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


Naked Presence:

Deploying A New Grammar

Isla Vista, California, USA

October 26, 2008



"Who you mean when you say 'I' is not you. It's just something that shows up for you."  ... 
This essay, Naked Presence: Deploying A New Grammar, is the companion piece to Recontextualization.

It was written at the same time as I am indebted to Elizabeth Russell for her grammar coaching.




In order to be who I am, I create a distinction. I distinguish  something. I don't distinguish something so I'll have something to show you about who I am. I don't distinguish something so I'll have something to say to you  about who I am. I don't distinguish something so I'll have something to prove  to you about who I am. In order to be who I am, I create a distinction because during the process of distinguishing something, that's when I'm being who I am.

A distinction can distinguish what something is. A distinction can also distinguish what something is not. So let's distinguish something:

For me, I is not who I am.

Wait! Say whut?  Isn't that a typo?  No, isn't that a typo and  an absurdity? Shouldn't that be "for me, I am who I am" rather than "for me, I is not who I am"? In any case, even if it were  "for me, I am not who I am" rather than "for me, I is not who I am", surely that's not right?

Hold that thought! Now try this one on for size:

For I, me is not who I am.

More typos? Another absurdity? No. This form and the previous one are both exactly what I intend to say. Both forms are exactly the way I intend to say them.

Perhaps adding some punctuation will makes this clearer. Here are both statements again, re-punctuated:

 1)  For me, "I"  is not who I am.
 2)  For "I", "me"  is not who I am.

Say whut?

OK. I assert they make perfect  sense when you bring an open Zen listening  to them ie when you listen them from your experience, not from your analytical mind. Your analytical mind will most likely say ie has been taught to say I'm not using the English language correctly ie I'm not speaking the "King's English", to wit:

 •  I use the first person pronoun subject "I" as the subject of the third person verb "is" ("I is not who I am")
    King's English rule: use the first person pronoun subject "I" as the subject of the first  person verb "am" ("I am not who I am") - correct grammar yet absurd

 •  I use the first person pronoun subject "I" as the object of the preposition "for" ("for I")
    King's English rule: use the first person pronoun object "me"  as the object of the preposition "for" ("for me") - correct grammar yet not what I intend to communicate

 •  I use the first person pronoun object "me" as the subject of the third person verb "is" ("me is not who I am)
    King's English rule: use the first person pronoun subject "I"  as the subject of the first  person verb "am" ("I am not who I am") - correct grammar yet absurd

I can imagine my school marms  rolling their eyes if they heard me use grammar this way. However, I'm not speaking this way in a cavalier  fashion. I'm not speaking this way because I'm a rebellious stand for "rules are intended to be broken". Rather, I'm asserting this: language communicating direct experience  plain doesn't work with the same grammar decreed by ordinary everyday King's English.

If I correct those phrases in my speaking, if I speak them the way the King's English decrees, then their grammar would be deemed correct ... BUT  ... they wouldn't communicate what I intend to communicate.

So ...

For me, I is not who I am. "I" is something that shows up  for me, now and then. And "I" is not who I am.

For I, me is not who I am. "Me" is something that shows up  now and then when "I" refers to itself. And "me" is not who I am either.

When you bring an open Zen listening to what I'm saying, you'll hear me say I'm not "I" and I'm not "me". You'll hear me say who I am is a clearing, a context, an opening, a possibility, a space, a kind of naked presence, a naked presence not given by words, not given by language, a naked presence prior to words, prior to language. And yet this naked presence gives  words, gives  language, in fact this naked presence gives  who I am.

What I'm saying won't make sense to the analytical mind, well studied and grounded as it is, honorably, in the rules of grammar of the King's English. But it can be gotten. It can be grokked  (as Robert Heinlein may have said). And it may not be understood. "Understanding", as Werner Erhard poignantly notes, "is the booby prize".



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