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


Once More, Without Significance

Cowboy Cottage, East Napa, California, USA

February 16, 2023

"Once more unto the breach, dear friends, once more."
... William Shakespeare embodying Henry V, Act III, Scene I, France before Harfleur

"Mantra for transformation: 'What are you making this mean?'."
... Laurence Platt

"Maybe ever'body in the whole damn world is scared of each other."
... John Steinbeck, Of Mice And Men
This essay, Once More, Without Significance, is the prequel to Living In A What's So World.

I am indebted to John Taylor who contributed material for this conversation.

I'm wondering: if I were to live my life again, would I be swayed to do anything differently the second time? And if so, what would it be? Yet even with that question posed, the truth is my life has really been quite good. So what could be compelling enough to call me to do something differently the second time?

Imagine you were to live your life again. You'd know more about yourself, about life, about your  life, about living, the second time. You'd be much wiser the second time. And you'd have transformation  the second time (that's a really interesting proposition: you'd start  your life with transformation / transformed the second time). So what if anything, knowing what you know now, could be compelling enough for you to do differently if you were to live it over again?

To make this inquiry useful / to stay in focus, let's say you're only allowed to make one  change. So whatever you'd do differently if you lived your life again, you're only allowed to change one thing. What would that be? Choose carefully, wisely. Choose globally. It's only one change. It'll impact everything you do.

I've looked at this proposition closely. It's a no-brainer. If I were to live my life once more, I'd live it without significance - that is I'd live my life once more except reading a lot less significance into things the second time. That's what I would do differently. In hindsight (and hindsight is always  20/20 vision), some things are simply not as significant as I make them out to be. Really they aren't. In fact nothing  is as significant as we make it out to be. No kidding!

From the Cambridge International Dictionary:


importance, special meaning

Unwittingly we settle for significance in lieu of direct experience. Significance / reasons / meaning prevail in our go-to  ideas about the way things are. In the context of Conversations For Transformation, inquiring into the origins of significance is arguably useful inasmuch as it can be leveraged, so the inquiry becomes a catalyst for ideas which result in direct experience. In the absence of direct experience, things are significant / we imbue things with reasons and meaning simply because our minds are meaning-making machines  which assign meaning and significance anywhere and everywhere. The process is built into the machinery and is thus on full automatic. So it's futile to attempt to stop, change, or detach from it - as various disciplinarians purport to be doing.

Interimly that's but one factor, unwitting or witting, in our making things significant. Ultimately the more-than-likely cause of our making things significant is that we don't know who we really are (which is neither a bad thing nor a good thing - but it is a condition in which being human occurs). In the absence of knowing who we really are, we identify with our minds (to the degree that we'll inevitably, inexorably become  our minds) rendering us  as meaning-making machines who assign meaning and significance anywhere and everywhere. In this scenario, the inmates have taken over the asylum, and they're running it.

Be careful: that's not to say that there's no significance to things. There's significance to things. Yes there is. That much is obvious. What's not  so obvious is it's we who are the source of all that significance. In and of themselves, things have no significance, no reasons, no meaning. In and of itself, "Life is empty and meaningless, and it's empty and meaningless that's it's empty and meaningless"  (which is a vintage Erhard quote, by the way). Now that  would be an interesting place to stand, a place where we could live our lives once more, this time without significance. I'm wondering: how would that play out for us?

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