforms epistemology, something which has the power to run you by intruding unknown to you into every aspect of your life, into mere content  ie into simply something else in the space  for which you can be responsible. The lock  which the incident at Shannon had put on my life and loves and relationships and trust started to break up and disappear just in the process of Life itself  resulting in transformation, an entirely new way of being coming to bear on whatever I'd made up and then considered to be "the truth".

Looking at things from Werner's perspective, which is to say trying things on  from Werner's perspective I noticed there's no "my mother doesn't love me" outside of  what I make up. It's not "the truth". It's not an absolute reality. There's no "my mother can't be trusted enough to share intimate and personal experiences with" outside of what I make up. It's not "the truth" It's not an absolute reality. My relationship with my mother is something I can be responsible for and create as open and endowed with possibility  rather than something I'm the victim of.

That transformed everything across the board of my entire life wherever love and relationship and trust come to bear - which is of course everywhere. My life shifted into top gear  so to speak and worked  - and continues working for extraordinarily long durations of time at a time.



It's Been A Long Time Comin'



So it happened one day, forty four years after Shannon, I was talking with my mother when she told me she loves me in a way that was clear to me without doubt  is real for her .. and deep ... and genuine ... and authentic.

It was an awesome, extraordinary moment, an all too rare miraculous  occasion of total and complete mutual respect and admiration, acknowledgement and validation. And when the reality of it landed for me later when I was alone again, it took my breath away.



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