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


Start A New Conversation (If You Don't Like The One You're In)

Agoura Hills, California, USA

October 11, 2008



This essay, Start A New Conversation (If You Don't Like The One You're In), is the companion piece to
  1. Cheap Talk
  2. Locker Room Banter
in that order.

It is the second in the septology Rosebud:


There's a lot of talk about quality of life  - what it is, how you get it, what you need to be able to sustain it, how much it costs, whether or not you have to wait until retirement to enjoy it, what happens to it if you can't afford  to retire, etc. If you have it that you wait until retirement to enjoy it but you can't afford to retire, it implies quality of life is simply a function of an IRA  or a 401(k). We all know it's not. So what then is  quality of life a function of?

Photography by John Kelley
Sir Paul McCartney
If you talk with people who've made it  in life, people who've accumulated great wealth, people who've amassed many possessions, people who are afforded great fame, you'll often find for them it's not enough. And it's not just that it's not enough  for them. On top of it's not enough  comes the galling realization it was supposed  to be enough. And it isn't. So there's a sense of being cheated as well.

Sir Paul McCartney, a billion and a half dollars of net worth fortune later, has famously and endearingly observed one thing he's ongoingly afraid of is waking up one day finding himself poor. It doesn't matter that it's a billion and half dollars later. It doesn't matter that it's fifty years later. It makes no difference that his is arguably the most widely recognized and loved face and name on the planet. The same sense of being poor in Liverpool is still there, still haunting him. The quality of life afforded by wealth  is hopelessly and constantly undermined by tiny termites from the past boring the foundations of life now and for the foreseeable future.

Directed by Orson Welles - © RKO Pictures - 1941
Citizen Kane - The Movie
In Citizen Kane, considered by many to be the most innovative Hollywood movie of all time, and often assumed to be a veiled portrayal of the life of William Randolph Hearst, the protagonist Charles Foster Kane is dying. Yet after a life of Croesian  riches, none of anything his enormous wealth and fortune have afforded him has been enough. All he wants is his childhood toy, his sled, his "Rosebud".

Where we've got it all wrong, where we approach quality of life ass backwards  is we go into life to achieve  quality of life, to attain  quality of life. We literally go into life to make it  ie to make quality of life. If only we do the right thing, if only we do something that makes us happy, that's  when we'll have quality of life. If only we get the right job, if only we make enough money, that's  when we'll have quality of life. If only we meet the right person, if only we find our soul  mate, that's  when we'll have quality of life. We know  it's out there. We just have to make it  and then we'll have it. In this regard, we're irrepressible (if not naïve) optimists. "With all this manure, there must be a pony in here somewhere!". But there isn't. And there never was to begin with. "With all this manure, there must be a pony in here somewhere!" pertinently enunciates the domain of hope. Hope is really, if you examine it closely, hope-less. Built in to hope is always the roots of hopelessness, frustration, and failure. To hope  is eloquent testimony to hopelessness. "The hand" implies both  the front of the hand and  the back of the hand.

To hope  for quality of life is, like that, self-defeating. But that's not to say there's no quality  possible in life. Whereas hope is, literally, hoped for  (in other words, contains the seeds of it's own worst fears), quality is always available as a generated  context. Quality of life is brought to  life. You bring quality to life. There's no quality  out there. There's none, really!  There's none for the taking. You can't make it  enough ever for life to return quality. You can't hope for  quality of life and have it appear. But you can  bring quality to life.

You could say, in a very real sense, that when you give up all hope  and start being responsible for generating quality, only then have you truly grown up. You could also say, in a very real sense, that when you're willing to be a source of ie a speaker of quality through language, only then can you truly lay claim to enlightenment. But that's another conversation for another occasion.

What quality of life comes down to is a conversation. But not just any conversation. Quality of life is presenced  by a certain kind of conversation. It's brought forth  in your speaking. Quality of life  is a quality, a space, to come from. And the mechanism, the implement, the blunt instrument  for bringing it forth into the world is language  ie conversation ie in your speaking. You can always start a new conversation if you don't like the one you're in.



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