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 Doing

Sears Point, California, USA

October 22, 2008



This essay, Nothing Doing, is the eighth in a group of fifteen on Nothing: It was written at the same time as Paradox And Confusion.



In our society, in our belief system, we're skewed  toward a certain value we perceive in doing nothing. At the end of the day, we look forward to relaxing doing nothing. Whatever that may look like, a glass of wine or a beer watching the game on TV for example, the ability to take time out to do nothing  is cherished as a gift we give ourselves, as something we deserve. We do nothing  as a prize we award ourselves for doing something.

Way before we retire, when we work we look forward to vacations and doing nothing. We think of not working  as doing nothing. When I tell the truth about it, doing nothing  in this way has neither been satisfying for me nor, if the truth be told, has it ever been relaxing. I've come home from way too many vacations to speak of, in need of a vacation to recover from the vacation. Where then, if anywhere, is the unfulfilled promise of the relaxation of a vacation? Is doing nothing  really relaxing? For that matter, is doing nothing really doing nothing?  More pertinently, except for being in a coma, is it ever possible, really, to do nothing?  I mean, really?

Retirement, for the most part, is when we consider we'll finally stop working, and do nothing. We consider it (ie finally stopping working) a reward. We speak of retirement in highly valued terms like "The Golden  Years" which we consider to be our due, inevitable. But artists don't retire ... think about it.

Follow me here:

You're not  doing nothing when you're doing nothing. Yes, that is  a paradox: you're not doing nothing when you're doing nothing. When you're doing nothing, you're thinking, you're fidgeting, you're reminiscing, you're plotting, you're planning, you're scheming etc. When you're doing nothing, the last thing you're doing  is nothing. You're not doing nothing when you aren't doing anything. You're not doing nothing when you aren't doing what you should be doing. You're not doing nothing when you're thinking about doing what you're not doing when you're doing something else. You're not doing nothing when you're doing what you're doing and you're thinking about not doing something else.

You're doing nothing when you're doing what you're doing when you're doing it.

I'll say it again: you're doing nothing when you're doing what you're doing when you're doing it.

Did you follow that?

You don't need to stop working to do nothing. You don't need to wait for the end of the day to do nothing. You don't need a vacation to do nothing. You don't need to retire to do nothing. Any time you're doing what you're doing when you're doing it, you're doing nothing.

Some of the naturally healthy, expected alpha male  challenges leveled at Werner over the years represent, in my opinion, understandably simple misinterpretation. For example, it's been said Werner's work is overly intellectual. It's been said it's too cerebral. I can get that. My view of what's really going on here in the realm of these and similar misinterpretations is Werner's work calls for thinking for yourself. Prior to that, it calls for learning  to think for yourself. Werner's work calls for authentic original thought.

The steady unrelenting stream of consciousness, images, flashbacks, flash-forwards, and voice-overs which blizzard through the mind neverendingly, incessantly, daily, right now, isn't thinking at all. If you look, you'll see you don't think  any of all that stuff. Rather, it  thinks you. Not grasping this distinction (which is essentially the distinction between having thoughts, and thinking for yourself), it may appear Werner's work is intellectual, cerebral. But not grasping "It's thinking me"  as distinct from "I'm  thinking it"  would, I assert, result in misinterpretations which conclude intellectuality and cerebralness rather than authenticity and originality.

Having laid that down as a foundation to stand on from which to discourse further, there's a particular process Werner invents which isn't possible  in the physical universe. It's only possible in the experiential  universe. The process is this:

Glass Beads courtesy tulumba.com
Two Identical Glass Beads
We're going to play a game with two glass beads (as Hermann Hesse may have said). Imagine a bead, a brightly colored glass bead. Now imagine another bead, another brightly colored glass bead. Now imagine both beads are the same shape, the same weight, the same density, the same size, the same everything. In other words, they're two identical glass beads. Now imagine you've got one bead on the flat palm of your left hand and you've got the other bead on the flat palm of your right hand. Now imagine you push both beads into the same space. Imagine you literally push each bead into the space the other bead occupies so the two beads both occupy the same space  at the same time. What do you notice?

The first thing you may notice is it's impossible  to do this in the physical universe. In the physical universe, no object can occupy the space occupied by any other object at the same time. No two objects can be in exactly the same space at exactly the same time in the physical universe. However, notice what happens if you perform this process in the experiential  universe. What happens to the two beads in your experience  rather than in the physical universe when you push each bead into the space the other occupies so they both occupy the same space  at the same time?

If you stay with this process, if you stay with your experience  of this process and not with what your mind protests about the laws of physics, you'll notice when the two beads occupy the same space in your experience at the same time, it's clear both  beads disappear.

If you repeat this process with two identical actions  rather than with two identical beads, if you stay with your experience  of this process and not with what your mind protests about the laws of thermodynamics, you'll notice when the two actions occur in the same space in your experience at the same time, it's clear both actions  disappear.

When two objects occupy the same space in your experience at the same time, they disappear, they become nothing. When two actions  occur in the same space in your experience at the same time, they disappear, they become nothing. In other words, when you're doing what you're doing when you're doing it, you're doing nothing - every day, around the clock, before or during retirement, all the time, throughout life, in work or at play.

This is the science of Zen in action. This is the art  of living transformation. This is the gift (at least in part) of Werner's work.



Communication Promise E-Mail | Home

© Laurence Platt - 2008 through 2014 Permission