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


Media Coverage

Monticello Deli, Monticello Road, Napa Valley, California, USA

December 1, 2015



This essay, Media Coverage, is the companion piece to Talking Heads: Addicted To Opinion.

It is also the seventh in a group of seven Reviews: I am indebted to Peter Haldeman who inspired this conversation, and to Mehul Mehta and to Dr Michael Jensen, Harvard Professor Emeritus who contributed material.




Foreword:

This essay distills conversations I had with several people after an article about Werner titled The Return of Werner Erhard, Father of Self-Help by Peter Haldeman, was published in the essential New York Times online on Saturday November 28, 2015, and in print on Sunday November 29, 2015.

For some people, the article overreached. For others it simply didn't go far enough. There are also those who said it focused too much on Werner personally and not enough on transformation or on the current iterations of Werner's work like the Landmark Forum and the Leadership Course. In my opinion (for what it's worth) it's main focus was never intended to be on transformation or on the Landmark Forum or on the Leadership Course, all of which are of course of necessity touched on. Rather, it's a personable view of Werner which I found to be one of the most refreshing pieces about him I've read in recent times.

It also clears up many historic misconceptions. And in it, Dr Michael Jensen, Harvard Professor Emeritus, is notably quoted as acknowledging Werner as "one of the great intellectuals of the century".

Millions of people around the world will read this article (the New York Times tweeted the link to over twenty two million people). Given the permanence of online information, millions more will read it in years to come.



This essay isn't a review of the New York Times article titled The Return of Werner Erhard, Father of Self-Help per se. The article stands alone, requiring no introduction and even less explanation or commentary. For me, it's one of the most refreshing pieces about Werner I've read in recent times. Read it yourself, have your own experience of it, and come to your own conclusions from it.

What I'd like to focus on instead is what played out for me as I engaged in conversations with people about how the article landed for them. This essay then is a review of the way media coverage, particularly media coverage of Werner in general, occurs for me.



Three Places To Look



There are three places where the work of transformation shows up for me. The first is in my personal experience of Werner. The second is in the seminars, graduate workshops, and courses which deliver the work. And the third is in the world of public opinion, and in particular in the media.

When Werner's work shows up in the the world of public opinion, and in particular in the media, it's inevitable it'll be compared, judged, evaluated, and opined about. We (ie that's us: people) compare, judge, evaluate, and opine about anything and everything. It's what we do. It's what our minds are very, very  good at. But these comparisons, judgements, evaluations, and opinions don't mean anything. Rather they're simply evidence our minds work perfectly the way they're supposed to work.

The majority of people I spoke with (many of whom contacted me asking if I'd read the article - which I had) were surprised and delighted by it - surprised, because historically, while some media coverage of Werner has been great, and while some of it has been iffy  at best, what's also true is that a lot of it has been outright hostile. Others expressed concerns the article didn't cover critical aspects of Werner's work - or at least what they  consider to be critical aspects of Werner's work. And still others said it touched more on the current iterations of Werner's work like the Landmark Forum and the Leadership Course (on which, by the way, it didn't touch much at all) and not enough on the ground-breaking earlier iterations like the est  Training - you know, they were all "... woulda  ... coulda  ... shoulda  ..." about it.

It's their being all "... woulda ... coulda ... shoulda ..." about it which, rather than diminishing the value of the article, actually supports my contention that the world of public opinion and in particular the media, while sometimes validating, simply aren't as useful as sources of accurate information about what Werner's work makes available, as a personal experience of Werner, or as participating in the seminars, graduate workshops, and courses which deliver the work - in that order.



Given Carte Blanche  And The Freedom To Write Anything



Comparisons, judgements, evaluations, and opinions don't prove that either earlier iterations of Werner's work or earlier media coverage of Werner's work are worse or  better than later ones. Comparing, judging, evaluating, and opining that one's worse or better than the other, is as asinine as criticizing music from the Sgt Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band  album for not sounding enough like I Want To Hold Your Hand  (or vice versa). Comparing, judging, evaluating, and opining that one is worse or better or the other is better, doesn't make any difference. When it comes to the work of transformation, if you're going to say or write anything about it at all, then say or write something that does  make a difference.

I like good news (who doesn't?). While it's always good to hear good news, and while it's always good to read especially accurate  reviews of Werner's work (I value accuracy in a review even more than whether or not it's a favorable  review), the world of public opinion, and in particular the media, are mostly (when the truth is told) not good sources of accurate information about the work of transformation. The New York Times article, particularly given the stature and credibility of the New York Times itself, is one of the great exceptions: it's accurate and  favorable. But when they set out to write it, there were no guarantees it would go that way. Given carte blanche, Peter Haldeman and the New York Times could have slanted the article any way they wanted to, focusing on however Werner's work occurs for them.

I say it speaks to a certain bravery, to a certain courage, a certain willingness to take risks, that Werner gave carte blanche  to the New York Times to write anything, with no editorial say over the final outcome. And with no agreement or promise in place regarding the final outcome, the New York Times could have written an article with absolutely any focus they wanted to create  on Werner. That they produced the article they actually did produce, given carte blanche  and the freedom to write anything at all  ie without any editorial constraints in place, speaks to the heart of Werner's work possibly even more than the content and details of the article itself.



Whatever's On The Radio



Now listen (and I want to be clear about this): none of that means the media fails me even if  they publish "bad" news. And by "bad" news I just mean inaccurate, unfavorable coverage ("unfavorable", of course, would purely be my speculative opinion). Here's why:

Every time I turn on the radio, I'm under no illusions my favorite tune will always be playing. And if that's what I did expect, then I wouldn't be relating to the radio as the radio. Sometimes the radio plays tunes I don't like. Sometimes it plays tunes I like. Either way, it's just the radio. It's background noise for when I'm driving. Whatever's on, is whatever's on. It's no big deal. It's just the radio. It doesn't interfere with my driving.

Like that, whatever shows up in the media about Werner and the work of transformation doesn't interfere with my personal experience of Werner. Sure, I don't like some coverage, and I do like some of it, and that's my opinion - and so what?!  That said, I always have the space for people to hold and to express and to write opinions which differ from mine. And I recommend you create the space for people to hold and to express and to write opinions which differ from yours, too. Here's the thing: what a terrible example it sets for them if you don't ie if you're unwilling to  ... and ... how little possibility it creates for them to eventually discover the value of Werner's work for themselves if you don't ie if you're unwilling to.



Opinions Are Like Noses: Everyone's Got One, And So What?!



So where Werner's work plays out for me is marginally in the the world of public opinion, and in the media, and certainly more authentically in the seminars, graduate workshops, and courses which deliver the work. But ultimately where it all plays out for me is in my critical personal experience of, and in my relationship with Werner.

It's here where I'm totally free and uncoerced to experience the beautiful friendship on offer by another regular guy, who also just happens to be one of the great intellectuals of the century - should I choose to do so, or not. In this regard, I don't look to opinions (neither to negative opinions nor to positive opinions) to validate Werner's work for myself - not to to others', not to media coverage's, not to yours, not even to my own  ie especially  not to my own. All of them just get in the way.



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