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


New Pathways

The Barn, Monticello Road, Napa Valley, California, USA

October 12, 2014



This essay, New Pathways, is the companion piece to It is also the sequel to The Amygdala Hijack.

Conversations For Transformation receives its nine hundred thousandth view with the publishing of New Pathways.

I am indebted to the Chief who inspired this conversation.




At some level the idea is almost totally unconfrontable. It's the degree to which machinery runs our lives. I don't only mean the hackneyed machinery of the world  as it turns, endlessly spinning off more and better and different soap operas. I mean something far more basic, something far more elemental than that. I mean the machinery of who and what we are, the machinery of how we're comprised and constituted as human beings. We cherish our ideas of choice and free will as our prized gifts of being human, as our prized rights  of being human actually, to be respected and afforded due allowance. And yet the more I realize how much of my life is on full automatic all the time, the more I question the ratio between the amount of choice and free will life really affords me, and the total automaticity of the rest of my life. Exactly what percentage is free? And what percentage is on full automatic? What's the ratio? The question is disconcerting, daunting.

Listen: this is not a trivial inquiry. The automaticity can easily be seen. On the outermost level it's clear my body is a machine, a smooth functioning machine, yes, which dictates I adhere to its  rules of what works for it, and not mine. Slightly more subtle, there's never been any doubt for me that my emotions and the other systems comprising my internal states  are also on full automatic. A pithy wisdom with which to regard the automatic emotions and internal states is they're like the weather in two specific respects: one, they're not personal (you don't ask "Why me?"  when it's raining - as Werner Erhard avers) in spite of our hopeless propensity to regard them as personal, and two, if you don't like the weather, wait a few moments and it'll change (be honest now: that second one is fabulous, yes?).

But it's even more than that. It can also be seen in our entire set of cognitive and intellectual processes. Our very thoughts  themselves are on full automatic. To get that, consider this: it's obvious you can't not  think - and if you say you can  not think, then do not think  of a blue monkey ("do not  think of a blue monkey" - be careful: that's wickedly subtle ...). There's a particular line in the sand for enlightenment which differentiates something like this: on that  side of the line is "I think thoughts" (a naïve if not superficial assessment - entry level  at best) and on this  side of the line is "Thoughts think me" (really they do - no kidding!). Thoughts think me. Thoughts think you.

So let's just suppose for the sake of this conversation (and none of this is purported to be "the truth"  by the way - this is just an inquiry, a supposition) that it's all  automatic (a hypothesis which is actually now supported by the latest advances in neuroscience). If it's all  automatic, if we are in this sense devoid of any choice but  to be the way we are with no other option, is there any chance of developing new pathways  in the already fully automatic brain? While I'm posing this question, take a moment to notice our fundamental resistance to this idea, our fundamental recoil  from this idea, even our fundamental horror  of the idea that everything we do in our lives without any exceptions  is always on full automatic with no freedom and no ability to develop any new pathways for new ways of being or new actions.

I've got no expectation you'll listen this conversation now in the same way as I listened it when I first heard it. The way I listened it then was "OK. Where's the catch? What's the way out?  I'm a machine. I got it. So tell me how to not  be a machine. What do I have to do?". As I said in the beginning, at some level the idea is almost totally unconfrontable. The trouble is there's no catch (if there's any good news at all, that's the good news) but there's no way out either (that's the bad news). You're a machine, always on full automatic with no freedom and no ability to develop any new pathways for new ways of being or new actions. Never. Ever.

It's when I give over to the realization (as unconfrontable as it is) that I'm a machine, it's when I be  (rather than resist being) the machine I am, that I become a machine being a machine, rather than a machine resisting being a machine. When I'm being a machine being a machine (a machine being what it is) I'm experientially  grounded. When I'm being a machine resisting being a machine (a machine trying to be what it isn't) I'm cerebrally  grounded - the colloquial term for this is I'm "in my head". When we're in our heads (so to speak) we're not being - we're more likely resisting being. If new pathways are ever to become developed, they become possible when I'm grounded in experience / being, when new ways of being call me powerfully into being, when new openings for action call me powerfully into action, rather than when I'm grounded in cerebral resistance in my head (which is the same old same old ie business as usual).

So there is  an access to new pathways. Being  is the access to new pathways. Being a machine standing in being, without resisting, is what allows for developing new pathways. It's a process, a commitment which doesn't happen by itself. It's something I stand for - over and over and over and over and over again. You could say the fullest expression of who we really are is unflinchingly being a machine being a machine standing in possibility  over and over and over and over and over again, and being authentic (telling the truth) about it.

<aside>

Be careful: pretty soon even new pathways will  become automated - that's simply the nature of the machine. New pathways have a short half life  (as Werner Erhard may have said) and need to be recreated from time to time.

<un-aside>

Don't look to standing in possibility as a way out  of being a machine. It's not. For a machine there is  no way out. For a machine there are no new pathways. As I said, that's the bad news ... or  ... you could also say there is  a way out - in this sense: the only way out is through. You could say the only way out is through being, and standing in possibility. To be clear, by that I mean when I'm standing in possibility ie when I'm being a machine being a machine standing in possibility, there are new pathways. Standing in possibility, there are new ways of being which call me powerfully into being, there are new openings for action which call me powerfully into action.

It's the "... or  ..." part of it which is the awesome news. That's transformation.



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