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

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People Make Up The Darndest Things

Carmel By The Sea, California, USA

September 5, 2004

This essay, People Make Up The Darndest Things, is the companion piece to I am indebted to Charlene Afremow who inspired this conversation.

People make up the darndest things.

It's so pernicious. We blur the distinction between what's so and what we make up (ie opine and assess) about what's so. We make things up. We make up the darndest  things. Really we do!

When we make things up, if we are honest we cop to that they are merely our opinions and our assessments. Oftentimes we don't cop to that. We say, think, and believe that the way we make things up is the way things are, the way it is. Oftentimes we don't distinguish our opinions as just our opinions. They are facts. Oftentimes we don't distinguish our assessments as just our assessments. They are facts. If you are unflinchingly honest with yourself, you know when you are making things up. But mostly we are not that honest. We do not tell the truth to that degree.

We make up that this relationship is not "the one". We make up that it is better to be over there than it is to be over here. We make up that we are getting better (which we make up inside of making up that we are not OK the way we are). We make up that people who are like us are safer than people who are not like us.

When I first visited these United States some twenty seven years ago I came to San Francisco for an interview. It was lunch hour and the building foyer was almost deserted. While scanning the tenants register board for the floor to take the elevator to, I became aware of a black man sitting on a bench in a corner watching me. He looked like the janitor. After watching me for a while, he called out to me, asking me which company I was looking for. I told him. Then he asked me whom I was here to see. Taken somewhat aback by his brashness, I told him. "Floyd", I said. The janitor stood up and walked toward me, and I thought to myself: "Thanks, but no thanks. I don't need an escort.". But he held out his hand to me and he said to me: "Hello! I'm Floyd.".

My heart skipped a beat. I grew up in South Africa during the halcyon apartheid years where I considered myself to be progressive, a liberal. Yet in that single instant I saw how prejudiced I really am. The man is black. Therefore he's the janitor. The way I make it up is the way it is. That is the unquestioned equation in my mind. I was shocked, caught redhanded. In the next instant it got worse. With horror I saw that in addition to being prejudiced, I make up that I am not prejudiced.

Floyd subsequently became my sponsor to the United States, my first employer here, and my lifelong friend. More great things have become available to me through Floyd's friendship than through almost any other person I know. Floyd. The man I made up to be the janitor ...

Because we have for the most part no natural ability to distinguish between what's so and what we make up about what's so (unless we generate it for ourselves), pretty soon we make up opinions and assessments to support facts rather than the other way around. The inmates run the asylum. Pretty soon we make up something about everything. We make up that making things up is what is required to get along in life. Making things up and workability become glommed together such that both distinctions lose their power. The possibility of just being with what's so without making anything up, without opining, and without assessing is totally out of the picture.

At some point in my own spiritual hejira I started to notice that I make things up all the time. Oftentimes to my own chagrin I am unsuccessful stopping myself making things up. Making things up seems to be built into the machinery of my automatic mind. Yet when I notice that I make things up when  I make things up, there is a new context to relate from, a new opening for action, and a whole new possibility for being which isn't available when I don't notice that I make things up when I make things up.

And I make up the darndest  things ...

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