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 OK Way Is OK

Frank Family Vineyards, Calistoga, California, USA

November 30, 2014

This essay, The OK Way Is OK, is the companion piece to

I'm not a therapist, and I told him so. Yes I am a psych  major, but it never became a career for me. What I got most out of my studies of psychology was learning to research, learning to apply myself (unsupervised, over time) to a project. In that way alone, majoring in psychology was invaluable for me. So when I suggested he could, if he so chose, develop new pathways in his brain for being and acting, I wasn't speaking about something I'd studied at university. Rather I was speaking about something extraordinary I've come to appreciate in Werner's work, something extraordinary which interestingly enough, is validated and supported by the latest advances in neuroscience (psychology probably isn't too far behind in recognizing it also).

What started this conversation was him opening up suddenly, and sharing the things from his own life which we ordinarily don't share - you know, the things nobody  ever talks about. He just opened up and (fearlessly, I might add) shared how meaningless his life is, how pointless it all is. I've relayed similar conversations before in this Conversations For Transformation internet series of essays, and I responded to him in the same way as I've responded before: that he's actually totally correct (funnily enough, no one wants to really hear they're correct in this context, even though we aver it ferociously and unwaveringly): it is  all meaningless and pointless. Really.

For some people (actually for many people, I suppose), the realization of the meaninglessness and pointlessness of it all, takes them to the depths of the abyss of existential angst  and ennui. For me however, it's an opportunity for enormous  freedom, an opportunity unlike any other: an opportunity to live a life I love, an opportunity to live a life worth living, an opportunity to live a life that makes a difference. I suggested one of the things he could consider is developing new pathways in his brain for being and acting, which would have his meaninglessness and pointlessness show up as an opportunity rather than as a predicament.


The willingness to regard meaninglessness and pointlessness as an opportunity rather than as a predicament, is where Self-empowerment begins.


He turned his face quickly toward me, looked at me with an expression of total incredulity, derision, and skepticism, and said "Are you kidding me? No one  can develop new pathways in their brain", to which I responded "Well ... who do you think developed the pathways in your brain you're currently run by?".

He opened his mouth to respond, already combative ... and it stayed open for a few seconds like a goldfish before he shut it instead and turned away, not saying anything. I could tell he got the possibility newly. In the annals of belabored point-making, such insights are the most profound. "Good" I thought to myself (not saying it out loud) "now we can really talk.".

I've had some experience with conversations like these. They can be very long conversations. Or they can be very, very  long conversations. They can also be short conversations. What I've discovered is it isn't a matter of how long or of how short the conversation is, and neither is it even a matter of having the conversation and getting it complete. Rather, it's a matter of getting the conversation completely started. To this purpose, what's effective ie what's powerful  is to float the possibility that, in all situations, under all circumstances, this is OK the way it is, and it's OK the way it isn't.

Now: initially at least, that's fraught with the likelihood of being taken out of context. "But I don't agree with you! Things are not  OK Laurence" was his almost certainly thrown  retort. The thing is I don't say it as a judgemental  "OK" and neither do I say it as an opinionated  "OK" - in fact if I sound like I'm saying either of those, it would have no power at all, and would only obfuscate what I'm distinguishing. However, spoken as an experiential  "OK", it has enormous power. It's OK the way it is, and it's OK the way it isn't ie things are the way they are, and they aren't the way they aren't. That's not a judgement. That's not an opinion. That's your experience. That's powerful. That's very  powerful.

There's also another pernicious tendency in a conversation like this, which is to get deep into the story  of why it's not OK (opinion), to get bogged down in the minutiae  of what happened (judgement). And that's what may happen (and often does) in a therapy conversation. But this isn't a therapy conversation (and as I said, I'm not a therapist).

To his credit he listened, even though I could sense his fundamental (to be expected) resistance. Given my background, I've been in this particular conversation many times before, enough to know this isn't something you can disagree with - some things just don't work like that ie some things you just can't split down either side of the agreement / disagreement dichotomy.

This is one such thing which doesn't work like that. It's something way too fundamental to disagree with. How do you disagree with "things are the way they are, and they aren't the way they aren't"? What this does ie what Werner's axiom  does (if you will) is impose on the conversation (and in what we're currently talking about, impose on any struggle) something bigger, a bigger context which extends further than the details at hand, a bigger context in which a clear choice can show up: you can either be run by the current pathways in your brain ... or  ... you can simply pay less attention  to them, and develop (if you will) new pathways in your brain for being and acting.

I could see he got it, although he didn't yet have the vocabulary, the lexicography  to express it (that will come later). "So ... what you're saying is 'Everything is OK'. Your way is 'the OK way'"  he said smiling. "Not quite: almost" I replied, "but good enough for jazz  just the same. Just be sure the 'things are the way they are, and they aren't the way they aren't' in my 'OK way' is your experience of what's so, rather than being your flip opinion snidely intended to disparage, to dilute, to dismiss something both profound as well as enormously pragmatic and useful. My 'OK way', as you call it, is OK. Really it is. The OK way is OK.".

Again it was clear he got the floated possibility newly, and that this conversation is completely started.

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