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

Really, Really Bad

Napa Airport Corporate Center, California, USA

February 7, 2018

"You know I'm bad, I'm bad (really, really bad)." ... Michael Joseph Jackson, Bad 
This essay, Really, Really Bad, is the ninth in a group of ten on Money:
  1. Money And Us
  2. Give Me Money (That's What I Want?)
  3. Laurence Platt Video Interview III
  4. Exceptionally Rich
  5. Stake To Play
  6. Breakfast With The Master II: Future Finances
  7. Profit And Loss
  8. New Financial Order
  9. Really, Really Bad
  10. Standing Up To Gold
in that order.

It is also the nineteenth in an open group with titles borrowed from Songs:

It's a conversation we have a lot. Mostly (on the surface of it) it's a conversation about finances, the economy, and worry. Upon closer investigation when we begin telling the bone-numbing truth about it unflinchingly, we see it's really not a financial conversation at all: it's a conversation which reflects a particular aspect of our human nature, having a lot less to do with our financial circumstances than we're willing to (or know how  to) admit. It's a conversation which purports to be about  the money. But it actually reflects who we're being  about the money - which is to say it reflects inter alia who we're being about any of the circumstances in our lives.

Some of the better known economic triggers  (if you will) in recent times for this ongoing, recurring conversation about finances, the economy, and worry, are the bursting of the "dot-com" bubble of March 2000, the aftermath of the September 11th attack of 2001, the economic downturn of 2002, the financial crisis of 2007 / 2008. And today it's the stock sell-off of February 2018. Listen: it's not noteworthy that stock markets go up and down (then up again). That's their nature. What's noteworthy is that we filter our personal experience of well-being  through the vagaries of stock market fluctuations. We literally bind our sense of Self-worth to them.


That we filter our personal experience of well-being through the vagaries of stock market fluctuations is of course, an erroneously learned, now automated survival mechanism.

But that's a subject to explore deeper in another conversation on another occasion.


We sat outside Cowboy Cottage at sunset, sipping ice-cold Pabst Blue Ribbon  from the bottle, counting cows, horses, and hawks in the cattle pasture. It was during the financial crisis of 2007 / 2008. "It's never been this bad" he fretted. "It's OK" I offered. "No you don't understand" he said, "This  time it's really, really  bad.". It became clear to me our conversation was at cross-purposes: he was tacitly sharing his experience of well-being, filtered (unwittingly, I assert) through the current state of the economy; I was responding to the impact on him of so-doing, on its diminution of his sense of well-being, and on his glum impotence to do anything about it.

To be sure, his point was valid ie financially  (it would be naïve not to recognize that). But it would be even more vital (not to mention what would be a much smarter investment)  to differentiate between the financial circumstances  of our lives, and who we're being  in the face of those circumstances. The negative impact on his life (ie the impact causing him to fret) of the stock market drop, I say had far less to do with what actually happened  on Wall Street, than him unwittingly abdicating his responsibility for the quality of his own sense of well-being, to a Wall Street ticker. I saw it would require a different order of conversation on my part, to tease out and to bring forth a different order of listening on his part (not to mention a new, different order of possibility under the circumstances) if we were to un-collapse the two.

One possibility for the starting point (ie for the ante-up  point) of this new conversation, is to recognize that although the object of his "This time it's really, really bad" (ie the object of our  "This time it's really, really bad" for that matter, if the truth be told) was the state of the economy, there are a plethora of other possible targets for us ie there are many other life-situations in which an automated survival mechanism filters out our personal experience of well-being. It could be the health of a loved one. It could be a struggling relationship. Often it's as mundane as the weather, or log-jam traffic conditions. It could also be the reigning political climate.


Oh my! Wouldn't right now  be the perfect time to look at that it could also be the reigning political climate?  Wouldn't it? ...  Wow!

Now that  would be an interesting conversation to have. If you do, proceed with caution - and care: resistance (as the man says) always causes persistence.


In fact it could be just about anything  which occurs as a circumstance in our lives. Whatever the flavor-of-the-week  object of "This time it's really, really bad" may be, its effects are never as harmful as the effect its unexamined stranglehold as the determinant of the quality of our lives, has on us. Said another way, "what happens"  never messes with  our lives as much as the significance we assign  to what happens.

I put my still-chilled Pabst down on a mossy brick at my feet, and turned to face him. "Let me ask you a question Dude" I said: "if you were ridiculously wealthy, I mean if you were in-sanely  wealthy, I mean if compared to you, Jeff Bezos was in the poor house, so whether the Dow Jones  was up or down or sideways, it would have no impact whatsoever  on your ability to pay for groceries, then  would you be happy 24 / 7 / 365? I mean really?".

It looked like he would say something immediately in response ... then he stopped, pondering quietly (I suspected as much). That's when I knew we could begin.

Background soundtrack: Michael Joseph Jackson: Bad - wait for 3.84M download

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