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




On Being Not Of Word

Alston Park, Napa Valley, California, USA

March 2, 2020



"You can take your word back, and what you get then is your old life back."
...   answering Laurence Platt's question "Is it authentic for me, once I give my word, to ever take it back?" in We Are The Word 
This essay, On Being Not Of Word, is the companion piece to Honoring Your Word.




When I was younger (so much younger than today) I was a much more naïve-er me. I had it that keeping my word was my baseline measure of integrity. That's a pretty good yardstick actually - at least that's what I thought back then. I had it that if I gave my word ie if I made a promise, then kept my word, I was in integrity - and if I didn't, I wasn't. With that said, if you scroll back chronologically through this collection of essays, you'll find many references in them to my naïve-er, earlier "keeping-my-word-measure-of-integrity"  yardsticks, almost all of which which now occur for me as mildly embarrassing - indeed they're awkward for me to read now.

To be sure, keeping your word is a good place to start the conversation for the possibility of being in integrity. But for me now (having grown up a bit since those days) I see it is, in and of itself, not comprehensive enough. Given what I now know, it's actually shot full of gaping holes. I get that now. I didn't get it back then.

Here's an example of what I'm talking about - in the form of a scenario and a question. The scenario: you give your word / promise you'll come over to my place at three o'clock (and you're a person of your word so you have integrity). During the drive over there's an earthquake. Out of an abundance of caution the BATA  (Bay Area Toll Authority) closes all the bridges. You won't make it to my place at three o'clock as promised - indeed, you won't make it to my place today at all. Now it's four o'clock and you're not here. You didn't keep your word to be here at three o'clock. The question: given you didn't keep your word, are you out of integrity?

The answer is: it "depends" ie it's both "Yes" and "No.". Let's examine both - and if it's "Yes", notice you're not necessarily  out of integrity even if you don't keep your word! (getting that, was the breakthrough for me). It's "Yes" if you don't let me know  you won't be keeping your word. And conversely it's "No" if you let me know you won't be keeping your word. Letting me know you won't be keeping your word when you know you won't be keeping your word, is one of the actions Werner includes under the umbrella of "honoring"  your word. And that's how I discovered that keeping my word is not  my baseline measure of integrity after all. That was the naïvete. My baseline measure of integrity is honoring my word - and I can honor my word even when  I don't (ie even if I can't) (Earthquake!)  keep my word.

Both not keeping your word and / or taking your word back after you've given it, are only out of integrity when you don't honor your word. Even if I can't keep my word, indeed even if I flat-out change my mind  later about keeping my word and take my word back, my integrity is in violation only when I don't honor my word.

What's different between keeping my word and honoring my word, beyond being in integrity by letting you know I won't be keeping my word? The difference is in the relationship  I have with my word. Try this on: stand in  (if you will) "keeping  your word". Notice your word, who you are, and the relationship between your word and who you are. Now stand in "honoring  your word". Again, notice your word, who you are, and the relationship between your word and who you are. In the former, your word is static, who you are is almost not present, and the relationship between the two, is under duress. In the latter, your word is dynamic / worthy of honor, who you are is present and generous, and the relationship between the two, is one of mutual, assured respect. To not honor your word is to be a person not of word.

When I'm being not of word, I'm not merely living in a constant state of violated integrity. When I'm being not of word, I'm living without the presence, generosity, and respect of the being of human being. While those options may under certain conditions appear to be expedient, in actuality they carry way too high of a price tag.



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