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

People Do The Strangest Things

Sonoma, California, USA

April 24, 2015

This essay, People Do The Strangest Things, is the companion piece to People Make Up The Darndest Things.

I've seen and heard the grand spectrum of reactions to Werner and his work of transformation over the nearly forty years I've been sharing it with people. Sometimes I've been the first person they've heard it from at a level deeper than mere pedestrian guy-in-a-diner  gossip tabloid fodder. Oftentimes their first reaction has been skepticism. I'm OK with that. Not only is it to be expected, but skepticism is actually healthy. People have the capacity to think critically for themselves. Can anything really produce what Werner claims to produce in the brief timeframe in which he claims to produce it?

There are various reasons even the die-hards give up or overcome their own skepticism. Sometimes they overcome their skepticism because over time, they develop a trust with the person who brought Werner's work to their attention. Sometimes it's because they see something in that person's life which they admire. Sometimes it's because they see its possibility in their own lives. Sometimes it's because they simply get tired of being skeptical. Being skeptical, after all, is just a racket, yes? It's entirely possible (and also healthy) that people get tired of their own rackets. Like giving up smoking and / or drinking, people get tired of their own rackets and simply drop them without much further ado. One of my close friends was a hold-out from my sharing for many, many years before eventually registering himself to participate with Werner. I asked him about it (just curious), saying "That's awesome. But why now? What made you change your mind?". He told me he'd held out for so long because although he sensed some good would come of it, he was equally certain he was going to get conned. Now something had shifted (perhaps he trusted me more), and the fear of getting conned, while still there, simply wasn't running him anymore.

After he graduated and we had a chance to speak at length about his experience, I winked at him and asked what he now felt about getting conned. He laughed at my playful dig at his erstwhile conversation. What happened, he told me, is that nobody tried to con him after all - instead (much to his delight) he was un-conned. He got that prior to being with Werner, it was life and everything about it which had conned him. It had conned him big time:  conned him into not being himSelf, conned him into becoming resigned to a life that didn't work and wasn't satisfying, conned him into becoming blind to his purpose in life etc. Participating with Werner empowered him to un-con himself and (arguably for the first time ever) live authentically. It was a huge turn-around for him: from being afraid he'd be conned, to realizing he'd already been conned by life itself, to being empowered by Werner to un-con himself. His sharing was riveting.

I asked him if he had any regrets about finally accepted my dare to register. "Yes I do" he told me "but only one, and it's a big one: I regret I didn't participate much, much sooner, maybe thirty or forty years ago when you first brought this to my attention and invited me. I can only imagine what my life would look like today, had I done this forty years ago", his sentiments echoing what millions of people before him have realized worldwide.

I bumped into him again a few months later. "Well" I asked him, "does the world occur any differently for you these days, now that you're a graduate?". "Oh boy! Does it ever!" he said. "Now that I have a sense of what's possible coming from transformation, it's suddenly so obvious that without it, we ie people, do the strangest things  ...". "Like what?" I asked, interested.

He had a list. I thought his examples were great. We've built our mountains of governing processes on an adversarial model from childhood - which comes down to nothing more than the juvenile sandbox altercation "Didn't!", "Did too!", "Didn't!", "Did too!". We fight to dominate rather than work together. We've constructed most of our societal norms based on an "us  versus them"  model which has never worked, rather than on "we"  which has a good chance of working very well. We almost always project our own situational prejudices onto the world and onto people. Yet we've invested almost zero time learning how to see the world and people as they really are. Our first response to input is likely to be defensiveness rather than accepting it as a contribution. We start relationships then break them up when they don't give us what we want, without considering what we could bring to  relationships (this harkens to President John Fitzgerald Kennedy's "Ask not what your country can do for you - ask what you can do for your country."). We do that a lot. We live that life is unsatisfying, and we assume this is just the way it's going to be ... etc etc.

He went on for quite a while. I heard everything he said. Once you realize what's possible with transformation, it's hard not to notice it's missing everywhere, and how strange things are without it. It's also hard not to notice that we've settled for lives in which we don't express ourselves fully, and (worse) in which we've assumed there's no other way we could possibly live. Based on the limited set of options that being this way makes available, it's no wonder people do the strangest things.

For years I've looked at the question "Why do some people discover transformation for themselves, and others don't?". I still don't have a definitive answer. And I'm not talking about transformation the way the word has become clichéd  today to mean change. I'm referring to transformation as the shift in our experience from identifying with who we think we are and who we consider ourselves to be, to being who we really are (which brings on Jose Ortega y Gasset's infamous point blank  reference to living life). Furthermore I'm referring to transforming ourselves from blaming others for our situation, to taking responsibility for how we wound up being. Indeed, without transformation, it's clear people do the strangest things. Actually without transformation there's no room to do anything but  do something strange.

My own personal approach to this anomaly (which is to say my own personal contribution to it) is to not spend a lot of time on the specifics of the strange things we people do, because given the way we wound up being in the absence of transformation, it's inevitable we'll all do strange things, and it's inevitable we'll continue to do strange things for a long, long time to come. Rather, it's to bring Werner's work and the possibility of transformation to bear. That way we don't need to directly take on the strange things we do. Instead, like giving up smoking and / or drinking, we'll tire of them, they'll lose their grip on us, and we'll discard without further ado.

We ie the human race ie all of us  are capable of doing some really strange things (in case you haven't noticed). The thing is we're also capable of unbridled greatness. What I told my new graduate friend is if I were to pick just one thing to say about Werner's work of transformation, it's that it calls forth the latter like a possibility.

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