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


Source Of Action

Napa Union High School Auditorium, Napa, California, USA

June 1, 2012



"The way a situation occurs for me (shows up for me) is colored and shaped by my context for that situation, and my way of being and acting are naturally necessarily correlated with (in‑a‑dance‑with) the way that situation occurs for me."
 ... 
This essay, Source Of Action, is the companion piece to
  1. You Can't Hold On To A Wriggling Puppy
  2. Being Without Trying
in that order.

It is also the fifth in an octology about my son Joshua:
  1. Joshua Is Doing Nothing
  2. Two Human Beings One Heart
  3. You Can't Hold On To A Wriggling Puppy
  4. Joshua Nelson Mongezi  Platt
  5. Source Of Action
  6. The Magical Breakfast Burrito Assembly Line
  7. Return To The Creek
  8. The Magical Breakfast Burrito Assembly Line II
in that order.

It is also the first in a trilogy of Essentials:
  1. Source Of Action
  2. With The Past In The Past And Nothing In The Future
  3. Out Here II: Out-Here
in that order.

I am indebted to my son Joshua Nelson Platt who inspired this conversation.




Foreword To The Essentials Trilogy:

It could be said the bastions of transformation are anchored in the bedrock  of a rich body of distinctions. As Werner's work unleashes more and more expressions of transformation, more and more distinctions become available in this treasure trove.

Recently I found myself wondering "Of all these distinctions, which are essential  for living a transformed life?" - you know, the ones about which we could say "Don't leave home without these!"  - so I looked for the  three distinctions which are essential for anchoring ongoing, full, alive, thrilling transformation. Now, I'm certainly not saying we're limited to only  three such distinctions. But if, in a state of play, I were to vote for the essential three, which would they be?

I came up with these:

 1)  The source of my action is the way the world shows up for me - the subject of this essay, Source Of Action.
 2)  The future I create has infinitely  more power to drive my life than my past - the subject of the essay With The Past In The Past And Nothing In The Future.
 3)  I master Life when I live out-here  (not the same as "out there") - the subject of the essay Out Here II: Out-Here.

These three essential distinctions comprise the Conversations For Transformation trilogy titled Essentials.



My son Joshua's life is brimming full to overflowing. It took him a while to find himself a job. Then within weeks of finding one, he found two more  and worked at all three  for a while until he resigned two and narrowed it back down to one - at which he now works five nights a week, and loves it. In the meantime, he still has to study so he can graduate from high school, which he'll do within the week. With his new found wealth, he bought himself a Kawasaki  and taught himself to ride it. Now he has to come up with gas and insurance for both  his bike and his car, not to mention bike payments  - all of which he's meeting admirably. He also sings in the school choir which doesn't require a trivial allocation of time for practices. You could say he has a lot  on his plate right now.

Then about two months ago, it  started. When  it started, it started so imperceptibly  at first that I didn't realize it had started. And even when I did  realize it had started, it took me a while to realize it had become entrenched  - it had become an ongoing pattern. What it was, is he stopped coming by - or if he did stop by, he stopped coming by so frequently that it seemed  as if he'd stopped coming by entirely. He stopped calling. He stopped returning  my phone calls and my voice messages - even when I left him a voice message then texted him  asking him to listen to my voice message and return my call. But as for returning my text messages, I may just as well have texted to a wrong number for all the good they did. And as for the increasingly rare occasions when we did  get together, getting him to stay present in the conversation was like pulling teeth. He didn't seem to want to talk much - a big  change from our erstwhile marathon late night  talkfests.

I explained  his behavior to myself - to quell the disappointment  I felt, I suppose. I was ambivalent about it, to say the least. On the one hand, he's my son, my pal, my best friend1. We've been through so much  together. I'd be a liar if I denied I missed his company. And I'd be completely full of it  if I said it was OK with me to not hear the sound of his voice. On the other  hand, I'm his Dad, yes? I'm the bigger  guy in the piece. I'm the older, more mature, more experienced person. If I didn't get  he's growing up and becoming independent of me, heck  even rebeling  against me, well too bad for me  ...

Then my inquiry took a different, darker  turn. I asked myself what I  had done (was it something I said? was it something I didn't  say?) to have lost him. I started taking it personally. It was helpless, hopeless, not to mention frustrating. Yet no matter which way I pursued the inquiry, I couldn't figure out  what I had done to cause Joshua to drop out of sight, to dis-communicate from me. I couldn't figure out why he was staying away from me. I couldn't figure out why he stopped returning my calls. I couldn't figure out the cause ie the source  of his current action. More importantly, even though I couldn't figure out what I'd done, neither could I figure out what could I do to get him back in communication.



Werner Erhard's Awesome  Possibility

Werner Erhard spoke to me in blunt terms, terms which at first were extremely hard for me to listen. He said: "Joshua's action has got nothing to do with you  Laurence. Nothing whatsoever. It's got nothing  to do with you that he's acting the way he's acting. And if you keep making it about you  and making it personal about you that he's acting the way he's acting, you'll never get to fully appreciate the real  source of his action.".

