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

Meetings With A Remarkable Man

Chicago, Illinois, USA

July 10, 2011

This essay, Meetings With A Remarkable Man, is the companion piece to You Don't Ask "Why Me?"  When It's Raining II.

It is also the first in the seventh trilogy Visits With A Friend:
  1. Meetings With A Remarkable Man
  2. Being Directed By The Unanswered Question
  3. Out Here
in that order.
The first trilogy Visits With A Friend is:
  1. Second First Impression
  2. Do Artists Retire?
  3. Presence Of Love
in that order.
The second trilogy Visits With A Friend is:
  1. Black Brick
  2. Wet Water
  3. On Saying Nothing
in that order.
The third trilogy Visits With A Friend is:
  1. Master Of Life
  2. Face To Face
  3. Love And Kindness
in that order.
The fourth trilogy Visits With A Friend is:
  1. Personal Piece
  2. Magnum Opus
  3. Walk A Way With Me
in that order.
The fifth trilogy Visits With A Friend is:
  1. Natural Expression
  2. Essential Question
  3. There Is No "The Answers"
in that order.
The sixth trilogy Visits With A Friend is:
  1. Sophisticated Palate
  2. Open To Everyone
  3. Portal
in that order.
The eighth trilogy Visits With A Friend is:
  1. Read To Us
  2. Seven Fingers
  3. Smart People
in that order.
The ninth trilogy Visits With A Friend is:
  1. Intimacy In A Crowded Place
  2. What Goes On Internally
  3. Riding The Horse Revisited
in that order.
The seventh trilogy Visits With A Friend is the sequel to Flying.

It is also the prequel to Who Said That? Who Really  Said That?.

Werner Erhard
When an opportunity presented itself to travel to meet with a friend I seized it - with both hands. Another way of saying this would be: when an opportunity presented itself to travel to meet with my  friend I seized it. Both forms of the statement are correct. Yet they're different. To call them different isn't splitting hairs. And please don't say the difference is "just semantics"  and dismiss it that way because in fact: "It's all  semantics ... and nothing"  (as Werner Erhard may have said).

It works better to say a  friend rather than my  friend because saying a  friend brings forth the possibility of a friend to everyone. There's nothing possessive or exclusive about it - I just happened to be the guy on this  side of the conversation. It could just as easily have been you, or it could just as easily have been anyone like you with a similar intention  to mine to be there.

In the end the way it turned out is there wasn't just one meeting. There were three. This is what happened. Don't read my accounts as if they're personal ie as if they recreate what happened with me. They're merely the vehicles  I have for sharing with you what happened. Rather I suggest you read them as if it's you recreating what happened with you like a possibility.

1) Spiral Staircase

A staircase is a staircase. There's nothing unusual about a staircase. You see staircases every day. You see people walking down staircases every day.

He's walking down a staircase. It's one of the most remarkable things I've ever seen in my life: this man just walking down this staircase.

You may ask "What's remarkable about something so mundane as a person walking down a staircase?".

The thing is you never  see a person just walking down a staircase. A person walking down a staircase is never just walking down the staircase. When they're walking down a staircase they're doing something else other than  just walking down the staircase. They're thinking. They're looking around. They're trailing a hand along the balustrade. In fact when they're walking down a staircase they're doing everything but  just walking down the staircase.

He's just walking down a staircase. It's both disconcerting and mesmerizing to witness.

I stand up. I don't move toward him. I just stand up. When he steps down off the last step he looks up. I'm about ten feet away from him. He recognizes me and moves toward me. Only then do I move toward him. "Hello Laurence!" he's says in that rich, deep, Philadelphian accent, the blazing smile now flickering across his face. "Hello Werner!" I say.

In a few steps we embrace. It's kind of like a handshake  embrace really. It's a flat, calm, clear, unambiguous, with nothing else going on embrace. It's OK with him. It's appropriate with him. I turn my head slightly and kiss his cheek - because it's OK with him, because it's appropriate with him. I'm a true blue red blooded heterosexual American male. I love the joy which comes with my physical relationship with a woman. That's my orientation. And what I've gotten from him is how to really  love. In the way I've gotten from him how to really love, there's no difference for me between loving a woman and loving a man. I love this man. My embrace and quick kiss on his cheek mano a mano  says it all.

The greeting embrace ends. We stand in front of each other, face to face, speaking briefly, catching up with and confirming our scheduled agenda for this visit.

2) From A Distance

There's a break in the proceedings. I decide to take a walk by my Self. I go outside. It's hot. Not baking blistering wine country  heat. But very hot nonetheless. I walk around aimlessly a bit, enjoying the surroundings, the dryness. In the distance, incongruously out of place in this pleasantly wooded area I see a Starbucks  sign. I head toward it. An icy frappuccino  would go down well round about now.

I can't see a direct track toward it from where I am, so I simply point myself in its general direction and walk. I cross paths and roads, negotiating grassy verges and whatever else is between me and the highly anticipated cool drink. I'm now walking on top of a ridge when I happen to look down to my right.

He's standing there. About two hundred yards away in the dale. By him Self. He wasn't there when I first passed this way. He's sipping from a cup of water. Pacing slowly. Then stopping. Then sipping. Then pacing. No one else around. Reflecting. Enjoying the peace. The lull.

