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 In Perplexity

Cowboy Cottage, East Napa, California, USA

August 16, 2017



"The unexamined life is not worth living." ... Socrates
"An untransformed life is not worth living."  ... 
This essay, Standing In Perplexity, is the companion piece to Being Directed By The Unanswered Question.

It was written at the same time as I am indebted to Anne Peterson who inspired this conversation.




Some days I wake up into the same old same old  space. And on at least a few of those days, my first take is if I didn't have to, they're not worth getting up for. On such days I'll turn over, and get some extra zzzzz's. Given how things seem, extra zzzzz's are the more attractive  option, even more attractive than Life itself - as crazy as it sounds. On other days I'll wake up into a brand new, pristine, exciting space which calls me out of bed and drives me into life long before I've even fully dressed.

We all have days waking up into the same old same old space (my experience isn't unique). Can many experiences of such moments beget transformation? Probably not. It's not having many experiences of waking up into the same old same old space which eventually transforms life. It's not having many uninspired same old same old experiences which eventually somehow  gives us the edge in life. Transformation isn't brought on by having unwanted experiences repeatedly. It's not a learned  response. It's not an acquired skill. Rather it's how we deal  with the experiences we have ie it's how we deal with the same old same old space, that transforms life.

What do I mean by "how we deal with the experiences we have"? How we deal with the experiences we have, is by exercising our say so  in the matter ie by what we say about them. I began looking at (and differentiating between) what I'm saying when I'm dealing with the same old same old space, and what I'm saying (a bit differently, it would seem) when I'm dealing with a space so new, so pristine, so exciting that I can't get out of bed and dressed fast enough to seize the day.

My seeming inability to differentiate between the two (leaving me with no power over either) perplexed me. And perplexity is a space I'd rather not be in  ie it's a space I naturally avoid. But naturally avoiding it has led me nowhere. It's certainly hasn't empowered me to differentiate. So I decided to try something new: instead of avoiding the perplexity, I allowed myself to be perplexed. That's basic Zen: experience the experience. So here I am, standing in perplexity, not trying to understand it all, not trying to avoid being perplexed (I guess you could say I've finally figured out how to handle perplexity: the way to handle perplexity, is by being perplexed).

At first, I still couldn't see any qualitative difference between my say so on those same old same old days, and my say so on those new, pristine, exciting days. And if there really is no discernible difference in my say so which brings on either the same old same old space, or the new, pristine, exciting space, then I'm powerless over both  ie I have no power to bring on (or  to end) the one or the other, and I especially  have no power to transform the former.

Listen: there's only one thing worse than waking up into what can only be called the same old same old mood, and it's knowing that without my say so in the matter, that new, pristine, exciting space would also be just a mood. It may be a more attractive  mood. It may be a more desirable  mood. It may even be a more cherished  mood. But it would be a mood nonetheless. And the thing about a mood is it comes on as a reactivation rather than as a creation ie it comes on by itself, beyond my control  - or worse, in spite of it. That much seemed clear whenever the same old same old mood was upon me. Yet I knew  there was something else at play when that new, pristine, exciting space was upon me, making it not a reactivation but a creation  ie making it (in a word) accessible. Then finally I got what it is. It's this:

My say so at the time of the same old same old mood, is from the past:  something happened, it's likely  to happen again, this always  happens to me - you know, hana hana hana  ... a complaint. That's the background chatter. There's no freedom in it (I've already made up my mind). My say so at the time of the new, pristine, exciting space, on the other hand is from the future:  it's new, it's wide open, anything's possible, what could  be, nothing's set in stone, nothing's holding me back.

So the difference is essentially that the default context  (if you will) for the same old same old space, comes from the past, whereas there's no  default context for the new, wide open, anything's possible  space. And I'm the only person on the planet with the power to distinguish between the two for myself. More than that, I'm the only guy on the planet who can distinguish and leave Laurence's default context from the past in the past  where it belongs, and live instead into a new context I create out of nothing  (which is to say a context I create with my say so ie by speaking many possibilities into being)  for the future.

You may ask "Isn't that esoteric?". Not really. Speaking a context to live into, is as germane, as pragmatic, as staple as serving up bread and water and milk and rice.



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