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


So What Revisited:

The Implement

Cowboy Cottage, East Napa, California, USA

New Year's Day, January 1, 2021

"SO WUT" ... personalized California license plate on a dark chocolate brown 1972 Mercedes-Benz 450SEL sedan owned by Werner Erhard ("SO WHAT" was taken)

"You've got to get to the stage in life where going for it is more important than winning or losing." ... Arthur Ashe
This essay, So What Revisited: The Implement, is the ninth in a group of ten written on New Year's Day:
  1. Orion
  2. Clean, Well Lit Quarters
  3. External Tank
  4. The Magical Breakfast Burrito Assembly Line II
  5. As Your Natural Self-Expression
  6. Werner's Work In Academia
  7. About Assisting: On Leaving My Baggage At The Door
  8. Another New (Symbolic) Beginning
  9. So What Revisited: The Implement
  10. Empty And Meaningless, And Meaning-Making Machines
in that order.

It is also the sequel to So What.

I am indebted to Laurel Scheaf and to James "Jim" Tsutsui who inspired this conversation, and to Charles "Raz" Ingrasci and to Jack Rafferty who contributed material.

Of all the people I've ever known, she was one (arguably the  one) who could stop me in my tracks whenever I lapsed, unwittingly, into playing small and petulant, which back in those days was far more often than I care to admit. She, more than anyone else I knew, could do that to me / for me. Others weighed in and tried. But no one else had as powerful a way of confrontating people as she did, especially people who were playing small (and predictably, as is our wont to be, were defensive about it and justified it). Everyone else had access to the same tools as she did, which were speaking and listening in conversation. But it was her particular linguistic implement of choice  (if you will) which got me - each and every time. It was her way of saying "So what?!"  which stopped me in my tracks. She said it whenever it was appropriate (I see that now) which was often. I began to expect it. Around her, I was always ready for it ... yet I was never quite prepared for it when it came.

A typical exchange (featuring her as the manager and me as a team member) would go something like this: "What you did, didn't work, Laurence.". "I'm sorry, but I'm tired.". "So what?!" ... or: "You didn't do what you said you would do, Laurence.". "I'm sorry, but I did  do 90% of what I said i would do.". "So what?!" ... or: "You're late, Laurence.". "I'm sorry, but the traffic was backed up for miles.". "So what?!" (it was the latter one and others like it, which were particularly galling for me, as they were the ones which I was certain were legitimate excuses). Her "So what?!" was a Zen master's whack!

It wasn't only me at whom she waved that "So what?!" sword with such uncanny accuracy. It was anyone around her who settled for less, made luke-warm excuses, and in so doing skirted the opportunity to play big, instead serving up business as usual  smallness. "I believe things don't work because we're all sinful human beings"  I once heard someone of a certain religious persuasion argue with her, "so we're imperfect, and that's why we fail.". "So what?!" she said compassionately (and right on cue too, I thought). It was very  confronting, especially for people who held strong beliefs. But by now, having been on the receiving end myself on more than a few occasions, I had slowly (very slowly) begun to see the value in what she was revealing, and I became intrigued to see if others would see it too.

"When I make mistakes, I pray to God to make me better. I may err from time to time, but it's God who saves me" ... and: "So what?!" she said. It was yanking out the carpet from under the feet of our most cherished beliefs and excuses, leaving us with nothing less (and nothing more) than who we might be, with which she was so facile. It was something I hated her for earlier on (especially when it was directed at me), then grew to love her for, once I fully realized what she was showing me.

It's playing small, making excuses, justifying them, and being petulant about it that's easy. They're our go-to  responses when our not playing big impacts everyone, especially people who depend on us to produce a promised result. It's playing big that comes only as an act of intention, of commitment, as an act of stepping out onto the court, and going beyond what's reasonable (and what's familiar and comfortable). Her "So what?!" created an immediate opportunity in which lapsing into smallness and petulance didn't have to be the norm. Her "So what?!", wielded like an implement, tapped people to step up and play big, to leave their excuses behind. And once she'd wielded her "So what?!" like that, she stepped back, keeping the space open, leaving it up to us to stay small ... or step up (anyone so tapped, found themselves on the brink of that daunting precipice). After considering, people did give up playing small around her. Ordinary human beings became giants around her.

As I said, I hated her for it earlier on when she pointed that sword at me. Then I grew to love her for it, once I realized what she was offering. She was brilliant at it.

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