He has his back to me. I've already slowed down and am strolling slowly. Yet seeing him there, I slow down some more. I get the thought to call out to him. But I don't. Although I'm in this picture, although I find ... my ... Self  ... in this picture with him, I'm reluctant to impose. I don't want to disturb his reverie, this rare moment of solitude of his I'm witnessing from a distance, this rare moment of solitude of his I'm privileged  to be witnessing,

I get the thought to negotiate my way down the rough embankment between us, and walk over to him. But I don't.


Ordinarily, even indoors on carpeted floors, I'm careful where I step, prissily avoiding scuffing my brightly self-polished Spanish leather cowboy boots. But in this  situation I notice I'd tramp down that embankment between us with all its mud in a hot second heartbeat  regardless of the shoeshine.

My mind says "Go!"  but my heart says "No!  Leave him be.".


I keep walking, watching, privileged. He still has his back to me - sipping, pacing, reflecting. Then he turns around. I don't will  him to. I don't hope  he does. He just turns around. And I'm walking along the ridge above him but now plainly in his sight. He's standing still, looking around, totally calm .. and pretty soon he looks up to the ridge where I'm walking.

When I'm absolutely certain he's looking at me (but not a moment sooner), without stopping walking I wave - casually, assuredly, but not vigorously. A good second passes. He waves back - casually, assuredly, but not vigorously. From this distance I can't clearly distinguish his features. But I know he's smiling. Now I am too.

There are no witnesses to this exchange, to this interaction. There's no one else around. Except for the two of us, this landscape at this point in time is completely devoid of people.

It's a moment. It's our  moment, a moment which stretches into eternity. When I've savored it completely I turn away and walk on.

3) On The Way

Would it be alright with me if we went for a drive together? "Would  it?" I counter. Would it be alright with me if you gave me everything I ever wanted in Life, plus a few million bucks just for spending money to boot?

What could I say? "Sorry. I'm busy."?

We get in the car. We talk on the way. He looks straight ahead, relaxed and peaceful. He speaks powerfully yet quietly. There's nothing pre-packaged  about what he's saying. He's creating it as he says it. I can tell he's speaking this way because it's how his speaking shows up  in my listening. My listening is as if I'm creating what he's speaking. That's how I know he's creating it as he speaks it.

I notice something which at first seems unusual - until I realize it's actually quite usual. It's what I'd considered to be usual before, which is actually what's unusual. It's this: the scenery is going by the car as if the car's stationery, and the road is coming up to meet us. It's a glorious sensation. The palpable sense of presence of Self in the car is so powerful it's as if we're not moving, and it's the world which is traveling backwards into the past behind us. This is a concept I've articulated before. Here, now, in this car, this concept is the experience. "That's  interesting" I think, nodding - to no one in particular.

He suggests we stop for coffee. We park and walk over to an outside table at the perfect coffee shop which just happens to be there. We sit down on metal chairs on opposite sides of the metal table The setting sun flames the horizon sky in vivid oranges and golds behind him. It's the kind of awe inspiring breathtaking moving picture which, if adequately captured and recreated, could instantly render movies and television reruns obsolete.

There's an access here. There's an opening, a clearing, a permission  he wordlessly grants to ask anything, to say anything, to share anything. I'm well prepared. I've got five sheets of A4  paper filled with such items I've come up with in the weeks leading to this. I pick items from my notes not in any particular order but rather in the order dictated by the conversation. To be sure, the ensuing conversation and answers to my questions are all valuable - extraordinarily  so. And yet I'm aware of something deeper, something even more profound than the value of the conversation and the answers to my questions.

What could possibly be even deeper, even more profound than the value of the conversation and the answers to my questions? It's the fact that he and I are sitting here together  at all, alone outside a now quiet coffee shop at sunset under a stunning firmament now resplendent with velveteen blues added to the oranges and golds as the twilight inexorably comes to meet unhurried us.

It literally stops my speech. I'm momentarily moved to tears. I feel like I'm going to cry. I say so. Then I cry. I just sit there, tears running down my face. It doesn't stop me speaking mind you, or straying off topic. My voice jerks and quavers yet I still stay present in the conversation. Happiness for me is like a river. And this river is flowing abundantly right now out of all the holes in my face at once. I don't look away. I don't try to hide it. I don't try to suppress it. He watches me, quiet, present and smiling, not interfering, sipping his coffee, letting me be. It passes. I blink my eyes dry and continue speaking seamlessly, asking more questions, listening to his answers, sharing.

By the time he's finished his coffee, the early shades of night are upon us. We stand up, get back in the car, and drive away. I switch on my reading light and once again consult my notes.

Completely Fulfilled Completely Presenced

If I were to say these meetings with this remarkable man completely fulfill me and completely presence  me, it may be close to the truth but it wouldn't be accurate. What's accurate is in these meetings with this remarkable man I discover I'm already  completely fulfilled and completely presenced. In these meetings with this remarkable man, I discover it's all the doing  I'm doing to get completely fulfilled and completely presenced which gets in my way of already being  completely fulfilled and completely presenced.

The unavoidably fabulous Zen of it is missed by neither of us.

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