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


Respect For Intention

Luna Vineyards, Napa Valley, California, USA

September 25, 2012



This essay, Respect For Intention, is the companion piece to Runaway Train.



I have a great deal of respect, fondness, and admiration for people who are manifestly intent in the matter of living Life. Intention is a quality I admire greatly. I can really play with people who are truly intentional. They're not simply riding the train (of Life) - so to speak. They're not simply looking out of the windows at the scenery going by, only making a decision as to whether to sit on the left side of the train or on the right side of the train. Neither are they being the locomotive at the back of the train pushing it forward, nor are they being the locomotive in the front of the train pulling it forward. Notice people being the locomotive pushing or  pulling the train forward, aren't steering  the train per se. Trains, as we all know, don't require steering. Where they go is predetermined by their already laid tracks.

In addition to being the locomotive in the front of the train pulling it forward, there's another possibility for being in front of the train. It's the possibility of being way  out in front of the train laying new tracks. People with intention are way out in front of the train laying new tracks. They aren't satisfied with being determined by mere already laid tracks. People with intention have a casting vote in the matter of where the new tracks will be laid  long before any train ever rolls out over them.

There are those things in life ya gotta  do: ya gotta breathe, ya gotta eat and drink, ya gotta get shelter at night, ya gotta rest and sleep. We're all tuned in to and, to one degree or another, run by  these gottas. We satisfy these gottas by clockwork  ie by machinery. Our entire lives (mostly) are geared up to satisfy these gottas. For many people on the planet, day by day attempting and failing  to satisfy these gottas is  Life. Some, incorrigibly given the wealth of the world (which is to say given the skewed distribution of wealth and food in the world), simply hope to eke out a living which will (barely) satisfy these basic gottas. Merely eking out a living is the best it gets  for a staggering number of human beings.

What's available to each and every human being like a possibility  is intention. The power to live a life with intention is prior to  any lifestyle, wealthly and affluent, and especially (but not limited to) merely eking out a living.

Two things are noteworthy here:

 1)  Even in wealthy and affluent countries where there's enough to go around, living a life of intention is an as yet uninvented possibility for many. Scarcity  and living a life of scarcity, isn't a function of not having enough to go around. Scarcity is an unexamined mindset.

If you talk with people who've made it  in life, people who've accumulated great wealth, people who've amassed many possessions, people who are afforded great fame, you'll often find for them it's not enough. And it's not just that it's not enough for them. On top of it's not enough  comes the galling realization it was supposed  to be enough. And it isn't. So there's a sense of being cheated as well.

Sir Paul McCartney, a billion and a half dollars of net worth fortune later, has famously and endearingly observed one thing he's ongoingly afraid of is waking up one day finding himself poor. It doesn't matter that it's a billion and half dollars later. It doesn't matter that it's fifty years later. It makes no difference that his is arguably the most widely recognized and loved face and name and music  on the planet. The same sense of being poor in Liverpool is still there, still haunting him. The quality of life afforded by wealth  is hopelessly and constantly undermined by tiny termites from the past boring the foundations of life now and for the foreseeable future.

2)  Even when there's not enough to go around, even in situations when the best there is requires merely eking out a living, the possibility of living a life of intention, the possibility of living life intentionally, is a possibility which is available ie it's a possibility which can be invented. Intentionality  and living a life of intention, isn't a function of having enough to go around. Intention is an invented quality. Inventing intention doesn't depend on circumstances. Rather, intention is invented regardless of  circumstances.

Having lived in some of the wealthiest areas of the world (these United States, Europe, New Zealand, Australia) as well as in some of the poorest areas of the world (parts of South America, parts of South Africa, the Amazon Jungle, the Fiji Islands), I've noticed the evidence of scarcity as a created mindset is everywhere  - in both poor and  rich areas of the world. So too is the evidence of living with intention as an invented quality. Rather than being a function of living in a poor area of the world or of living in a rich area of the world, rather than being a function of living in the southern hemisphere or of living in the northern hemisphere (we all certainly live in the atmosphere), intention is a function of the beingsphere, a possibility available to any and all human beings anywhere and everywhere. It's not restricted to any particular people, lifestyle, wealth indicator, or country.

I'm always startled (and validated) when, in the midst of abject poverty, I come across people living with intention. They're happier than many people living in prosperous developed nations. It's a sobering eye-opener.



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