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 One Thing People Will Not Give Up

Twin Peaks, San Francisco, California, USA

March 18, 2015



"People are willing to give up anything to get enlightened. You and I both know people who've given up wealth, given up jobs, families, their health, give up talking, give up sex, give up you name it, they will give it up. There's only one thing people will not give up to get enlightened. They will do everything they know to hold on to this thing that they will not give up no matter what. The one thing people will not give up to get enlightened is the idea that they're not enlightened."
 ... 
"Distinctions have a short half life, and need to be recreated from time to time."
 ... 
This essay, The One Thing People Will Not Give Up, is the companion piece to It is also the prequel to Where The Path Begins.




My challenge with these Conversations For Transformation is to share something new with each one each time - twice a week, every week, week after week after week. I've not met this challenge. Having done this now for almost twelve years, with hindsight (and hindsight, as Billy Wilder noted, is always 20/20 vision)  I now doubt it could ever have been met, even though it appears there's rife enough turf on which to meet it. With that said, I'm no longer concerned with meeting it. Instead I'll relate to it as a lamp I'm holding high above me, bringing light to whatever it is I'm currently looking at.



Why Distinction Reruns?



Why is it doubtful this challenge could ever have been met?

It's doubtful because there are simply too many already distinctions which are fascinating enough to want  to revisit ie to return to. Also: once enlivened, distinctions then reveal themselves spontaneously in greater and greater depth - so there's invariably and always something new coming out of any known distinctions, and consequently there's always something more to say about them, even about already distinguished distinctions ie especially  about already distinguished distinctions. This is why Conversations For Transformation will authentically, from time to time, present revisits - or reruns, if you will. However when the subject of an essay is a distinction rerun, I'm committed that my view  of the material will  be new with each one each time. That  challenge I have  met and will continue to meet.

With all that said as the background for this essay, there's one distinction in particular I'd like to revisit. It's something Werner said when I first met him, which fascinated me then, and which has fascinated me ever since, perhaps more than anything else he's said. It's something certainly worth revisiting from time to time because it's arguably the seminal idea from which springs all of Werner's work. It's its axis  if you will, a brilliant, maverick idea which creates the space for all its other ideas to jump out and come alive. More than that, it could be said that without it, there's no context (which is to say there's no accurate  context) for any of them.

I've visited it before. Yet it's worth revisiting because like any distinction, it's almost certainly going to fade and eventually be forgotten - not once, not twice, but over and over and over again. Distinctions have a short half life, and need to be recreated from time to time ... so I'd like to recreate it now. It's Werner's razor sharp designation of getting enlightened - which is to say it's Werner's razor sharp designation of an access  to getting enlightened.



Getting Enlightened Revisited



Getting enlightened, it could be said, is naïvely characterized by getting it then never losing it ever again. Experience shows it's probably true-er to say getting enlightened is characterized by getting it then forgetting it then remembering it again then getting it then forgetting it then remembering it again then getting it then forgetting it then remembering it again, over and over and over.

Consider this (and to get this, I request you set aside, temporarily if you like, all the ideas you may have about what getting enlightened is, as well as all the ideas you may have about what the access to getting enlightened is): the access to getting enlightened is giving up the idea you're not enlightened.

It's that dirt simple.

"The access to getting enlightened is giving up the idea you're not enlightened" is the third idea in a trio of Werner's ideas which when gotten, change the game plan for human beings dramatically and entirely. The first is "This is 'IT'.". The second is "There's nothing to get.". However, volumes and volumes of tomes and hours and hours (if not years)  of oratories have been written and spoken extolling the contrary. In simply missing this trio, they've embedded in the zeitgeist  (ie in the spirit of the time) a certain blindness to our true nature. Here we are, right here  and right now  (it's so god-damned obvious) ... and yet we remain convinced there's somewhere else we ought to be other than here, and that there's something else we ought to get other than this, the being in which and the getting of which will somehow bring on getting enlightened or Self-realization or salvation or liberation or moksha  or nirvana or satori, or whatever else you like to call it ... and  ... now there's also the very real possibility you could just call it simply what it is: "ordinary everyday wonder-filled dogshit reality  life".

The incisive first and second ideas in the trio, "This is 'IT'" and "There's nothing to get", are almost always dismissed as too simplistic  (an error which eventually proves extremely costly). But this is 'IT'. And there is nothing to get. This  is the domain of getting enlightened, the access to which is giving up the idea you're not enlightened.

Now, people will give up a lot  to get enlightened. To get enlightened, we'll give up sex and become celibate. We'll give up the world and become reclusive monks and nuns. We'll divert hours and hours and hours of creative productive time to meditation and prayer, hoping they'll further us along the path to getting enlightened - which is to say hoping they'll hasten the onset  of getting enlightened. We'll give up lives of being home-makers and parents and become brahmacharis  instead, taking on service, and scriptural and spiritual study. We'll give up just about anything and everything  to get enlightened except  what it takes to get enlightened ... which is giving up the idea we're not enlightened. It's the one thing people will not give up.

That's gorgeous, rich, indeed breathtaking  when you come to think of it. It's very Zen. It's also very Werner. Mainly, it's just very workable. When you get it (that is if you allow yourself to get it) don't be surprised if it makes you laugh: big, full rolling belly laughs as you get the joke ... that, as well as the calm and the relief that all the effort, all the worry, and all the concern is at last finally alright.



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