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


Something Bigger Than Oneself

Yountville, California, USA

August 20, 2013



"What I mean by 'being committed to something bigger than oneself'  is being committed in a way that shapes one's being and actions so that those actions are in the service of realizing something beyond one's personal concerns for oneself - beyond a direct personal payoff."
 ... 
"I don't know what your destiny will be, but one thing I do know: the only ones among you who will be really happy are those who will have sought and found how to serve."
 ... Albert Schweitzer quoted by  
This essay, Something Bigger Than Oneself, is the prequel to Something Bigger Than Oneself II.

I am indebted to Michael Jensen who inspired this conversation.




When Werner Erhard first proposed being committed to something bigger than oneself as the third of four ways of being that create the foundations of a great life, great leadership, and a great organization (the four ways of being he proposed are

 1)  being authentic,
 2)  being cause in the matter of everything in your life,
 3)  being committed to something bigger than oneself, and
 4)  being a person or an organization of integrity),

it captured my attention disproportionately over the other three.

To be sure, being authentic is a required stand for transformation. And there's no fixed, pre-packaged way of being authentic. You can't memorize a being authentic  script (if you will) like you can memorize the script for Shakespeare's Macbeth  for example, to recite later whenever the situation calls for it. Authentic is not something you can be by rote. Authenticity and being authentic, rather, are matters of having the guts to tell the truth about where you've been in-authentic and about where you're being  inauthentic ("I pretend to be that, but I'm actually this, and what it costs me is ..." etc).

Also, being cause in the matter of everything in my life (God! Did he really say "everything"?  ...) is, as daunting as it is, a fundamental stand for transformation. Notice I said it's a fundamental stand  for transformation. I didn't say it's "the truth"  about transformation. It's not "the truth"  that you're cause in the matter of everything in your life. Rather, it's a place to stand from where to look  at where you're not  being cause in the matter of everything in your life.

Similarly, being a person or an organization of integrity, which is to say being a person or an organization who honors their word as themSelf is also, as daunting as it is, a fundamental stand for transformation - and also, consequently, a stand for a great life, great leadership, and a great organization. Notice how, by the way, being a person or an organization of integrity, requires first distinguishing its two components

 1)  "honoring your word", and
 2)  "as yourSelf".

Each of these four are brilliant distinctions. And it's the third one, being committed to something bigger than oneself, that really  gets me sitting up and paying attention. It's not so much because it inspires me to do  something great - and it does that too. It's because it gives me an extra handle on and an additional leverage for and a powerful access to who I really am - which is to say who we  really are. In addition to inspiring me to do  something great, it really cuts to the chase  (so to speak) ie it goes right to the heart of the matter, inspiring me to let it all hang out and just plain be  darn great for no particular reason.

<aside>

This isn't the kind of being great which is predicated on "I'm great because I've done this  or because I've accomplished that". This is the kind of being great predicated only on "I'm great because I'm great.". All this requires is giving up  the self-defeating chatter which (reasonably) says "I'm not  great because I've not  done this or because I've not  accomplished that" ... or  ... "I'm not great because I've done  this or because I've done  that.".

Consider the experience of not being great is almost always  nothing more than a linguistic act. Consider the experience of not being great is only constituted in language. Being committed to something bigger than oneself, calls for nothing more (and nothing less) than giving up languaging not being great  - which means giving up reinforcing not being great in conversation. In other words, just  ... stop  ... saying  ... it.

<un-aside>

What really inspires me, what grabs my attention  about the possibility of being committed to something bigger than (my)self, is secondarily  doing something truly great with my life, secondarily participating in a truly awesome adventure bigger than myself which makes a difference. Primarily, however, it's that in proposing being committed to something bigger than oneself, Werner enlivens the distinction that who I really am is bigger than myself.

<aside>

Say it again: "Who I really am is bigger than myself.".

<un-aside>

He reminds me that who I consider myself to be  isn't who I really am. So being committed to something bigger than myself, is my direct access  to being most fully, to being most totally, to being most completely who I really  am. And who I really  am is space, is the context  in which all the events of my life occur, indeed the context in which all the events of Life itself occurs. In this context is freedom and joy and creativity. And from  this context spring all possibilities.

I know of no greater opportunity for a human being, no greater way for a human being to be, no greater utilization of the life each of us have at our fingertips than being committed to something bigger than oneself, and in fact being committed to something bigger than oneself that makes a difference  which, at the same time, calls on each of us to be not who we consider ourselves to be but rather who we really  are.

This  is the conversation which makes possible a great life, great leadership, and a great organization. It's a conversation in which I recommend you participate. It's a conversation in which you're welcome to participate. It's a conversation in which I invite you to participate with us.



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