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


Soft Heart, Hard Road

St Helena, California, USA

July 9, 2009



"Transformation isn't easy. If transformation were easy, the whole world would be transformed by now."  ... 
This essay, Soft Heart, Hard Road, is the companion piece to Bear Trap.




Breakthrough Racing - Sears Point, California, USA, 1979
Werner Erhard
Before transformation I was surviving. I was surviving and I didn't know that's what I was doing. That's what I thought living was. But it isn't. For me, surviving was living - that is to say, surviving was synonymous  with living. There wasn't any difference between surviving and living before transformation.

It was worse than that actually. Before transformation I didn't even have a distinction surviving. There was only  living ... and there wasn't anything else - so it was undistinguished  living to boot. With transformation came distinction, and with distinction came the recognition of surviving. Indeed, with distinction came the recognition of the possibility of living distinct from  surviving. That may sound like an oversimplification  of transformation. But for the most part, that's transformation ie that's what's so  about transformation.

With transformation comes the possibility of possibility itself. There's no possibility in surviving. That (I learned later) is the essential distinction between survival, and moved to tears, real, quickening of breath, thrilling, heart in your mouth  living. In my life, when there's no possibility of possibility itself, in other words when living is  surviving, all that seems to be available to me ie the only raw material  I can ever get my hands on to build something new with, is whatever's the logical continuation of something that happened in the past.

With that fixed perspective (unknowingly to me) bolted and welded into place in my epistemology, what masqueraded as living in the present was really little more than extending the past, building on the past, and (remember, this is survival after all) learning from  the past. Learning from the past includes both capitalizing on the past as well as improving the past. In many cases (truth be told), improving the past means avoiding  the past entirely. And all the while, there isn't any distinction between continuing something that happened in the past, capitalizing on the past, improving the past, or avoiding the past. It's all glommed together  in an amorphous undistinguished mass I called living.

Outside of this clearly limiting paradigm, nothing really new  ever showed up. In hindsight (and hindsight is always 20/20 vision)  I can tell nothing really new could  ever show up. All that was available to me was acquiring and having more things, and striving (again, past based)  to do things better  and to do things differently. But without transformation, there was zero chance  of inventing and creating new ways of being. What's worse is without transformation, I had no idea there was zero chance  of inventing and creating new ways of being. I didn't ever notice it was missing.

Being of what I considered to be an inquiring mind, I pondered the question "Is this all there is?". Invariably when the answer came (and I never liked the answer I got, but it came time and time again anyway), it was followed by the inevitable subsequent expletive "... but there's gotta be more than this? ... there's gotta be  ...!?".

What a difference a distinction makes! Before transformation, the question "Is this all there is?"  lands with frustration, dissatisfaction, indeed with malcontent  with the status quo. After transformation, the question "Is this all there is?"  lands with fullness, satisfaction, indeed with completion. In fact, after transformation the erstwhile inevitable subsequent expletive "... but there's gotta be more than this? ... there's gotta be  ...!?" loses all its significance  and simply never gets posed at all.

To survive is to perpetuate a particular way of being. It's possible to be very successful surviving - very, very  successful - and to acquire and to have more and to do things better and to do things differently. However, once you're into this  inquiry, to acquire and to have more and to do things better and and to do things differently is to be ever the same species rat  - a different rat maybe, a better  rat to be sure, a smarter  rat indeed ... yet always the same species rat, and never the possibility of a new way of being. And (what's worse) surviving is never knowing  there's a possibility of a new way of being. In other words, surviving perpetuates surviving  as well as the requirement of having to survive.

For me, it's simply not an option to go back  to life before transformation once the full possibility of transformation is grasped. With the onset of transformation, life as we know it  is over. Really!  There really is a "before"  and an "after"  (or, as some people like to say, a "below the line"  and an "above the line"). In my case, I saw immediately it was all over for Laurence Platt. Simultaneously, just as obviously I saw I could use the identity  "Laurence Platt" to share transformation as my speaking ie as my word.

I'm careful. I watch out for this becoming "thing-y". What I mean by that is I don't want this to become another fad. When my expression of transformation devolves into jargon, when my sharing isn't real  enough, then this has become a fad and it's time to come up with new language, or at least to share myself in a way that may be harder  and yet is truly authentic without relying on the ease of jargon.

When sharing gets harder, there's a tendency to veer off track. But I know something which keeps me straight, and it's this: Who we are is who we are, and there's not much we can do about it. We also have an identity. We'll always have an identity, and there's not much we can do about that either. Freedom from having an identity doesn't come from having no identity. Freedom from having an identity comes from distinguishing identity as identity. You can be just as attached to having no identity  as you can be attached to an identity. In fact, in the case of the former, it can be such a glaring, unwitting example of being unclear on the concept  as to be outright embarrassing.

I can choose to use the identity  "Laurence Platt" to share transformation as my speaking ie as my word. I love that opportunity, even though sometimes it's ... well ... hard. Sometimes there are moments sharing transformation as my speaking which seem hard. That's when I'm likely to doubt or to question my own commitment. Realizing I do that got me curious about something. When an appropriate occasion arose, I asked Werner if it's authentic for me, once I give my word, to ever take my word back. Without hesitating he said "You can take your word back, and what you get then is your old life back.".

That's true. There's the rub ... and its discouragement right there.



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