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


Not What You Expected

Sears Point, California, USA

December 4, 2007



"Happiness is a function of accepting what is."  ... 
This essay, Not What You Expected, is the companion piece to The Way It Turned Out.

I am indebted to Chris Lacey who inspired this conversation.




So.

THIS ... is ... it  ...

Life's turned out. It's turned out this  way. It didn't turn out any other  way. It didn't turn out the way you wanted  it to. It didn't turn out the way you needed  it to. It didn't turn out the way you hoped  it would. It didn't turn out the way you wished  it would. It didn't turn out the way you prayed  it would. It simply turned out the way it turned out.

The train is in the station. It got here regardless of your want, regardless of your need, regardless of your hope, regardless of your wish, regardless of your prayer, regardless of your good intention, regardless of you being a good person.

It's not what you expected. Who you gonna call?

At this juncture, disappointment's a good option. It seems valid, doesn't it?, to be disappointed when your expectations aren't met. You didn't expect this  ... yet this is  the way it turned out, yes? There'd be a lot of agreement out there  if you asked "Is this all  there is?" and were disappointed when you got the answer "This is all there is.". There'd be even more agreement if you then complained "But it's not fair!".

Anger's a possibility too. You could rail against God for setting it up this way. You could also rage against the machine for being this way.

Here's the thing: disappointment, unfairness, and anger live inside of a kind of cosmic gotcha. They're interimly real - for you. But they're not ultimately real for Life itself. That's Werner Erhard's take on it. Literally.
Werner's take can be tested. You can come to your own conclusion. You don't have to believe him. Here's how you can test it:

The next time you're disappointed, the next time you consider you've been treated unfairly, the next time you're angry, go outside at night and tell the stars and the universe how disappointed you are, tell the stars and the universe how unfair things are, tell the stars and the universe how angry you are.

That's the first part  of the test. It's the second part of the test which is the critical part. In the second part of the test, after you've told the stars and the universe how disappointed you are, how unfair things are, how angry you are, watch carefully  for the stars' and the universe's reactions. Watch carefully. Watch very, very  carefully.

Pretty soon you'll notice the stars and the universe are divinely indifferent to disappointment, unfairness, and anger. They don't care  about disappointment, unfairness, and anger. They aren't swayed one iota  by disappointment, by unfairness, by anger. They give no justice. They grant no compensation. They provide no alleviation. Actually it's worse than that. It's that all the stars and the universe say about disappointment, unfairness, and anger is "So what?!" No matter how many times, no matter how convincingly  you tell the stars and the universe about your disappointment, unfairness, and anger, that's all they say, that's all they ever  say, over and over and over and over again: "So what?! You're disappointed. You've been treated unfairly. You're angry. It's not what you expected. So what?!  Who you gonna call?".

There's no way out. You're trapped. The cosmic gotcha's  got you. Life itself  led you to this moment of disappointment, unfairness, and anger. But then shouldn't Life itself  heal disappointment? Shouldn't Life itself  rebalance unfairness? Shouldn't Life itself  quench anger? Shouldn't it? Especially  if you're a good  person?

"OK!" you say, "Enough's enough Laurence. I got it. Where's the relief?".

But there's none. Gotcha!  You've been stood up. You're left waiting for your date to arrive to escort you to the prom ... and he ain't comin'  ...

This is a pivotal moment. This incident could be woven into a lifelong story of being ripped off, a feeling of being cheated, of misery, of resentment. After all, Life itself  led you here, but you got no  justice, no  compensation, no  alleviation ... which clearly proves Life itself  is against you, is unfair, isn't to be trusted. It proves  this moment is the insurmountable  wall of defeat, the shot through the heart, the final nail in the coffin, all  of the above.

* * *

That's one possible outcome. Yet on closer examination, that particular outcome doesn't have choice  in it. That particular outcome just happens  ... with a velocity, with an irresistible pull  all of its own. I guess you could say (justifiably so) the problem is what happened. I'd like to consider the possibility that the problem isn't what happened. I'd like to consider the possibility that the problem is not exercising choice  over what happened.

So here's another possible outcome. This other possible outcome is only  available as a choice. It's choosing the cosmic gotcha  to be an opportunity for recontextualization  (I love  that word), to be a catalyst for transformation, to be a clearing for a breakthrough. It's the choice to accept the situation, to accept what is.

In this inquiry, the choice to accept the situation, the choice to accept what is  comes perilously close to resignation, to being resigned. But it's not that. It's not even close. It's the opportunity to choose Life itself, to choose what is  as the context for disappointment, unfairness, and anger. In the moment of making that choice, disappointment, unfairness, and anger are no longer personal. In the instant of getting off it, they cease being the context for living. They're recontextualized. Their causes become, instead, simply what's so. At worst, they're generated by you even though they appear to be generated by the circumstances. At best, they're insignificant and meaningless and, like other self-defeating addictions eg to nicotine and alcohol, can be dropped.

That's what the stars and the universe were telling you all along, ever since you were born, in fact - only you weren't listening.

At the end of the day, the choice to accept what is  is arguably the most sacred  action a human being can perform. Unfailingly, with that choice comes happiness and transformation. But it's not a choice which, once made, needs never be made again. This isn't a game show. There's no "lock in your answer" option here. If there were, making this choice once  thus ensuring happiness and transformation forever would annihilate any possibility of future onus and creativity. Instead, it's a choice to be made over and over and over again, once for each and every occasion when things turn out to be not what you expected. There's no short cut. There's no easy way out. If transformation were easy, the whole world would be transformed by now.

Transformation, generated this way as a deliberate, intentional act ie as a choice, is the very stuff of breakthroughs, those sudden discontiguous exponential shifts in life which produce results which heretofore simply weren't possible. When I stand not so much in a world of disappointment, unfairness, and anger but rather in the world of decisions I've made  about disappointment, unfairness, and anger, only so much is available, only so much is possible. Bringing transformation to bear, standing in true Self, accepting what is  so that disappointment, unfairness, and anger are recontextualized  literally opens worlds, worlds which simply didn't exist before. Stepping into such new worlds made available by the simple act of accepting what is  is the firing pin of a breakthrough.

What starts off as not what you expected  is transformed through acceptance into a clearing  for something new, for possibility. There's simply no possibility in the world given by decisions made about  disappointment, unfairness, and anger. I don't know why it's that way. Sometimes I wish it weren't that way. I notice how heavily invested  I am in the decisions I've made about disappointment, unfairness, and anger. Yet the more I look, the more I see it's that way. Who you gonna call? The answer's obvious.

I assert you could infer that's really a measure of how much the stars and the universe support us. They don't tell us that when we tell them about our disappointment, unfairness, and anger. They know how big we really are, even when we've forgotten. They trust us to figure that part of it out for ourselves.



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