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

The Alchemy Of Disappearance

Las Vegas, Nevada, USA

October 28, 2007

This essay, The Alchemy Of Disappearance, is the companion piece to On Being Out Of Control: Be It, Create It, Or Re-Create It.

I am indebted to Victoria Hamilton-Rivers who contributed material for this conversation.

It's universal behavior: when we human beings have issues to resolve which concern us, we discuss them. We analyze  them in therapy. We atone  for them in the confessional. With good-listening friends we talk them through. We debate and confer  about them - in huddles, in pow-wows, in the boardroom, in parliament, in the United Nations.

At some point there's a breakthrough. The issue's resolved. You could even say the issue disappears. A discontiguous break, a victory  over the past has occurred. The next action, the direction to go forward appears. We're free to choose. The future's wide open again.

Whatever the issue was is now cleared up. We're done with it. Typically at this time we stop talking about it. Conversation around it ebbs, drops off, then ceases entirely. No more therapy. Confession's complete. Meeting's over. The game's called. There's nothing else to say about it.

For the sake of this inquiry, let's distinguish an issue  as the conversation we are  about an unresolved  or incomplete  incident or situation or set of circumstances. This immediately calls forth the inevitable chicken and egg  questions: Does the conversation cease when the issue clears up? Or (the more incisive question) does the issue clear up when we discontinue speaking it?  If it's the latter, what's the difference between not talking about an issue, and suppressing or avoiding it?

Looked at from the perspective of commentators, from the perspective of reporters, a conversation about an issue is talking about  something. We're simply narrating, describing  what's going on. We're observing  what's going on but with no power  over what's going on. Looked at from the perspective of players, of activists, a conversation about an issue is generating  something by the act of speaking it. Over that which we generate by speaking, we do have power.

Hypothesis: Disappearance Or Slippery Slope?

In this inquiry I'm considering the possibility of any  issue in our lives persisting as an issue because we continue talking about it. Here's my twofold hypothesis:
  1. Issues are generated by speaking them, ergo  they're disappeared by discontinuing speaking them;

  2. Continuing talking about issues forgetting it regenerates them, is a slippery slope.
There's a fine line between talking about  an issue, and generating  it. There's an even finer line between not  talking about an issue, and suppressing  it, avoiding it.

Dramatizing issues by talking about them is like eating salted peanuts: it's hard to stop once you've started. It's a slippery slope when we talk about issues purportedly in order to resolve them, to clear them up, to complete them. Yet counterintuitively, dramatizing issues is exactly what keeps them regenerated and alive.

This hypothesis isn't intended to be the truth. Rather, it's intended as something to try on, as a way of looking at things. It's an implement of distinction, a tool like a paring knife, like a scalpel.  If it works for you, keep it and put it to good use. Use it as you see fit. If it breaks, don't fix it: get another one. But if it does work for you, if you get profound and unexpected use from this scalpel, if you've distinguished disappearing an issue by discontinuing speaking it  and you're clear that isn't the same as suppressing or avoiding by not talking about an issue, you'll start to notice a developing muscle which, when brought to bear, enables you to disappear things like magic. This is the alchemy of disappearance.

From the Cambridge International Dictionary:


a process so effective it seems like magic

Also from the Cambridge International Dictionary:


from the verb disappear
if people or things disappear they go somewhere where they cannot be seen or found

Synopsis: Critical Path To Distinction

Here's my synopsis of the critical thinking which arrives at the distinction disappearing an issue by discontinuing speaking it  which isn't the same as suppressing or avoiding by not talking about an issue. These are the Zen antitheses, the nots  of the distinctions generating an issue by speaking it  which isn't the same as talking about an issue. For flow and workability, I've inserted an intermediate third distinction: transforming an issue by sharing it.
  1. A) Talking about an issue:

    • Issue persists

      If I tell the truth about it, when I'm simply talking about an issue, the relief  I anticipate devolves, at best, into agreement, empathy. When I'm talking about  it, I'm one thin degree away from complaining about, from gossiping about whatever the issue is. Then I notice although talking about it brings the issue into focus and garners empathy for it, in so doing it also paradoxically keeps the issue alive  thereby ensuring its persistence.

    • Dramatizing

      To be sure, there's a certain generosity of spirit, a pseudo-sharing when dramatizing an issue through talking about it. This provides, at best, relief through venting among willing listeners. What's sought is agreement, help. Yet the inevitable by-product which results is the issue held captive in the present with no chance of disappearance.

    B) Not talking about an issue:

    • Issue persists

      If an issue is already present  for me, I notice not  talking about it when I'm not being responsible for being its source  has the same impact on it as talking about it if the desired result is its disappearance: the issue persists. If there's something to deal  with, if there's something to manage, and I'm not talking about the issue, and I'm not being responsible for being its source, its persistence is ensured.

