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

Starting Point

Southside Café, Old Sonoma Road, Napa, California, USA

March 5, 2018

It happened gradually - and as if all by itself (I don't recall making a conscious decision to do it). Yet now when I look at it, I see it's firmly in place: hiking is included in my weekly fitness regimen, along with running, swimming, and weight training. I target hiking every day at sunrise for about an hour, having moved my other three gymnasium-specific activities to later in my daily schedule. Mostly I like to hike by ... my ... Self. And some times I'll invite a friend(s) to hike with me. One of the great things about hiking with a friend, is we're likely to open up and speak freely in these pristine, natural, bucolic, unthreatening environments. But that's not why I invite friends, mind you. Yet it is what happens. It's a fringe benefit. An additional perk. A privilege, actually. No, I invite friends to hike so we can hike  (hiking is very Zen).

"The world is just so messed up right now" she said, looking down following my caution to avoid a slippery clump of muddy leaves. "Oh? So how do you know that?" I asked her. "I read newspapers" she said, looking up again. "Wouldn't you like a second opinion?" I asked. "No, I don't need one: I've already got a second opinion" she said. "How so?" I asked. "Well" she replied, "I watch TV too.". "That's not what I meant, smarty pants"  I said smiling (one smart aleck easily recognizes another).

How ever conversations such as this one go (and you've probably been in one or three like it yourself), there are a few predictable pitfalls along the way, the most commonly noteworthy of which is that as soon as you offer "it's OK the way it is (and the way it isn't)" ie as soon as you ante up  your stake in the conversation with it, you're most likely going to be interpreted as either being apathetic to the world situation, or totally ignorant of it, or callously indifferent to it, or something else even more sinister, or all of the above. And the trouble is that without the possibility of transformed listening, and certainly without the possibility of a transformed worldview, those may indeed be the only logical, rational  conclusions to come up with, even among good and decent people.

I proposed this to her: if you can't get  it's OK the way it is (and the way it isn't), then you can't transform your life. I don't know why  transformation comes with this unwavering, no-exceptions  pre-condition. But it does. And if you don't get it's OK the way it is (and the way it isn't), then I can't explain it to you, and neither can I convince you of it, and I certainly  don't have a better set of debating points about it than you. However, none of that is required: the fact is you can't get it that way  anyway. No kidding! I'm sorry, but you can't. Rather, the way you get it is ontologically. You get it experientially. You look ... and you see things are the way they are (and the way they aren't). Getting it, you have to bracket  your personal judgements and all your preferences and all your intellectual mischief-making, and just look.

So what's the most effective, most powerful, most pragmatic, appropriate way to interact with the world in the messed up state you say it's in? There is a sequence to note here. It's this: 1) if you get it's OK the way it is (and the way it isn't), you can transform your life; 2) if you can transform your life, you can invent new, powerful possibilities; 3) if you can invent new, powerful possibilities, only then can you really make a difference. Listen: we have one word for "make a difference" when it's not predicated on inventing new, powerful possibilities, which aren't predicated on being transformed, which isn't predicated on getting it's OK the way it is (and the way it isn't). That one word is "change". And we've been trying to change the world for centuries. Now, tell me the truth: how well is trying to change the world, going for us after all this time? You already know: you see it on the front pages of all those newspapers you read and on all those TV channels you watch, day after day after day.

Transformation: it's not a goal: it's the starting point.

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© Laurence Platt - 2018 Permission