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

Straight And Narrow Path

Sleepy Hollow, Marin County, California, USA

December 9, 2009

This essay, Straight And Narrow Path, is the companion piece to Eye Of The Needle.

If in a conversation outside of Conversations For Transformation you speak about the straight and narrow path  (to enlightenment, to God, to whatever), you'll most likely get stuck speaking into an already always listening which associates straight and narrow with something arduous, with something restrictive, with something that's no fun at all.

That said, I'd like to focus on the opportunity for transformation which shows up in life from time to time like an opening to a time warp  (as the Time Bandits  may have said). If you miss this opportunity when it shows up, if you don't take this chance when it shows up, if you don't walk through this opening when it shows up, it may not re-occur for a while - for years, perhaps.

Now, forty years after the presence of transformation was first made known, there's a group of people (they know who they are - hundreds of thousands of people, millions  perhaps) who didn't capitalize on the opportunity for transformation when it first showed up in their lives. Also comprising this group are people who did  capitalize on the opportunity for transformation when it first showed up in their lives, who were astounded by the impact of its power and magic, and who then neglected to recreate, refresh, or review its distinctions ie who neglected to be responsible for keeping its distinctions alive. The distinctions of transformation, like radioactive isotopes, have a short half-life:  they fade if left unattended, just as anything you're responsible for degrades if left unattended. They need to be recreated from time to time (as Werner Erhard may have said).

Then when the opportunity for transformation showed up again many years later in the lives of this group of people, they heard something in it for themselves they'd not heard before. Notice what they'd not heard before had always been said  before. But if you'd asked them "How's it going?", not as a perfunctory greeting but rather with pointed reference to how their lives are turning out given their choice to go it alone  without trying transformation on for size, their answer (if they're unflinchingly honest) would have been "Not so well - this isn't going the way I wanted it to go or expected it to go.". If they don't tell the truth about it or if they dodge the question entirely, their giveaway is the resignation on their faces, their steadfast righteousness, their giving up  on aliveness, the result of too often visiting the restaurant of Life and eating the menu instead of the steak. For these people, the opportunity for transformation has the possibility of showing up (or showing up again, as the case may be) as the get out of jail free  card in the Monopoly  game of Life.

I assert this opportunity, this get out of jail free card, occurs on the so-called straight and narrow path. But to think of this path as restrictive  and / or arduous  is to misread its true nature. Ironically, to think of this path  as something to be followed  is also to misread its true nature. We'll get to this in a moment.

An opportunity for transformation is what it is and ain't what it ain't. In this sense, there's no middle ground here. Here there's no gray  as in a field of black and white. It's either/or as in off/on. That's its nature. An opportunity for transformation occurs ... and you capitalize on it ... or you don't.
Werner's work has been available since March 1971. That means it's been here for the offering for nearly four decades. The opportunity for transformation, for transforming your life, has been around for nearly forty years. That's more than half the life expectancy of the classic three score years and ten  allocated to each human being.

Life looks, feels, and breathes a certain way after transformation, and another completely different way without transformation. That's not an evaluation that Life is better  with transformation than without it - although indeed, some people may say that's the case for them. Rather, a life chosen with transformation is whole  and complete  and full  and satisfying  exactly the way it is and exactly the way it isn't with nothing needing to be added and with nothing needing to be taken away. When life is lived whole and complete and full and satisfying exactly the way it is and exactly the way it isn't, new possibilities are noticed on the radar screen which weren't noticed on the radar screen before, new opportunities manifest which didn't manifest before, new openings for action  call you powerfully into action which didn't call you at all before (as a Landmark Forum Leader may have said).

That's the magic of transformation. Almost everyone who has participated in Werner's work can attest to the magic of transformation. But here's the thing: the emperor isn't wearing any clothes. The magic of transformation isn't really magic at all. Really! It isn't. Transformation isn't magic, and don't let anyone fool you otherwise. Rather - and it takes balls  to be able to look at your own life, to step up to the plate, and to 'fess up  to this: it's living life in an un‑transformed way which kills off the possibility of the magic of Life itself  showing up. Is it any surprise when we stop killing off the magic of Life, that Life shows up magical? That's transformation.

Life looks a certain way, say, a week after graduating from Werner's work. A few years after that, when the maturity and mastery of transformation have had an opportunity to age and breathe, Life looks another way - perhaps richer and fuller. What would your life look like today after forty years of transformation? What would your life look like today if you allowed transformation into your life decades ago rather than years ago or months ago or weeks ago? Hindsight is always 20/20 vision, but isn't there just a tad of chagrin as you realize no one held off transformation coming into your life decades sooner than it did - no one, that is, except you? It goeswith  transformation (as Alan Watts may have said) that just as you get all the credit for allowing transformation to come into your life when you do, you also get all the credit for resisting  transformation coming into your life until it does.

Notice what I'm fleshing out here aren't so much opportunities for transformation which show up as black and white but not gray, as much as I'm fleshing out whether or not you capitalize  on these opportunities for transformation when they occur. It's you capitalizing on these opportunities, rather than the occurrence of these opportunities themselves, which defines the straight and narrow path. To think of it as restrictive and arduous is to argue from a position of survival when staring total freedom straight in the face.

Another way of looking at this is thus: without a tightrope, the thrilling tightrope walker wouldn't have a medium on which to demonstrate her remarkable expression of art. To call a tightrope a straight and narrow path may be semantically accurate. But it's only useful when that's said within a broader context  of total freedom, fearlessness, and a remarkable no holds barred  Self expression.

That's because the thing about a tightrope which is pertinent here, aside from it being considered to be like a straight and narrow path, is you don't walk a tightrope like an obligation, like a coercion. In fact it's perfectly fine to never walk a tightrope at all, ever. The thing about walking a tightrope is you can only do it as a choice. You can only do it by stepping up  and by stepping out. That, plus you don't follow  a tightrope.

That's what the straight and narrow path really is. It's neither arduous nor restrictive. In fact, it's as wide open  as total freedom. What's straight and narrow about it is the black and white, off/on choice you make to transform your life like a stand  or (in the case of a tightrope) like a walk, or not.

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