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

 Still, Ponderous Still*

Coombsville Appellation, Napa Valley, California, USA

January 14, 2019

"When we are being the clearing for life to show up, and our 'I' or 'me' self is simply one of the things that shows up in the clearing, that leaves us free to be and free to act in life - free to be and free to act with whatever we are dealing with in any situation."
...   speaking the Leadership Course 
I am indebted to Sally Morrison who inspired this conversation, and to Professor William Warren "Bill" Bartley III, Werner's official biographer, who contributed material.

She was one of my first coaches. Back then I didn't use the word "coach", but its sense had already formed. She was someone whom, if she shared an insight, I took it as gospel. That's a special kind of trust, and I'm distrusting by nature. Decades later, I can count the people to whom I've afforded that status, on the fingers of my left hand. I started to share an idea with her. "I think ..." I began saying, when she interrupted me. "No you don't" she said. "What do you mean I don't?"  I asked, "you haven't even heard me out.". "I mean you don't  think it" she said, "no, it  thinks you.". Like a good koan, or like running into a brick wall, it stopped me cold. I had no response. That exact moment is etched in my memory. It demonstrated something impossibly yet clearly true. Things were never the same again afterwards.

Photography by Laurence Platt

Alston Park, Napa Valley, California, USA

2:43:05pm Monday January 7, 2019
Look: the idea that we don't think, is tough to get. To the contrary: that we think, is a given, yes? Lend an ear in any coffee shop, speakeasy, or around the office water cooler, and notice how the very fabric of our day to day conversations is peppered with "I think ..." this, and "I think ..." that. Yet we don't think it. It thinks us. How can that be? Actually I'm not very big on "How?" questions. I'm asking it rhetorically. The postulate itself however, can be tested.

Here's the test: stop thinking. That's an easy one. If you're the one who's thinking, then you should be able to stop  thinking, yes? Try it. You can't. It's automatic. She was right. You don't think it. It thinks you. Notice that doesn't change  anything. There are still thoughts - just as there always have been, just as there always will be. But it does give two new foci.

The first is my relationship with thoughts and thinking: I no longer think thoughts: I have  thoughts. The second (more importantly) is: if that's not me thinking all those thoughts, then who am I  exactly? This question allows for a new distinction  of who I really am if I'm not my thoughts ie if I'm not the one who's thinking. The new distinction is: I am the space  in which all my thoughts and thinking occur. I am not my thoughts: I have  thoughts; I am not my thinking: there is  thinking ie I don't think  (QED). The search for peace of mind  (often articulated as the search for inner peace)  is resolved. And look: it's not resolved over time by technique, by discipline, by practice, or by therapy. It's resolved now, by distinction. Really.

"So ..." I said to myself, "that's  the quality she embodies" - which I could always sense (it was unmistakable) yet could never articulate or put a finger on. She was peaceful, she was quiet, she was still, she was ponderous  still ... and yet she was powerful, she was certain, she was (in a word) present  (the mixture was somewhat disconcerting). She had a profound impact on my life. Thanks to her, I stopped being analytical. I relinquished my conviction that I was a "thinker"  (with apologies to François Auguste René Rodin) ie that I am the one thinking. Rather it  ... is always thinking, and I ... contextualize it. So peaceful. So quiet. So still. So ponderous still.

* The title of this essay, Still, Ponderous Still, comes from a poem Werner wrote titled "Sunrise" for his writing class at Norristown high school in Pennsylvania.

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