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


Online! III:

Outrageous And Profound

The Landmark Forum for Graduates - Outrageous and Profound [Online], Landmark Worldwide

September 21, 2022

"The syntactical nature of reality, the real secret of magic, is that the world is made of words. And if you know the words that the world is made of, you can make of it whatever you wish." ... Terence McKenna

"Life is empty and meaningless." ... Jean-Paul Sartre
"Life is empty and meaningless, and it's empty and meaningless that it's empty and meaningless." ... 
"Distinctions have a short half-life, and need to be recreated from time to time." ...   speaking with Laurence Platt in Encounters With A Friend #7 (Half-Life) 
This essay, Online! III: Outrageous And Profound, is the thirtieth in an open group inspired by Landmark Programs: I am indebted to Manal Maurice who inspired this conversation.


I'm Laurence.

I reviewed The Forum - that is to say as a graduate who's participated with Werner and his work for nearly forty five years, I recently participated in The Forum again. "Why review? Didn't you already get it the first time?" a friend of mine asked me upon hearing my plan. "You review because distinctions have a short half-life, and need to be recreated from time to time" I said, "In life, the drift is away  from transformation, not toward it - even for transformed people.". He nodded, quietly.

Whether it's presented for children (who arguably get it fastest, having less "stuff" in their way) or whether it's presented for adult not-yet-graduates (who take a little longer, thinking they've figured life out) or whether it's presented for graduates ie for reviewers like myself (who take the longest, thinking we already know everything there is to know about transformation), The Forum is The Forum is The Forum ie it's the same Forum for everyone: children, adult non-graduates, and graduates.

During the conversation that my Forum is (and that's exactly what The Forum is: it's a conversation - I also like to call it "interactive theatre"), it dawns on me that my own possibility of Being  (you know, "Being" like the fullest expression of what's available to a human being being human) always goeswith  (as Alan Watts may have said) Being-in-the-world. There's no "Being" for human beings (that's us - You and I) outside of or separate from Being-in-the-world (as Martin Heidegger may have said). When I get that (again) it rocks me to the quick. I see how much I chase Being like some kind of prize / trophy to keep for myself. "What an idiot, what a jerk!" I muse ruefully, "Who in their right mind tries to keep Being for themselves when there's only Being-in-the-world?"  (God! I love the way it lands). Thank You Martin!

When the conversation turns to that little voice in our heads (you know, the one that just asked "What  little voice in my head?") I get two insights: one, that little voice in my head isn't me thinking. It's the other way around. That little voice in my head is thinking me. And two, that little voice in my head isn't any Jiminy Cricket conscience either (as it's widely colloquially considered to be). It's just background noise. In The Forum we connect it with our already always listening  and I notice (with a not unsubstantial degree of chagrin) that it's on full automatic  all the time. My fingernails grow, my heart beats, my lungs breathe, my stomach digests - all automatically ... and the already always listening chatters on all by itself, also automatically. The veil of the phrase "I think ..." is pierced, cleft, ripped asunder. Where there was once a faux  barrier, there are now gaping holes. Clearly, the phrase "I think ..." no longer portends what thinking really is. So: what is  thinking really?  Good question. And we'll see, now that we have a laser-like language implement of inquiry to deploy, with which to investigate, with which to discover it for ourselves.

Oh! One of the things that really  got me when I reviewed The Forum, was ... nothing  - that is to say one of the things that got me again  ... was nothing. Noth. ing.

e e cummings: what Got him was Noth

what Got him was Noth

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Noth. ing. Nothing. When I get nothing like a possibility  and not like another "something", there's a certain je ne sais quoi, a quality of life as lived  that becomes available to me which wasn't available to me before, a quality of life which underpins it all. And this underpinning quality is the decisive context for anything and everything else's quality. When I get it, anything and everything takes on this quality. When I don't, they don't. Now please don't ask me "What ...?", "Why ...?", or "How ...?" this works. The truth is I don't know. As with many things profound, knowing what, why, or how is only awarded the booby prize. In any case, even if I did venture an answer to "What ...?", "Why?", or "How?", it's likely to be from my life as lived in-the-stands, and the trouble with that is The Forum is lived on-the-court  (and I'm already getting too close to that perilous edge, given that my sharing of all of this with you is in writing and not in face-to-face speaking and listening).

Next: while we may not readily admit we're superstitious, we all  are - deeply  so. We have a conversation about being superstitious and about superstitions in general. Not your common or garden variety superstition. Not your routine "black cat crossing your path" superstition. Not your "broken mirror, bad luck" superstition. No, we're looking at your "Who woulda thunk  it's a superstition?" variety superstitions: the superstition of "I", the superstition of "is", the superstition of "because" ie the superstitions that keep transformation at bay (or, if you like, the superstitions that lock being untransformed in place). For example, in the case of the superstition of "is": from the vantage point of life in-the-stands, life "is", yes? Sorry, no. Consider that it's a superstition. From the vantage point of life on-the-court, life "occurs  as".

I love brain-teasers. As we're inquiring into the relentlessness with which superstitions run our lives, we examine a golden-oldie  brain-teaser:


Now if that statement is indeed false, then it's true!  But if the statement is true, then it's indeed false!  It's a doozie. Getting how superstitious we really are, is maddeningly slippery. But look: we're not brain-teasing for the sake of brain-teasing. I'm not NPR's  (National Public Radio's) puzzle-master. We're brain-teasing to grapple with the superstitions that keep transformation at bay. And "The world / he / she / it / that ... is  (this way)"? It's little more than a superstition. Really.

The hours fly by. As transformation gets inexorably teased out in this, my review of The Forum, I recall when I first got it nearly forty five years ago, I got something BIG about my relationship with my parents. It comes up again. I take it out into the light, and dust it off: my parents are responsible for what works in my life (thank you Mom and Dad!) and I'm responsible for what doesn't work in my life. Yes. For years (too long in fact) when I was young, immature, and not even half the man I am today, I had it the other way around. I had it that I'm responsible for what works in my life, and my parents are responsible for what doesn't work in my life.

Wow! How embarrassingly "Wow!". Back then, when you opened the dictionary at the entry for "BRAT (noun)", they had my picture in there.

We alight ie conversationally  on fear briefly. Where in your body do you store fear? I store mine in my left wrist (really - of all places ...). And when I cram too much fear in there, my wrist tremors. As a skydiver I learned something pivotal about fear: fear is fear. That's it, and that's all. Fear has no meaning. Assigning meaning to fear ie making fear mean something, fans its flames. The way you handle fear is by being afraid. In the context of skydiving, you're afraid ... and  ... you skydive.

So in the end, what did I take away from reviewing The Forum? Inter-alia, this: all  manifestations of suffering have one thing in common: going through life as if "This isn't  it.". And this: life means? nothing;  so what's possible? everything;  so what can I create? anything;  and who can I be? whomever I create myself to be. And this (a bonus breakthrough): a colleague who reviewed The Forum with me was asked "How are you doing?". He said "I don't know. I haven't looked recently.".

I love  his answer. Did you get it? Do you get where he's coming from? The Forum is The Forum is The Forum. It's outrageous. And profound. Thank You Werner!

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