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

Possibility's The Word

Exertec Health and Fitness Center, Napa, California, USA

March 2, 2017

"It doesn't always have to be like this ... all we need to do is make sure we keep talking."  ... Stephen Hawking quoted by  
This essay, Possibility's The Word, is the sixteenth in an open group on Possibility: I am indebted to John Trotter who inspired this conversation, and to John Taylor who contributed material.

What he said rocked my world. It wasn't the way he said it, and it wasn't that it was something I'd never heard before. Rather it was the fact that he said it at all. When he said it, he took it out of the realm of specialness, of privilege, of insider knowing, and put it squarely into the public domain where it surely belongs and where it works best - which is to say by saying it, he confirmed for me it's already  available in the public domain where it surely belongs and where it works best.

I learned from a friend he's a member of our gym thanks to a generous scholarship granted by the management. Another tells me not a day goes by when he doesn't visit the local Roman Catholic church where he can be seen, even when there's no official service going on, sitting alone in a pew contemplating whatever there is to contemplate in an empty church. He sleeps in a local homeless shelter and gets his meals from one of the services which provides meals for the homeless.

The thing about the guy is he's present. When I pass him in the gym halls, he smiles. But his smiles aren't painted on like they're covering up embarrassment. They're smiles of hospitality, of open authentic greeting. And so it was one day as I was walking toward a treadmill and he was coming in the other direction out of the weight room, when he stopped in front of me and, looking me dead in the eye, asked "What's the word, brother?", a kind of folksy streetsmart  hello. I didn't know how to respond. I slowed down, and out of my mouth in passing spilled two trite responses. "Love?" I said, "The word is love?" then, changing my mind, said "... er ... the word is it's all OK?", you know, as questions  like I was trying to get it right. But I was just making stuff up, trying to be clever. So I asked him  "What is  the word, brother?" (reciprocity was the next thing to try).

And he said back at me "The word is possibility. Possibility's the word.". He was emphatic. And again, the open smile.

It stopped me dead in my tracks. A pregnant pause, disbelief. I said to him incredulously "The word is ... possibility?  Wow! That's awesome, dude. Where did you get that?". I really wanted to know.

"I mean anything's possible, brother" he said, still folksy, still streetsmart. I leaned closer. "Do you know Werner?" I asked him. "No. Who's Werner?" he replied. "Are you a graduate?" I persisted. "A graduate of what?" he asked. And again, the open smile. He hadn't just said it like he was reading "Anything's possible" off the paper insert in a Chinese fortune cookie. The way he said "Anything's possible" sent shivers up and down my spine. As we talked more, I realized he really got  possibility. And that's when I realized the guy had engaged in figuring it out for himself - which is to say had inquired into it for himself in his life. I came to the gym to run three miles on a treadmill. In addition I got evidence of the ready-availability of possibility, validated by a homeless man who in many ways was more open with it and more generous with it with a total stranger (ie me), than I am with strangers in many cases. Furthermore, he hadn't participated in Werner's work, so what he'd gotten for himself so far, he'd gotten by himself naturally, authentically.

You could say we've a long way to go before a homeless man can prove to have mastered inventing possibility for himself and his life. That may be so. It may not be. And that's not for us to judge. What got me was the fact that I was in a conversation for possibility with him at all ... and  ... I was getting the space of it from him.

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