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

Opinion As Opinion

Cowboy Cottage, East Napa, California, USA

June 27, 2014

"It's my opinion I've an opinion." ... Laurence Platt

This essay, Opinion As Opinion, is the companion piece to Interpretation As Interpretation.

Expressing an opinion in interested company, is right up there with the all the very best being human offers. A dog doesn't express an opinion. Wheat doesn't express an opinion. A rock doesn't express an opinion. Only human beings express opinions.

What I'd like to look into is this: when we lighten up about our opinion, when we're willing to drop the defensive posture around it (which is to say when we're willing to give up being right  about it), having an opinion isn't all that remarkable. Really it isn't. More than that, when we lighten up about it and drop the defensive posture around it, it's useful to differentiate between our opinion, and who we really are. You'll notice more often than not, there's big trouble when we confuse ie when we obfuscate who we really are with our opinion. From then on, things only get worse when we relate to each other  as our opinions, then invest in our opinion (vs theirs) as a matter of life and death.

That's not to say don't have an opinion (it's interesting to notice it's hard not  to have an opinion, in fact). It's not to say don't express an opinion either. Rather what it says / suggests is start noticing everyone's  got an opinion about everything. Furthermore, start noticing it like the completely mundane everyone's got a nose, everyone's got a navel, everyone's got another part of the anatomy. And it's no big deal. Really.

Here's something to consider: isn't it true local and global conflict is rooted in relating to ourselves and to each other as our opinions, and not as who we really are? Be careful. I didn't ask "Isn't it true local and global conflict is rooted in us having different opinions?". I asked "Isn't it true local and global conflict is rooted in relating to ourselves and to each other as our opinions, and not as who we really are?".

If having an opinion isn't really all that remarkable, here's what's truly  remarkable: being able to ie having the willingness to distinguish  an opinion as merely an opinion  - in other words, being willing to distinguish our opinion as not necessarily the truth. When we're attached to being right, we express our opinion as if it's "the truth". When we're not attached to being right, when we're secure in who we really are, when we're not attached to our opinion, we express our opinion as an opinion: everyone's got one, and it's really no big deal. Then our relationships with one another are a function of who we really are (which is to say then we relate to each other as who we really are) and aren't solely dependent on whether or not we agree / disagree with each others' opinions  (which is to say we don't relate to each other as if we are our opinions).

In this inquiry, I propose that being influential through the expression of a well-constructed, well-thought-through opinion, has some merit. But when it's the opinion which wields the influence, the best an opinion can be is forceful  but never powerful. Forceful shows up in the realm of doing  eg in the realm of expressing an opinion. Powerful shows up in the realm of being  eg in the realm of distinguishing an opinion as opinion and not as "the truth". When you're open to distinguishing an opinion as opinion, it's who you really are wielding the influence, rather than your opinion wielding the influence. That's real power.

If this whole idea of distinguishing (quote unquote) opinion as opinion  has notes of Zen, that's because it's very Zen. The ability to distinguish things both for what  they are (and for what they aren't) as well as for the way  they are (and for the way they aren't) is the essence of Zen. When an opinion isn't distinguished as opinion, it's not an opinion:  it's a righteous point of view. When an opinion is distinguished as opinion, it's just an opinion  ... and so what?!  Big deal.

That's Zen. That's the Zen experience of what an opinion is and what an opinion isn't.

Listen: there's no freedom in being right about an opinion ie there's no freedom in having a righteous point of view. So I'd like to add a word or two about freedom of speech  and expressing an opinion:

I grew up in the halcyon apartheid  years in South Africa when expressing any opinion contrary to the status quo could lead to jail time. Freedom of speech was strategically curtailed by a ruthless government edict. What we're talking about here, isn't a function of freedom of speech. Even though we have the right to freedom of speech here in these United States, being free to express an opinion not distinguished as opinion, isn't yet an act of authentic freedom even though  we're exercising freedom of speech. By the same token, expressing an opinion distinguished as opinion back then in South Africa was an act of authentic (not political) freedom, even though freedom of speech was ruthlessly curtailed.

Yes that is a paradox. And paradox (as Werner Erhard says) is one of the two dragons guarding the gates to the temple of truth (the other is confusion).

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