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

Nametag II:

An Optical Illusion

Petroni Vineyards, Cavedale Road, Sonoma Valley, California, USA

September 27, 2017

This essay, Nametag II: An Optical Illusion, is the sequel to Nametag: A True Story.

We, on occasion, wear nametags to let people know who we are when they see us. And in order to let people know who we are when they see us, we put our names on our nametags. But just stop for a moment and look closely at this seemingly innocuous, ordinary, everyday action duplicated countless times worldwide daily. Doesn't it actually create a kind of illusion - an optical  illusion if you will? The illusion it creates is we are our names  (said another way, no less accurately, the illusion it creates is our names are who we are). But who I am is not  my name! In this way, by wearing a nametag with my name on it, I present people with something I'm not, ostensibly so they'll have a means of knowing who I am  (say whut?).

Undistinguished, that's how my nametag has become a kind of a magician's sleight of hand  trick. It's a clever optical illusion: what you see on my nametag (ie my name) which is presented to you as who I am, isn't really who I am. Then, as with any optical illusion, what you think  you're seeing isn't what you're really seeing.

This graphic is perfectly level.

An optical illusion sets it atilt.
Looking deeper into this anomaly, the name on my nametag is simply how I like you to label me ie how I suggest you address me. But we all know there's a vast chasm of difference, an abyss  in fact, between whatever label you address me with, and who I really am. And for the most part in our daily interactions with people, we don't distinguish between the two. If I ask you "Who are you?", your first response without further consideration  is likely to be "I'm Maggie" or "I'm Rod" - which illustrates how inept we are in distinguishing who we really are for people (the truth for the most part, is we're even blind to who we really are for ourselves, yes?).

And this is really the gist of this conversation: the way we deploy language in our everyday situations (in other words the way we deploy language in our social etiquettes  in these everyday situations) doesn't readily allow for us expressing who we really are. So whatever we label ourselves as (ie whatever we have appear on our nametags) becomes, for all intents and purposes, who we are - not only for other people but for ourselves as well.

Now here's the thing: as long as this distinction has been made ie as long as we've now brought this distinction into the light and examined it closely, you're free to address me as whatever's on my nametag, and that's perfectly acceptable  to me. But who am I really?  By that I mean who am I like a space? like a commitment? like a stand? like an impossible promise?  Wouldn't some or all of whatever they  are, be more accurate and more honest to put on my nametag (it would admittedly have to be a much larger nametag, yes?) so you could really  know who I am?

We're at the end of this conversation. Yet this isn't the completion of this inquiry, but at least now it's been completely started. So with this inquiry now completely started, I declare it's totally OK for you to call me "Laurence" because that's what I put on my nametag for you to call me. Once you know that my space, my commitment, my stand, my impossible promise are all included in my being and are therefore who I really  am, only then does it work for you to label me with (or to symbolize  me, if you will, by) the code word "Laurence" which will, I assure you, when I hear you calling it out loud, get me to sit up and pay attention to you.

Whether you make this distinction for yourself or not, notice in both cases you'll still call me "Laurence". But in the latter case, you've differentiated between the domain of who I really am, and "Laurence" the label for me ie the symbol of me which you and I both agree on, thereby seeing through the optical illusion that who I am is the name that appears on my nametag.

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