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

Sound And Fury

San Francisco, California, USA

June 5, 2006
Reposted December 1, 2020

This essay, Sound And Fury, is the companion piece to There's Nothing To Get And There's Nothing To Fix.

It was written at the same time as I am indebted to William "The Bard of Avon" Shakespeare who inspired this conversation.

In William Shakespeare's Macbeth  act 5 scene 5, things aren't going well for Macbeth. He asks:
Wherefore was that cry?
Portraiture attributed to John Taylor, 1610
William Shakespeare
Seyton answers:

The queen, my lord, is dead.
Macbeth responds:

She should have died hereafter;
There would have been a time for such a word.
Tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow,
Creeps in this petty pace from day to day
To the last syllable of recorded time,
And all our yesterdays have lighted fools
The way to dusty death. Out, out, brief candle!
Life's but a walking shadow, a poor player
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage
And then is heard no more: it is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
Signifying nothing
One can only imagine what Macbeth's life would have looked like if he was clear on the distinction "inventing possibility"  instead of on the resignation of a poor player that struts and frets his hour upon the stage and then is heard no more. One can only imagine what his walking shadow of a life would have looked like then.

Having qualified that, the value for me in what Shakespeare says, is not about life signifying nothing. As a graduate of Werner's work I've already entertained the possibility that life per se  is empty and meaningless (and  that it's empty and meaningless that it's empty and meaningless). Rather, the value for me is when Shakespeare says life is a tale told by an idiot. Here he's not talking about Life - capital "L" - per se. He's talking about life as story. For me, that means my complaints, my grievances, and all my quarrels with the way it is  right there. That's me going off  right there. That's my sound and fury  right there. That's me right there, small, angry, and indignant, that the world doesn't commit itself to making me happy (as George Bernard Shaw may have said).

It's with a deep sense of wry gratitude that I acknowledge Shakespeare for reminding me that all  of that, all my stuff  I so enthusiastically (and hopelessly) vent, is just sound and fury, signifying nothing. Cows go "Moo moo!", pigs go "Oink oink!", chickens go "Cheep cheep!", and human beings go "Blah blah blah!" (as Old MacDonald may have said).

William Shakespeare and Old MacDonald are wise, wise men. They've found out "Blah blah blah!" is just what we human beings do. It's our sound and fury which vents and justifies the story, yet doesn't change one ... god-damned ... thing!

A long time ago when Werner first suggested to me that real happiness is simply a function of accepting what is, I liked the simplicity of his idea. And yet if I told the truth about it, I noticed I had two big considerations about it.

The first was if happiness sanctioned what is  (which is how I interpretated what he said ... without realizing that what I heard him say was just my interpretation of what he said and not what he actually said), then anyone who had done me wrong  would get away with it. My sound and fury was justified  because it told the truth  about what they'd done to me. But it wasn't until many years later that I noticed what I called telling the truth about what they done to me, only kept what they done to me locked in place, ensuring I would never get over it. Their arrows remained firmly embedded in my back. I'd not yet had the bigness of heart to pluck them out.

The second is if happiness is accepting what is, then what about wars what is? what about disasters what is? what about inhumanity what is? Those seemed like poignantly valid questions. In fact, I thought they were so smart  that they invalidated Werner's postulate entirely. I hadn't yet gotten that accepting what is, creates the space to completely get it (whatever it is), to disappear  it, to invent something new like a possibility in the now empty space, and to move on. It didn't mean I had to like  or enjoy  what is (the possibility that "what is" is perfect, came later).

Accepting what is, isn't a meek rollover to circumstance. Nor is it an apathetic way of avoiding responsibility. When I don't accept what is, I vent. I, the idiot, tell a tale which is full of sound and fury, signifying nothing. When I accept what is, sound and fury echo with diminishing returns off the canyon walls of my mind until they ebb and fade away then disappear entirely, and I'm left with serenity and the power to walk on.

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