    • Suppressing, avoiding

      If an issue is already present for me ie there's something to deal with, something to manage, something to confront and I'm not talking about it and I'm not being responsible for being its source, that suppresses it, that avoids it, but it doesn't disappear it.

  2. A) Transforming an issue by sharing it:

    • Possibility of transformation

      When I bring transformation to bear, the stuff, the story  of an issue shifts to mere content within a broader context  of who I really am. With that shift, the urgency to talk about an issue and to garner the agreement that I'm right  diminishes. When I bring transformation to bear, talking about an issue is no longer the key to getting OK-ness back into my life. Coming from transformation, I'm already OK. It's then mere details of the issue which need to be resolved, a task I notice I can accomplish more effectively when I have less attachment to those arbitrarily preferred outcomes which make me right.

    • Possibility of disappearance

      When I share an issue coming from transformation, I notice it tends to clear up fast once the focus is shifted from getting complete  with an issue to being already complete, from being the victim  of an issue and circumstance to being their cause, their source. Once source is reinstated, an issue which once distracted from source, diminishes and often disappears. As a corollary, if source isn't reinstated, if the issue isn't complete, then by definition  the issue hasn't yet been fully shared coming from transformation. I can't explain  this phenomenon. Yet it's not only magic-like: it's also absolutely 100% reliable.

    B) Not transforming an issue by sharing it:

    • Issue persists

      If an issue isn't shared in the context of transformation, then it remains as it is without possibility of resolution or disappearance. In this regard, not sharing an issue in the context of transformation produces exactly the same result as suppressing or avoiding an issue by not talking about it: the issue persists.

    • Suppressing, avoiding

      An issue persisting because it's suppressed or avoided by not talking about it differs only marginally from an issue which persists because it's not shared in a context of transformation. The difference is subtle. A context of transformation  implies knowledge of the power and magic  of transformation. Not sharing an issue in a context known for its power and magic to complete, transform, and disappear issues  is avoiding and suppressing the issue while knowing there's a possibility of disappearing  the issue. Not talking about an issue is also avoiding and suppressing the issue but without knowing  there's a possibility of disappearing the issue.

  3. A) Generating an issue by speaking it:

    • Issue manifests

      I assert all  issues come into existence like a possibility  through speaking. Here I'm referring to

      1. speaking with another and / or with others;

      2. speaking with oneself - contemplating, futzing, thinking;

      3. the ground of being we call "language" as in Werner Erhard's "who we are is constituted in language", another version of which is the biblical "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God", otherwise known as "Logos".

      In other words, I assert if there's an issue, if something's going on, it's because someone said something.

    • Creating

      Issues are created, are generated  by someone saying something. They then continue to live in language  where, unless we're vigilant, they take on a life of their own, seeming to become independent of their source. Once this occurs, at best we can only talk about  issues as independent occurrences. It becomes inconceivable that we whom we perceive to be their victims and their discussers, are really their sources simply because we're speaking them.

    B) Not generating an issue by not speaking it:

    • No issue

      I assert in the realm of who we are is constituted in language, if we don't speak an issue then there's no issue.

    • Nothing happening

      I assert in those quiet times when there's nothing going on, when there's nothing happening, it's because no issue was spoken.

    C) Disappearing an issue by discontinuing speaking it:

    • Issue goes out of existence, ceases to be

      Once I'm clear the source of any issue is language, I'm free to choose to stay in the conversation I am (ie the conversation I am which is the issue) or not. If I choose to no longer be in the conversation, to no longer speak the issue into existence, it disappears immediately. And if I choose to stay in the conversation, I stay in the conversation being responsible for being source  of the issue, being its speaker  rather than its effect, its victim, its discusser.

    • Disappearance

      When an issue is no longer spoken, it's disappeared. Even if I could, I'm hesitant to articulate an explanation  for this phenomenon because in explaining it, it's not experienced. However, when it's experienced, it can be gotten. Try it on for size. If it works for you, use it. If it doesn't, discard it.

Choice In The Matter: I Speak Therefore I am

In the instant I take on who I am  is constituted in language, I've presenced who I really am. Being human, I'll probably lose track of that distinction from time to time. Once I notice it's gone, I can choose to take it on again.

Collage by Laurence Platt
Self  Portrait
Living as constituted in language, it's clear to me I speak all issues into existence. It's more than that, actually. No matter what's going on, in my personal life or in life in the world at large, it's what I speak about it that has it show up as an issue. In this regard it's interesting to notice speaking is both the realm of creation as well as the realm of interpretation.

There's one final aspect of this inquiry which if left unsaid will render it incomplete, and it's this: disappearance isn't a means to surviving, a means to escaping. It's simply a distinction which allows who you really are to stand distinct from the issues which accumulate meaning  in the life of a human being. Distinguishing who you really are gives access to the alchemy of disappearance and, more pertinently, vice versa.
Werner Erhard has the last word: "To make sure a person doesn't find out who they are, convince them they can't really make anything disappear.".

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