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


Presence Of Self

Auberge du Soleil, Rutherford, California, USA

June 6, 2009



This essay, Presence Of Self, is the companion piece to It is also the second in a septology on Self: It is also the prequel to Being And Acting Out-Here.

It is also the sequel to Commitment To Self.

I am indebted to The Chief who inspired this conversation.




When I stand alone, when I stand by ... my ... Self, what's the yardstick, what's the validation, what's the authentication which makes any choice the  choice to make, which makes any direction the  direction to take, which makes any action the  action to take? What's the litmus test  by which I can determine whatever I choose which results in whatever it results in  is the optimal  result, the appropriate result, the outcome flush with and congruent  with workability over the widest possible area?

Is there something against which I can measure that which I choose to be not only optimal, not only appropriate, not only workable for me but also optimal, appropriate, and workable comprehensively ie inclusive of anyone and everyone and all things within the total domain and dominion of the results of my choices and of my actions?

Indeed, projecting further, is it even possible  for me to make choices with all that  in mind? Indeed, if it's possible, against what background  would or could such choices be made? By what yardstick could they be pre-measured? By what litmus test  could they be validated? Or, as one solitary human being, is it only possible for me to make choices for myself  which then by default impact those around me and all of my surroundings but without me having any immediate mastery over the scope of their impact on those around me and on all of my surroundings?

What if it were  possible? Furthermore, if it were  possible, how would I know what to choose given all the myriads of choices available? How would I know, how could  I know if any particular choice would deliver all that?  By what yardstick, by what litmus test  would I know it?

If there were such a yardstick, if there were such a litmus test, what would it look like? What would it feel  like? Indeed, would it feel like anything in particular? Would it be the result of a pre-set list of questions which would check possible results of my actions before they were implemented, and which would render them plausible if a certain percentile of their answers were favorable? Perhaps it's simply not possible  to know ahead of time how my actions are going to impact anyone and everyone and all things within the domain of my choices. If it's not possible to know ahead of time, I must proceed anyway wishing and hoping  whatever I do has a benign forwarding  impact. Yet I'll never be certain it will until after the fact - in which case, I'll proceed anyway: not knowing  the results ahead of time is no grounds for standing still.

Before I respond to an argument, before I turn to face an attack, what's the measure, what's the litmus test  of the efficacy of my response? Before I make a decision, for example, about where to apply my energy, about the areas in which I'll work, about what projects I'll take on, what's the measure, what's the litmus test  of whether it's something I'll wholeheartedly, unreservedly give myself to? Before I accept invitations to participate in new endeavors, before I add new conversations to my repertoire, what's the measure, what's the litmus test  of whether or not they'll compromise my integrity, of whether or not I'll commit myself to something I can't (or, worse, don't want to)  deliver my promise to?

I'd like to propose there is such a yardstick. There is such a litmus test. I assert the yardstick, the litmus test  is "presence of Self" like a possibility. Here's my proposal:

If what I choose ie whatever  I choose results in an expanded sense of presence of Self  then I'll choose it. That's what's likely to work broadly across all impact zones in my life and for all people in all impact zones in my life. If what I choose ie whatever  I choose results in a diminished sense of presence of Self  then I'll eschew it.

If what I do ie whatever  I do results in an expanded sense of presence of Self  then I'll do it. That's what's likely to work broadly across all impact zones in my life and for all people in all impact zones in my life. If what I do ie whatever  I do results in a diminished sense of presence of Self  then I'll not do it.

If what I speak ie whatever  I speak results in an expanded sense of presence of Self  then I'll speak it. That's what's likely to work broadly across all impact zones in my life and for all people in all impact zones in my life. If what I speak ie whatever  I speak results in a diminished sense of presence of Self  then I'll not speak it.

Although I'm speaking the litmus test  for any choice as whatever it is which results in an expanded sense of presence of Self, in actuality the litmus test  for any choice is whatever it is which doesn't  result in a diminished  sense of presence of Self. Often, in both mathematics as well as in Zen, it's the double negative which defines the positive.

What's critical here is to distinguish what presence of Self is not. Presence of Self isn't ego. While it may be appropriate, relevant, even useful  from time to time to choose, act, and speak in synch with that which furthers my own point of view  ie to choose, act, and speak in synch with my ego, ego isn't what I'm distinguishing as presence of Self.

Neither is presence of Self what I call "I". While it may be appropriate, relevant, even useful  from time to time to choose, act, and speak in synch with that which furthers whatever it is I consider myself to be  ie to choose, act, and speak in synch with that which I call "I", "I" isn't what I'm distinguishing as presence of Self.

I'm distinguishing presence of Self as naked presence, as a clearing, as a joyous  opening for possibility, as a context  which allows all of it  to show up including my ego, including that which I call "I" yet neither limited to them nor defined by them ie particularly  not defined by them. Presence of Self in its bold, manifest form is really taking a stand for presence of Self. For human beings it's quite literally the possibility of being being. That said, my thesis is this:

When faced with a choice, whatever the choice is which results in an expanded sense of presence of Self over and beyond  that which is specifically chosen, that's  the choice I'll make. When faced with an action, whatever the action is which results in an expanded sense of presence of Self over and beyond  that which is specifically actioned, that's  the action I'll take. When faced with what to speak, whatever the language is which results in an expanded sense of presence of Self over and beyond  that which is specifically spoken, that's  what I'll speak. Conversely a resulting diminished sense of presence of Self is the litmus test  of what to eschew. This is the litmus test  which works in any situation.

Standing for  presence of Self doesn't provide the answers. Neither does it ensure being right. Rather what it ensures is a certain authenticity  in choice, action, and speech. It positions me at the start  of a future based on a foundation on which I'm willing to stand, for which I'm willing to be  a stand. Standing for  presence of Self doesn't guarantee I'll win  or be right. The results of standing for  presence of Self are simply the results of standing for presence of Self. All that's guaranteed is the authenticity of my choices, actions, and words. Standing for presence of Self in an attempt to improve one's chances of winning, to underline being right or dominant, or to ensure one's survival  is a classic case of being unclear on the concept. What I'm speaking about here is a far, far cry from the world of manipulatability. You can't manipulate presence of Self to your advantage, and neither can you use it to trumpet your own agenda. It's simply what's so.

The results, the outcomes when standing for presence of Self will be whatever the results and outcomes will be  when standing for presence of Self - just as surely as the results, the outcomes will be whatever the results and outcomes will be  when not  standing for presence of Self. The subtle distinction for me is when I'm coming from presence of Self, I can be responsible for any  results and outcomes. And if there's any blueprint  at all for the life I want to live, living a life in which I can be responsible for any  results and outcomes of my choices, actions, and speaking is the life I want to live.

It's more than that, actually. For me, there's no other life even worth  living. And, when the truth is told, it's even more than that also. For me, there's no  ... other  ... life. Period. Anything and everything else is simply a reasonable facsimile  of ie no more than a close approximation  to what's available, to what's really possible.



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