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


Point Reyes, California, USA

January 3, 2009

This essay, Prelude, is the first in the first trilogy Questions For A Friend:
  1. Prelude
  2. Ask Me Anything
  3. Coming Around Again
in that order.
The second trilogy Questions For A Friend is:
  1. Familiar Unfamiliar Territory
  2. Interview
  3. Straight Talk
in that order.
The third trilogy Questions For A Friend is:
  1. Dancing With My Mouth
  2. Cave Paintings
  3. Velvet Tsunami
in that order.
The fourth trilogy Questions For A Friend is:
  1. Creating Creating
  2. Tell Me Something About Nothing
  3. Lucid Disclosures
in that order.
The fifth trilogy Questions For A Friend is:
  1. Closer And Closer
  2. Tête À Tête
  3. Dancing With Life
in that order.
The sixth trilogy Questions For A Friend is:
  1. What Would I Ask You If I Could Ask You Anything?
  2. Wonderings About Nothing In Particular
  3. Tipping Point
in that order.
The seventh trilogy Questions For A Friend is:
  1. Beyond Breathing Underwater
  2. Bold Faced Truth
  3. What You Create For Yourself About Me
in that order.
The eighth trilogy Questions For A Friend is:
  1. Once In A Lifetime
  2. Fireside Chat
  3. Whole And Complete
in that order.
The ninth trilogy Questions For A Friend is:
  1. Questions For A Friend
  2. Nothing Else I'd Rather Be Doing
  3. Free To Be And Free To Act
in that order.
The tenth trilogy Questions For A Friend is:
  1. Attracted To Dance
  2. I Told A Friend I Love You
  3. Terse Transformed Communication
in that order.
The eleventh trilogy Questions For A Friend is:
  1. A Context Worth Playing In
  2. Tie The Brush To My Hand
  3. Unimaginably Terse
in that order.
The twelfth trilogy Questions For A Friend is:
  1. What Will I Do When You Die?
  2. Access
  3. The Newest Piece Of Work
in that order.
The thirteenth trilogy Questions For A Friend is:
  1. Worthy Of The Company
  2. Creating Them For Myself
  3. Standing With Masters
in that order.
The fourteenth trilogy Questions For A Friend is:
  1. This Context Of Privilege
  2. I'm Not Going To Let It Go
  3. Questions For A Friend XIV III: Not Yet Titled (working title)
in that order.

I notice I'm likely to have one of two kinds of perpetrations  going on (perhaps both) when I have a conversation of any depth with intelligent people.

I'm not speaking about what's passed off  as conversation but isn't conversation at all. I'm not speaking about gossip. I'm not speaking about chit chat  around the office water cooler. I'm not speaking about Monday morning quarterbacking. I'm not speaking about what I call simply filling the space with noise  ie "lip flapping". I'm even not speaking about conversations I may have within the realm of academia  ie the kind of conversations I may have with a coach when I work out the dissemination of an original work ie a thesis. Nor am I speaking about the kind of conversations I may have in a point / counter point  debate, the sport in which the idea is to outsmart, out-think and to out-maneuver  the other guy mentally. None of the above.

I'm speaking about the open non-manipulative  inquiring kind of "What if ... ?"  conversations late in the evening with the sun just going down on the horizon, some nice wine at hand perhaps, with friends, with people I love, sharing the gift of gab  between ourselves (as Dewey Bunnell may have said). And though referring to conversation with tousling affection as the gift of gab  may unwantedly cheapen what I'm speaking about, referring to it this way is good enough for jazz. I am, after all, emphasizing conversation with friends, with people I love is a gift.

The first kind of perpetration is I'm asking questions to which I already know the answer. These questions aren't open. Even if no one else knows I already know the answer, I already know the answer  nonetheless. Such questions therefore are covert attempts to win points, to get kudos  for being smart. If the question is an open question, if it's a true postulation, if it's a genuine supposition, a true "What if ... ?"  to which I don't have an already answer, only then is it wide open. When a question is wide open, everyone wins. Any answer coming from anyone to a truly open  question is gold dust direct from the ore vein.

The second kind of perpetration is I'm asking questions to which I don't already know the answer, but to which I know you already know the answer. The perpetration is harder to see this time but it's a perpetration nonetheless. Here the perpetration is I'm being covertly cute, patronizing. I'm patronizing  you by setting you up to look good. And while there's nothing intrinsically wrong with doing that, it's a perpetration nonetheless since I'm not overtly declaring that's what I'm doing.

A time for us to be together again is inexorably drawing nigh. I hereby declare I'll vanquish  both these perpetrations before I come. When I enter our meeting space they'll be left unceremoniously, unwanted excess baggage, outside the door. I promise I won't gossip, chit chat, or flap my lips just for the sake of making noise. I won't be overly significant  and I won't be in a debate with you.

I love being with you, and I want whatever we speak about, whatever the context  of the conversation is, whatever questions I might ask you, to call forth I love being with you.

It's pointless, a waste of a precious opportunity actually, to ask you questions the answers to which I already know. It's patronizing (which is another waste of a precious opportunity, not to mention disrespectful)  to ask you questions the answers to which you  already know. What then, if I could ask you anything, could I ask you? If I could ask you anything, if you were open to me asking you anything at all authentically, what ten questions, say, could I ask you?

When I look for ten questions I could ask you authentically, I come to a screeching halt. Aghast  I discover I can't come up with even one. I'm at a stop, a dead stop. I'm completely up against it. There's a brick wall  in front of me. All I seem to be doing instead of coming up with questions to ask you is sitting here being stuck, face to the wall, watching the wall.

Part of the problem is when you and I are together and we're being who we are, when we're being who we really  are together, the space is so full  for me, the experience is already so complete  that there just seems to be no more room at the inn  for anything new to come in. Anything. My cup is so full  in anticipation of being with you again. There's simply no way  more tea can come in.

It would be plain stoopid, totally reckless of me to show up to be with you again without having anything at stake, with my pockets empty of chips to ante up. So I'm just going to sit here and stare at this blank wall for as long as it takes until I think of something.

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