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


"Sadness Is Supposed To Cure Being Sad"

Cowboy Cottage, East Napa, California, USA

June 17, 2022

"Sadness is supposed to cure being sad." ...   speaking with Laurence Platt in Conversations With A Friend #2 (Future Perfect) 
"My black dog  seems quite away from me now - it is such a relief. All the colors come back into the picture." ... Winston Churchill

"You will never reach your destination if you stop and throw stones at every dog that barks." ... also Winston Churchill
This essay, "Sadness Is Supposed To Cure Being Sad", is the sequel to
  1. Future Perfect
  2. On Being Sad
in that order.

We human beings are sad from time to time. I'm a human being. I'm sad from time to time. And per the source quotes for this essay (above), so was Sir Winston Leonard Spencer-Churchill aka Winston Churchill. His euphemism for his infamously debilitating sadness, was "the black dog". And I, when I'm sad, say "I'm sad.".

Both of us mis-speak. One, there likely never was a black dog anywhere in sight when Winston was sad. And two, my statement "I'm sad" is fundamentally untrue as well. How so, Laurence? Like so: I  ... am never sad. If anything, I  ... am the space in which sadness shows up. So if I were to speak with renewed rigor, I'd say "There is sadness"  - or (better) "There is sadness in the space"  or at least "I have  sadness.". With that distinguished, if for the purposes of this conversation we call sadness the "black dog" or say "I'm sad" when there's sadness, it's good enough for jazz.

By the time I notice I'm sad, it's already come on by itself. I barely notice when it starts. It can come on in concert with something happening in the present. It can come on as a throwback  to something that happened in the past. It can come on as a foretelling  of something that will happen in the future. Once it's come on, it seems impervious / immune to any of my attempts to end it. Indeed when I'm sad, it seems as if there's no end to it in sight. It seems as if I'll be sad forever. And when it does end (and it always ends sooner or later), it takes me a while to realize it's gone. In actuality for me, being sad comes and goes in its own time.

Sometimes when I'm sad, I have reasons  for being sad. I share them with him to give us some context. But I've been around his campus for a while now, and I know the "because" in "I'm sad because  ..." is merely a superstition. So rather than inquiring into the reasons I'm sad, its the experience  of sadness (if you will) that we're inquiring into, and the disempowering grip it has on me (like the black dog's grip on Winston).

He listens intently. Then, without addressing the content or the story  or any of my possible reasons for being sad, he drops this 24K nugget into our conversation:




Sadness is  ... supposed to  ... cure  ... being sad.

Here's what I want you to get: when it first lands, it hits me like "Wow! Did he really just say what I think I heard him say? Did he really just say 'Sadness is supposed to cure being sad'?". Yes he did. That's exactly what he said.

Man! It's such  an awesome opening. And when his "supposed  to ..." hits me again in a kind of double take, my jaw drops. He never says anything trivially or lightly. I notice his "supposed  to ..." carries with it a very  subtle caveat - as in "supposed to ... but doesn't". What if sadness is supposed  to cure being sad ... but doesn't? Clearly, if you look at it closely and tell the truth about it unflinchingly, sadness is supposed to cure being sad ... but doesn't. And then I get this: who am I being when it's supposed to  ...? and: who am I being when it doesn't?

When sadness is supposed to cure being sad, who I'm being is smaller. I'm a sad person being sad - as if sadness will run its course or reach some kind of conclusion or justification or even excuse  which will bring with it some relief or payoff or compensation, not the least of which would be the end of being sad. That's well and good, except that over all of it I have no mastery or power.

When sadness is supposed to cure being sad and doesn't, then who I'm being is bigger. There is  sadness, but I  ... am not sad. When sadness doesn't cure being sad, then who I'm being is wiser. Colloquially, I'm on to  it. If drinking sawdust doesn't cure being thirsty (and it doesn't) then I'm wise not to drink it. If sadness doesn't cure being sad, then who I'm being is wiser not lending credence to it, and getting off it (or, if you prefer, there's the possibility  of getting off it).

Enthralled by this inquiry, I begin wondering: is anger  (for example) supposed to cure being angry? could it be it's supposed to, like sadness is supposed to cure being sad? and what if it doesn't? if it doesn't, could I stop lending credence to anger?  is fear  supposed to cure being afraid?  is boredom supposed to cure being bored? is reactivation  (in any form) supposed to cure being reactivated?  Well, are they? Because if they're supposed to but really don't, then he's very subtly presenting an entirely new distinction, a brand-new possibility for being with whatever automaticity's running the show and resulting in a loss of power.

Just as the thought "... but I already knew all that"  plaintively tries to claim these ideas of his as my own, I 'fess up to myself that I didn't already know them. Rather, they're his gifts of remarkable intellect which I accept graciously and gratefully. He notices I accept them and am the wiser for it. I see he's smiling, a smile of respect.

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