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


Say As I Say

Harvest Inn, St Helena, California, USA

July 3, 2012



"Do as I say." ... John Selden, Table-Talk, circa 1654

"Say as I say." ... Laurence Platt, Conversations For Transformation, circa 2012




A friend and I are talking, a heartfelt conversation in which he confides his life doesn't seem to amount to anything. That's a pretty bold statement, I think, coming from a guy who owns two houses, is well on to his way to amassing his third million, and drives a Bentley - not to mention he's been a happily married father for fifteen years. Success, he's telling me, eludes him. He says he envisioned himself "becoming someone"  someday ... but this vision, by his own estimation, hasn't materialized.

I listen and listen and listen until he becomes quiet. Regardless of what he's talking about, the gift, the trust, and the intimacy of his sharing isn't lost on me. I'm not looking to come up with the answers  to what he's struggling with. Like ignoring a radio on in the background ("ignore" in the sense of "let it be, without resisting it"), I can ignore how thrown I am to want to fix  the issues he says beguile his life. Yet even if I tried to fix the issues he says beguile his life, there's simply too little distinction in what he's saying (it's all one big undifferentiated mass) to gain any traction to start on. So I go in another direction. I say simply "Thank You!". After a surprised few moments of silence, he asks "Thank you? ... for what?". "Thank you for having the courage to share it all, for being unafraid to let it all hang out"  I say.

"Thank You!" isn't the answer he's looking for. Neither is it the answer he's expecting. There's no helping  in it. There's no fixing in it. There's no rescuing in it. In fact it goes long  around every issue he raises, heading instead straight to the heart of what's really  happening: he and I, old friends, sharing openly, unabashedly, generously. He smiles a tentative smile. "Good" I think. "The fog's lifting. He's no longer drowning in the issues.". It's true. Who he really is is finally emerging. It's good to see him smiling again.

Now here's a thing to know about me: I'm actually not very good at giving advice. That's mostly because "Do as I say"  is only interimly useful, only interimly powerful in my opinion. So, for that matter, is "Do as I do"  only interimly useful, only interimly powerful. They're only interimly useful, only interimly powerful because they're both grounded in doing, yes? Neither are grounded in being. And ultimately the real power we have in Life is from being. But it's more than that actually. It's ultimately the real power we have in Life is from being constituted in language  (as Werner Erhard may have said). That's why if I were to offer him any advice at all, it would be neither "Do as I do" and nor would it be "Do as I say". Rather it would be "Say  as I say ...".

Such ideas may not be for the faint hearted. "Say as I say" presupposes language as an implement of creation. The issue my friend says he's having with success (that is to say, the issue he says he's having with not  being successful), excludes a possibility. The possibility it excludes is the possibility of already  being successful simply by saying  who he really is. By saying who he really is he wields language as an implement of creating  who he really is.

When language is used to merely describe, when it's used to merely comment on an already  situation, then it's talking about. When language is used to merely describe, when it's used to merely comment on an already situation, this kind of "talking" goeswith  "about" (as Alan Watts may have said). This kind of talking isn't really speaking. Rather it's "talkingabout". And the thing about talkingabout as distinct from speaking (contrary to what it may seem like or sound  like) is there's never any real authorship or creativity in it. So there's never really any who we are  in talkingabout.

I love my friend dearly - as a buddy, as an associate, as a human being. I've got no intention to change him. I've got nothing going on  with him the way he's being, whether it's the issue he says he has with success (or with the absence of it), or whether it's the issue he says he has with being someone (or with not being someone). So far he's only shared his disillusionment  with the way things are, with me ... which is to say his disillusionment with things not going the way he thinks they should go. It could be a long road getting him to see the no success  situation he describes himself in, is only that way because he says it's that way. It could be long road getting him to see the success situation he describes himself not  being in, is only that way because he doesn't say it any other way. As for wanting to be someone:  his very notion of wanting to be someone, belies the fact he's already someone. It's a paradox: his wanting to be someone belies the fact he's already  someone, so it precludes him from ever being someone. His language as an implement of creation, unbeknownst to him, is bringing forth who he really isn't.

With all due respect to the frequently asked "What would Jesus do?", the transformation I intend for him doesn't come as a result of asking that question. Transformation's just not gotten that way. Transforming my life is an act of language. That's why I regard "Do as I say" and its derivative "Do as I do" only interimly useful, only interimly powerful. There may indeed be imitation  in them - and imitation, as we all know, is the sincerest form of flattery. But there's no power in them. None. Not really. In suggesting "Say as I say" (which is to say, use language ie use your own  language as an implement of creation and leverage) rather, I'm not suggesting he imitates me. No, what I'm suggesting is he discover the being he really is constituted in language. What I'm suggesting is he discover the success he really is constituted in language. What I'm suggesting is he discover the someone he really is constituted in language.

That's useful. That's powerful. So that's the direction I steer the conversation in. I intend he gets away from conceptualizing becoming successful and becoming someone as goals. I intend he takes on saying  them instead as where he comes from  - not as a matter of positive thinking  but rather just as a matter of stating the obvious.

"I won't advise you or give you advice" I tell him. "All that accomplishes is distracting you from discovering your true power. But say as I say ... and then if something does open up for you, I won't be surprised.".

He looks at me without talking, smiles (this time it's no longer tentative), and puts his arm around my shoulders. Then slowly, at first hesitantly then rapidly gaining confidence, he starts speaking.



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