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

Nothing But Being

O'Shaughnessy, Angwin, California, USA

May 7, 2019

"Just like the front and the back of the hand, being and action are distinct yet inseparable." ... 
"We put who we are  into the space." ... Paul Roth, Production Logistics Manager for the Berkeley / Oakland est center, circa 1978
This essay, Nothing But Being, is the companion piece to
  1. Presence Of Self
  2. Come Back To Being
in that order.

I am indebted to Paul Roth who inspired this conversation and contributed material.

"Just like the front and the back of the hand, being
and action are distinct yet inseparable." ... Werner

Image by Wernher Krutein /

Valley Of The Moon, Sonoma County, California, USA

Thursday midday October 12, 1978

Click to expand
Werner Erhard

Many of the people on my list of my all-time favorite people including Alan Watts, the erstwhile Episcopal priest who Self-made, became a foremost exponent of Zen in the west, have espoused ideas along the lines of "All you have to do is be" (which roughly translates to "All that's required  of you is to be") or "Being is enough" (which roughly translates to "The experience of being, in and of itself, is whole, full, and complete") ... something along those lines. Yet given our already always listening, when we hear "Being is enough" we come perilously close to hearing it as "Doing nothing is enough", in which we hear "doing nothing" as "doing no-thing", like doing no action, like being bone-idle. That's a far cry from the actual authentic, good Zen of "doing nothing" which paradoxically is anything but being idle.

Be clear about this: given life is the way it is, doing nothing like doing no action, like being idle, isn't a working option (that's not a judgement: it's my opinion). And I'm not even sure if it's even completely possible - or perhaps it's possible, but only if you're in a coma or half past dead.

Listening Werner, I've resolved for myself that purely being, doesn't equate to doing nothing like no action, like being bone-idle. That's a misconception of what purely being is. Being and action aren't an either / or. Being and action, while distinct, are inseparable. If you be, you can't avoid action. You be ... and you act, with or without  intentionality. That's how it is for us humans. So what are we saying by "being is enough", by being is "whole, full, and complete"? Is becoming inactive the path to experiencing being as enough? These questions get to the heart of the matter ie they dig into what promotes being as enough.

Look: if being is  enough, then becoming inactive is incidental to the path. What promotes being as enough (which Alan refers to by saying "All you have to do is be") is accepting ie is embracing the possibility that who we really are is the space in which all of it, shows up. Watch: that's not business as usual. In the pre-transformed life, there's struggling with all of it, there's resistance to all of it. And yet if you just stand still and let it all in, there's no natural quarrel with any of it. How can there be? It is what it is, and we're here (experience is evidence of that). Accepting that, allows the possibility of simply being as enough. Then, action being inseparable from being when I act, I act on a platform of it's (already) enough. That's profound. It's also good Zen. It's what's often referred to as Zen in action.

And that's a deeper cut into what the Zen of doing nothing may be. To be sure, the Zen of doing nothing is anything but being inactive. More than that, it's neither vague nor abstract nor ungraspable. To the contrary, it's pragmatic, useful, and powerful. Try this on for size: the Zen of doing nothing, is "doing what you're doing when you're doing it". That's it. And that's all it is. When I'm doing what I'm doing, and I'm thinking about doing something else, I'm busy. When I'm doing what I'm doing, and I'm looking forward to finishing what I'm doing, I'm busy. But when I'm doing what I'm doing when I'm doing it, then I'm doing nothing. Simple. Really.

Now you may not get that intellectually - and even if you could, it wouldn't do you much good (it's not the power source). But if you re-create it for yourself, you can get it experientially. We're always being and acting simultaneously (they are in fact inseparable). That's the ordinary action. Yet we're also constituted to do nothing while we're in action - which is to say we have the ability to be productively active, and yet to be doing nothing (relaxed, easy, peaceful, and powerful, congruent with doing what we're doing). That's the extra-ordinary action. Consider that being and action are inseparable. Then there's after all, nothing but being. That's who we are.

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© Laurence Platt - 2019 Permission