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


Reason Not To Believe

American Canyon, California, USA

April 16, 2011



It's a critical distinction. It's a tollbooth token  if you will, required to enter the conversation for transformation: you have to be willing to separate that which you experience  from that which you believe. You have to know the difference. You have to be able to tell them apart. You have to be big enough  to take responsibility for having glommed them together  in the past, and for the adverse impact that's had on your life and on others' lives.

Even if that's not the only tollbooth token required to enter the conversation for transformation (and it's possible it just may  be), it's legal tender currency. It's the coin of the realm.

That said, there are two pitfalls which go-with  this distinction (as Alan Watts may have said).

The first pitfall is hearing me say "You have to be willing to distinguish that which you experience  to be right from that which you believe to be right.". That's not what I said - we're not talking about conscience  here. Nor did I say "You have to be willing to distinguish that which you experience to be good  from that which you believe to be good.". We're not talking about compassion  here. I didn't even say "You have to be willing to distinguish that which you experience to be true  from that which you believe to be true.". We're not talking about philosophy  here. To be sure, it's a good idea to distinguish that which you experience to be right, good, and true, from that which you believe to be right, good, and true. It's actually a great  distinction to make. It's just not what this  conversation is about.

The second pitfall is if and when I distinguish that which I experience, it shows up as anything other than  just a simple report on what's so in the physical universe. When I look, I see everything I experience (which is to say everything that's so)  shows up in the physical universe. Everything I believe, on the other hand, is one degree removed  from the physical universe. Everything I believe is that which I make up  about the physical universe. It's that which I interpret  about the physical universe. It's possibly also that which I hope  about the physical universe. If I describe what I believe, it'll most likely be a long, self-referencing, self-justifying, intricate narrative. If, on the other hand, I describe what I'm experiencing, it'll be a simple report on what's so in the physical universe right now. The second pitfall is to get stuck describing experience in a narrative. Experience is much simpler  than that. It's waaay  simpler than that.

Once in a while the two are the same. Every so often, that which I believe  about the physical universe is congruent with my experience  of the physical universe - for example "I believe  rocks are hard and water is wet.". In this instance there's really no difference between my belief and my experience: it's all  my experience, in which case my experience supersedes my belief. When my experience supersedes my belief, then you could say I'm "being real".

What I'm going for here is simply the distinction between experiencing (unqualified) ... and believing (unqualified). So: that which I experience shows up in a simple report of what I observe going on in the physical universe (in other words, in a simple report in which my experience correlates unfiltered  with what's so), and that which I believe embellishes what's so. That which I believe is an add-on  to what's so. That which I believe explains  what's so. That which I believe justifies  what's so. In some situations, that which I believe even saves me  (at least, I hope) from what's so.

The physical universe, however, doesn't require explaining or justifying or being saved from. It's ... just ... what's so.

Knowing that won't win you points. It won't make you more popular. It won't make you look good. It's simply a distinction. It differentiates experiencing from believing. And it's this distinction which is a tollbooth token required to enter the conversation for transformation.

There's actually no reason not  to believe. Believing, like conceptualizing and imagining, is a potent implement in our arsenal of cognitive tools.

<aside>

Notice, however, neither believing nor conceptualizing nor imagining nor any of the other implements in our arsenal of cognitive tools can cause experiencing  who we are, even though all of them are essential for a human life to function and work.

<un-aside>

But if there were  a reason not to believe, it would be so we can experience who we really are directly, unfiltered, with nothing embellished in the way, with nothing added on in the way, with nothing believed  in the way. It would be so we can experience who we really are directly, unfiltered, as the context  in which everything that's so in the physical universe shows up.



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