"The source of Joshua's action" Werner continued, "isn't you or anything you've done with him or said to him - or not  done with him or not said to him. It's none of that. The real source of Joshua's action is the way his situation shows up  for him. Joshua's action is in‑a‑dance‑with  the way the world occurs for him.".

I opened my mouth to respond ... and it stayed open for a few seconds like a goldfish before I quickly shut it instead, not saying anything. Something in what Werner just said altered my life and my listening forever. What an awesome  possibility, I thought. What a truly  awesome, epic, accurate  way of getting to the heart of why people do what they do in Life!

It's vintage  Erhard: "The way a situation occurs for me (shows up for me) is colored and shaped by my context for that situation, and my way of being and acting are naturally necessarily correlated with (in‑a‑dance‑with) the way that situation occurs for me.".



Big  Time Communication Breakthrough



This isn't a long story.

As soon as I looked at the world Joshua is in‑a‑dance‑with from Joshua's point of view, as soon as I got myself out of the way  long enough to allow Joshua to have a lot  more going on in his life than simply his relationship with me, as soon as I got how the world Joshua is in‑a‑dance‑with shows up  for him, I saw (and was humbled by) how by making his dis-communication be about moi, I was doing my son a complete disservice. It was more than that actually. It was by making his dis-communication be about me, I was the problem rather than the solution.

This isn't about me becoming gracious  and stepping aside. Rather, what I realized is the world Joshua is in‑a‑dance‑with shows up as overwhelming  to him. He works five nights a week. He's studying to graduate from high school. He goes to choir practice. He barely has time to sleep - and even when ie if  he does sleep, it's not enough. That big guy is giving it his best shot  to get it all done, and he's doing it valiantly without enough sleep. So he's dragging his ass  most of the time. It's that  world he's in‑a‑dance‑with. It's that  world and the way it occurs for him ie shows up for him, which he's in‑a‑dance‑with. It's that  world which is the real source of his action.

I almost cringed  when I realized that by being on his case  about not being in communication with me more, I was adding  to the world he's in‑a‑dance‑with showing up as overwhelming for him. God!  it's no wonder  he dis-communicated ...

I texted him. I said "You're so great! You've got a ton of stuff to do, and you're handling it all like a star. I'm so proud of you. If it were me, I would be completely overwhelmed by what you've got on your plate. You're my hero. Call me if you want to talk. No hurry. I love you, Dad.".

Joshua called me back immediately.



Contextual Shift



There was one more conversation which I knew we had to have. So we did. In it I introduced Joshua to the context  in which, whether he knew it or not, he was holding the world which was overwhelming him. I intended him to get the world is just the world, over which arguably he doesn't have much choice. But the context  in which he holds the world as it occurs for him as overwhelming, over that  he has all  choice. Furthermore I intended he gets that in conversation ie through language  he can shift the context in which he holds the world as it occurs for him as overwhelming.

We talked about his schoolwork. He said there was too much  for him to do. He said most of it was boring  - he simply wasn't excited enough about it to want to do it all. He said because he wasn't excited enough by it to want to do it all, he didn't  do it all. So he was falling behind ... you know, it was a vicious circle.

Funnily enough, I agreed with him - on all of the above. And I wanted him to look and see if he could shift the context in which he held his schoolwork. If he shifted the context in which he held his schoolwork, he would shift the way the world he is in‑a‑dance‑with occurs for him as overwhelming.

I told him "Joshua, I agree with you  on all of the above. You and I are very much alike in this area. I didn't always see the value of schoolwork either. So I wasn't always interested in it either - just like you aren't. And that made it heavy going  for me some times. But here's the thing: if you get your schoolwork done, then you're finished with school forever.".

Joshua is a lot of things. But one thing he's not, and that's stoopid. During this conversation, a contextual shift  occurred for him. Completing his schoolwork is no longer a barrier  to him living his life - it no longer overwhelms him. Rather, completing his schoolwork is an access to freedom. He's shifted his context for his situation so that it no longer shows up as overwhelming, showing up instead as freeing. He's still in the same world, but now he's in a totally new dance-with it. His new action is naturally necessarily correlated with it accordingly: he's studying now (which he always was) - but now he's diligent, intent, committed  to it, and excited about finishing it. He's no longer in‑a‑dance‑with overwhelm. Now he's in‑a‑dance‑with freedom. The source of his action is no longer overwhelm. Now the source of his action is freedom.

And he'll graduate next week.



Choir Concert Finale



He called me to invite me to his final choir concert tonight. He had a ticket for me. I went by myself without asking him to meet me there. I picked him out immediately on the stage full of hundreds of singers. He looked resplendent and grown up  in his tuxedo. He has a beautiful, deep, basso profundo  voice which I could easily pick out in that crowded auditorium from the hundreds of voices.

During the intermission I thought of going up to him to shake his hand. I saw him completely surrounded by his friends and all his well-wishers - they all knew he was graduating.

I changed my mind. I didn't go over to interrupt him in his moment of celebration. And he didn't break away to come over and say hello to me either. Rather, I watched him holding court, in his element, from a distance, quietly celebrating him - which means I was at his concert and we didn't connect with each other, something which a month ago would have been an upset for me.

Not any more. Now I couldn't be more proud of him.



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