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


Tell Me A Story

Monticello Vineyards, Napa Valley, California, USA

July 1, 2008



I am indebted to Susie Fitch Kralj who inspired this conversation.



Tell me a story. I'll listen.

The only request I'll make of you is to use my listening not to get agreement for your story nor to get dis-agreement for your story, but rather simply to watch  you tell me a story - in other words, to watch your story. I'll be your screen. You be your projector. Watch you tell me a story. Watch your story on the screen of my listening, then get it's just a story.

Photography by Phyllis Ford
Werner Erhard with Jack Rafferty
reprising their award winning roles in the drama
Harry! Harry!
At the end it'll say "The End", and then the credits will roll. The last credit will say "Screenplay and story of your  life created and scripted from an original idea by you.".

It's almost certain if you tell me your story expecting me to agree with you or wanting me to sympathize with what happened  to you, you'll be disappointed. That's because your story's OK with me. When I listen to your story, you won't be filing a police report. I'm not interested in who's to blame. The way it turned out is the way it turned out. There's no point in manipulating the way it turned out or in spin doctoring  the way it turned out or in trying to get justice  (at best) or in trying to get revenge (at worst) because that's the way it turned out.

Any story that's a problem (or, spoken with rigor, any story that's about  a problem) could be handled by listening for what the problem is, then fixing the problem. Fixing is one way of doing it, although its efficiency in the long term is dubious at best. Fixing would be like replacing one section of an infested floorboard while the termites go unnoticed stealthily devouring their way through the entire foundation of the house. I'll listen but not coming from fixing. If you tell me a story I'll listen from within another context, from within another frame of reference.

Your story tells of a complaint, of a racket, of a problem. Any problem is a problem not because of what happened but because what happened  eclipses, overshadows who you really are. If there's going to be a resolution  to the problem in your story, paradoxically it won't be found in solving the problem. Resolution is found in reinstating who you really are  distinct from the story ie distinct from your version of the sequence of events which overshadow who you really are.

So when you tell me a story and I'm listening you tell me a story, I'm not listening to your story. I'm listening you  tell me a story. I'm hearing the story but I'm not listening the story as much as I'm listening you tell me a story.

Gee, I hope you get this! I'm listening you  tell me a story. I'm hearing  the story but I'm not listening the story. It's distinct. I'm totally committed to hearing your story. I'm totally committed to you experiencing I've heard your story. But where I'm listening from isn't to hear your story so you can have agreement  and sympathy  and understanding. To be sure, I can provide agreement and sympathy and understanding. Interimly that may be what you want. But ultimately none of that will serve you.

Projecting your story on the screen of my listening, I intend you'll get who you really are  as distinct from your story. Furthermore, I intend when you tell me a story, you'll also get you're the author of your story. Playing a bit part, even having a cameo role in your story diminishes power when you're not the author of your story. However, being the author of your story, even when you also have a cameo role in your story, has real power, leverage, magnanimity, and courage.

It's not your story that keeps you stuck. It's not what your story's about that keeps you stuck. It's not even what happens to you in your story that keeps you stuck. Collapsing the distinctions  "story" with "who you really are" is what keeps you stuck.



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