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

Talking About Talking About

Cowboy Cottage, East Napa, California, USA

January 22, 2014

This essay, Talking About Talking About, was written at the same time as I am indebted to my daughter Alexandra Lindsey Platt who inspired this conversation.

If you follow the news on TV or on the internet or in newspapers and in magazines or other outlets, you're sure to be familiar with a staple of the digital age: when items go viral  - which is to say when a piece posted to X  or Facebook  or YouTube  etc is viewed a simply ginormous  number of times. An item going viral indicates people are talking about something. Then when it becomes newsworthy  an item has gone viral, it's people talking about what people are talking about  over and over and over again a ginormous number of times. This is essentially what I distinguish as talking about talking about.

The huge numbers of such viral posted items, is evidence that we love talking about talking about. Entire multibillion dollar social media industries and commentators commenting  on multibillion dollar social media industries, are founded on (and provide eloquent testimony to) this global phenomenon.

Now, in order to say something useful about the distinction "talking about talking about", I'd like to say something about distinctions in general, and about the act of distinguishing itself, and about the way we listen when something is newly distinguished. The way we're thrown  to listen when something is newly distinguished (actually, the way we listen all  the time, but especially  the way we listen when something is newly distinguished) is like something's wrong. Listening like something's wrong is at the root of being skeptical  - whether it's a healthy skepticism or not. Look and see if it's true for you, or not.

It's all pervasive. It's pernicious. And there's no power in listening new distinctions skeptically ie as if something's wrong. So (to be clear), there's nothing wrong with talking about talking about. It's simply a distinction ie it's simply something you can distinguish. When you distinguish something, it doesn't make it better than  something else. When you distinguish something newly, it doesn't make something older or earlier wrong. It's simply a new distinction.

When you start looking at talking about talking about as a new distinction, you'll see it's everywhere in our daily lives. You'll also see how we, without any rigor, have elevated it to the highest realms of our lives and our cultures where it's even become embedded in our spiritual beliefs and in our faiths and in all that we cherish and hold most precious. Look: in all those bibles, there are accounts of people talking about God, yes? When we, then, with the very best of intentions, are talking about what they're talking about in all those bibles, we are in effect talking about talking about God, yes? There it is again: even religion, even that which we cherish and hold most precious is, for the most part, talking about talking about - if not merely just talking about.

It's everywhere. And there's nothing wrong with that. It simply goes with the territory of being human.

But it is cause to pause for reflection. For example, is there any other possibility for speaking, is there any distinction for language  that isn't merely talking about, or isn't merely talking about talking about? Talking about, and talking about talking about, both live in the domain of what we human beings do. And it's clear we do a lot  of both of them. But they don't live in the domain of who  we human beings are. That's a separate domain. And it's a separate distinction.

Here's the difference:

Talking about, and especially talking about talking about, deploy language descriptively but not generatively. In particular, talking about, and talking about talking about, deploy language in a way in which the presence of who we really are isn't required. Another way of articulating this is talking about, and talking about talking about, deploy language in a way which doesn't require who we really are to come forth.

In contradistinction, there's deploying language which generates  who we really are - in other words, there's deploying language which expresses  who we really are, language which brings forth  who we really are, (and here's the thing) language which is  who we really are. It's this  deployment of language which is who we really are, that's in contradistinction to, that's differentiated from talking about, and from talking about talking about. It's this deployment of language which is who we really are, which is another powerful possibility for speaking.

It could be argued that this essential distinction which differentiates between language deployed in talking about and talking about talking about, and language deployed in bringing forth, in expressing, in generating who we really are, is the foundation, is the bedrock  on which Werner Erhard's body of work stands.

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