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

Standing With

Exertec Health and Fitness Center, Napa, California, USA

December 5, 2009

"I'm Spartacus!" ... each of hundreds of rebels, one by one in turn, over and over and over - in the movie Spartacus

This essay, Standing With, is the four hundred and fiftieth in this Conversations For Transformation internet series.

It is also the companion piece to Nelson Mandela And Transformation.

It is also the fifth entry in The Laurence Platt Dictionary: The Laurence Platt Dictionary is the companion piece to A Certain Quality Of Communication.

This essay, Standing With, is also the fifth in a group of twelve embodying ideas from Movies: I am indebted to Jim Adams and to Kenneth Yamamoto who inspired this conversation.

Directed by Stanley Kubrick - © Universal Pictures - 1960
Spartacus - The Movie
There's a seminal scene in Universal Pictures' Academy Award winning movie Spartacus.

The rebel army led by Spartacus has been defeated and captured. Crassus, the Roman general, promises his prisoners they'll not be punished if they give up Spartacus or his body. Spartacus stands up to identify himself and save his comrades from further harm. But before he can speak, Antoninus stands up and shouts out "I'm Spartacus!". And then each of the hundreds of rebels, one by one, stands up in turn shouting out "I'm Spartacus!", "I'M SPARTACUS!", "I'm Spartacus!", "I'm Spartacus!", "I'm Spartacus!"  ... over and over and over.

The rebels are spontaneously unified in their willingness to protect Spartacus. They fought alongside him. They support him now that he's threatened. There's a deep, profound affinity and love between them and Spartacus whose mettle and character has been tried, tested, and proven. Who he is inspires his army not only to follow him into battle but also to stand up for him - in a word, to be loyal  to him. Especially since Spartacus is ready, unflinching  and without hesitation, to give himself up to protect them, their unswerving loyalty to him is even more pertinent.


Loyalty. It's a great quality. It's an awesome  quality, in fact. It's standing up  for someone. It's a deep and enduring stand for friendship. It's being in a relationship for the long haul. It's not checking out  when the going gets tough ie when it's expedient to do so. It implies respect and honor, and there's no quarter for betrayal.

I went to the dictionary to look up loyalty. Here's what I found.

From the Cambridge International Dictionary:


from the adjective loyal
firm and not changing in your friendship with or support for a person or an organization, or in your belief in your principles

I read this definition a few times, first sitting with what's possible  for loyalty, then sitting with the dictionary definition of loyalty. I dare say the dictionary definition of loyalty not atypically doesn't fully express what's possible for loyalty - this, plus there's also something missing. That's not because of deliberate oversights or errors. Rather it's because academics who compile dictionaries, those good people who've lately included words which until now were unheard of in the King's English like google  (the verb), cell phone  (not a device for calling from prison), and laptop  (not thighs), aren't yet completely facile with Conversations For Transformation.

For starters, "not changing in your friendship"  is certainly a component of loyalty. But the same thing could be said about simply being "a good friend". In a definition of loyalty, "not changing in your friendship" doesn't go far enough. Secondly, the whole notion of "belief  in your principles" is too conceptually opaque  for me, and too fraught with already always listening  to be really useful here. And thirdly, since there's no presence of Self  being brought forth in this definition, in my opinion it harkens more like a definition of following  than of loyalty.

Given it landed this way for me, my first idea was to see if I could rewrite the dictionary definition of loyalty. But I quickly abandoned this idea when, upon reflection, I realized the dictionary definition of loyalty is OK the way it is given the context within which it was written.

What I realized may be wanted and needed instead, rather than a rewrite of the existing dictionary definition, is an entirely new rephrasing of the idea which the word "loyalty" starts to tease out but doesn't quite fulfill on. In other words, I'll neither redefine nor use the word "loyalty" at all, and instead I'll define a new phrase  to convey my rewritten notion of loyalty which includes what in my opinion is missing from the current dictionary definition of loyalty.

So, here it is, hot off the press of The Laurence Platt Dictionary: "standing with".
standing with

intentional standing up for another, being fully present with another, in profound friendship with and in service to another but not as a follower

Implicit in standing with  is the willingness to be responsible for standing up for another and for supporting another, even while acknowledging the other may require neither standing up for nor support. In a typically paradoxically Zen way, standing with acknowledges the ability and the integrity of the other to be whole and complete, such that the other doesn't require standing with. At its heart, standing with is the choice to be present with another, in relationship with another yet not coming from survival  of the relationship with the other, in relationship with another yet not entangled  with the other and not dependent on the other.

Standing with is not so much a way of acting  with another as it is a way of being  with another. Making the choice to stand with another neither requires nor depends on the other's reciprocity or choice to also stand with. Standing with is a whole, complete, integral gift. It's a way of being in relationship coming from conscious free choice and intentionality.

"I'm Werner Erhard!"

It's an unusually quiet afternoon in the Franklin House. I'm watering indoor potted plants and ferns with a watering can. Jim Adams, logistics master and house electrician (at least, that's the hat  he's wearing right now - just one of the many hats he wears around here), is halfway up a ladder changing light bulbs. Kenneth Yamamoto, Werner's aide, pours through paperwork in the office just off the hallway by the kitchen. The front doorbell rings. I put down my watering can, walk over to the door, and open it. It's the delivery guy from Federal Express (yes, Federal Express:  they haven't taken the moniker FedEx  yet - that comes later).

"Special delivery for Werner Erhard" he says, holding out a package. "Thank You" I say, taking it from him. The Federal Express guy then proffers the usual proof of delivery receipt to be signed, and a pen.

I hesitate. Werner's working upstairs. Should I take the package and the proof of delivery receipt up to him to sign and interrupt him? If not, who's the appropriate person to accept the package and sign the proof of delivery receipt? The Federal Express guy looks on patiently, then puzzled, watching me. I stand there, pen poised, not signing.

Jim Adams, halfway up the ladder, tool festooned electrician's belt around his waste, new lightbulb in hand, is taking in the entire scene, assessing what's happening. Suddenly he calls out "I'm Werner Erhard!", climbs down the ladder, smiles at the Federal Express guy, walks over to me, and takes the package, the proof of delivery receipt, and the pen from me.

At that moment Kenneth Yamamoto appears in the hallway. Kenneth is always 100% fully alert  (that's his job). He's overheard everything going on. Looking at the Federal Express guy, not missing a beat, Kenneth smiles and says "I'm Werner Erhard!".

Suddenly I get it (I don't stay stupid long). "I'm Werner Erhard!" I say, smiling with Jim and Kenneth. I really  get it.

The Federal Express guy, in the middle of smiling at Jim, suddenly stops smiling, his face going blank, his jaw dropping slightly as Kenneth and I say "I'm Werner Erhard!", "I'm Werner Erhard!".

By then, other staff and assistants walking through the hallway are picking up on what's happening. One by one in turn they chime in "I'm Werner Erhard!", "I'M WERNER ERHARD!", "I'm Werner Erhard!", "I'm Werner Erhard!", "I'm Werner Erhard!"  ... over and over and over.

Everyone in the Franklin House, everyone in Werner's monastery within a monastery  on this unusually quiet afternoon it seems is being Werner Erhard.

Jim Adams signs the proof of delivery receipt for the Federal Express guy - that is to say, Jim Adams being Werner Erhard  signs the proof of delivery receipt for the Federal Express guy, then gives it and the pen back to him.

Now the Federal Express guy is also smiling. Evidently he, too, doesn't stay stupid long. He realizes he's just gotten Werner Erhard's autograph.

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