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 II

Passalacqua Winery, Healdsburg, California, USA

November 4, 2016



"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."
 ... 
This essay, Something Bigger Than Oneself II, is the eighth in an octology written Out-Here:
  1. Out Here
  2. Out Here II: Out-Here
  3. Out-Here III
  4. Transforming Life Itself: A Completely Started Inquiry
  5. Being And Acting Out-Here: Presence Of Self Revisited
  6. Hiking In A Painting
  7. Out-Here IV: Clearing For Life
  8. Something Bigger Than Oneself II
in that order.

It is also the sequel to Something Bigger Than Oneself.

I am indebted to Steve Zaffron who inspired this conversation.




What is it to be committed to "something bigger than oneself"? What is  "something bigger than oneself"? What is it exactly? Werner speaks about "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. What does he mean by "something bigger than oneself"? What is he referring to? More to the point, where  (if you will) could "something bigger than oneself" be located?

The intention of this essay is to tease out where "something bigger than oneself" could be located, without trapping you or me in any hallowed myth that this is the right  answer (it's surely not the only  one). Don't believe this inquiry (you don't believe a pipe wrench: you use it; if it doesn't work you get another one). Rather, try it on for size. Discover it for yourself. If what it teases out is useful, keep it: it's yours - there's no charge. If it's not, then discard it - and thank you for trying it on.

The best conduit I have for this inquiry (in fact the only conduit I have for any  inquiry ie for any conversation for transformation) is language ie my spoken word (in this particular internet medium of Self-expression, my written word will have to do). So in order to tease out where "something bigger  than oneself" could be located, let's speak about what we ordinarily  consider "oneself" to be ie where  we ordinarily consider "oneself" to be.

If I, standing in front of you, ask "Where are you?", you may answer "I'm here"  - and you may even add a petulant "... of course!"  because on the face of things, it may appear to be a stoopid question ("What do you mean 'Where are you?'  Can't you see  me? I'm here!"). Actually it's quite revealing. What it shows is our thrown  way of considering where "oneself" is located, is "here". By inference, it also shows our thrown way of considering where I  am located for you, on the other hand, is "there", yes?

For this inquiry, I would venture even further than that. If I, standing in front of you, ask "Where are you?", you may even answer not "I'm here" but rather "I'm in  here" (pointing to your head). I assert our thrown way of considering where "oneself" is located, is more specifically "in  here", and and our thrown way of considering where everyone else  is located (and indeed the world itself too), is not just "there": it's "out  there".

That said, I suggest this thrown way of considering where "oneself" is located as "in here", and where everyone else is located (and indeed the world itself too) as "out there", is not merely more bass-ackwards  than considering the sun revolves around the Earth: it's more like considering the sun revolves around "oneself". It reduces us to little more than rubber-neckers merely gawking at (ie onlookers to, but not full participants in) the unfolding of (and even the living of) our own lives.

Now around about this moment in transformational inquiries (ie around about now  in many conversations for transformation) when we're confronting the oftentimes dire underlying gravity of what's distinguished, we begin asking "OK how do we fix  this?" or "How do we change  this?" or even "How do we get out of  this?" (ie "How do we get out of the trap of the untransformed life?"). And the answers are "We don't", "We don't", and "We can't.". We're thrown  to be this way, remember? And we're thrown to be "this  way" as assuredly as we're thrown to be bipedal mammals. Fixing and changing and getting-out-of  simply aren't options.

What is  an option, however, is transforming the context in which we're thrown to hold "oneself". We can recontextualize  (I love that word) where we consider "oneself" to be located. We can invent a new possibility for being "oneself" rather than grinding in the same old same old  "I'm here (ie I'm in  here)" and it's related "You're there (ie you're out  there).". Indeed, inventing a new possibility for being "oneself", is arguably the only worthwhile option ie the only game in town.

Inventing a new possibility for being "oneself" (which is to say recontextualizing where we consider "oneself" to be located), begins with simply observing where life and living really  happen, and by inference where our lives really happen. So the question is: where do  life and living really happen? and: where do  our lives really happen? Consider this: life and living happen not "out there"  ("out there" separates us from the world; worse, it traps us "in here"). Rather (as Werner distinguishes) life and living happen "out-here". Be careful: that's not a typo. It's not "out there". It's life and living happen "out-here". And neither is it life and living happen "out here". It's "out-here". That hyphen is critical (if you speak "out-here" to yourself ie if you language  it to yourself, you'll get it). Our lives really happen out-here, not "in here". The only aspects of our lives which happen "in here" are automatic machinery embedded in hamburger.

My thesis is this: being committed to living out-here (which is to say having recontextualized where we consider "oneself" to be located), is what it is to be committed to "something bigger than oneself". Speaking with rigor, being committed to "something bigger than oneself" is being committed to something bigger than what we're thrown to consider "oneself" to be. We're thrown to consider "oneself" to be "in here". But "oneself" can be re-considered to be out-here! To do this, we have to step outside of our thrown-ness. And listen: stepping outside of any  of our thrown-nesses  (plural) is never easy. It requires true heart.

Another way of saying that, is this: when it's newly located out-here, "oneself" is something bigger than what we once considered it to be (as in we once considered "oneself" to be located "in here"). Also notedly (and this is much more than just a mere aside), when we're out-here, whatever's going on with us internally ie whatever's going on with us "in here", loses its immediacy (you've already experienced this, yes?). It simply stops taking up so much bandwidth  (if you will).

Trying on being out-here like a possibility, new ways of being call us powerfully into being, and new openings for action call us powerfully into action. In other words, we learn the new game of being committed to something bigger than oneself by playing the game out-here. And the upped ante  required for joining this new game ie the token required to get through the turnstile and onto the court where this new game is played, is recognizing that what we ordinarily refer to as "oneself", is really not "in here". It's out-here where life and living happen. Who we're being when we're on the court playing the game out-here, is something bigger than oneself.

* * *

QED  ie Quad Erat Demonstrandum (Latin for "that which was to be demonstrated").



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