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 Quieting

William Hill Estate Winery, Napa Valley, California, USA

September 25, 2012

This essay, The Quieting, is the companion piece to It Thinks You.

When I first met him I couldn't believe anyone  could talk so fast, so non-stop. The term motor mouth  wasn't coined for this guy. Rocket  mouth was more like it.

The more I listened to him, the faster he spoke. All his sentences veered off into confusing side lines of non sequiturs  as he became separated from the points he started making. He never finished any  point he started making. No matter how many questions he posed (actual asked questions, as well as implied questions) I soon realized he didn't know how to pause and allow any time for answers or responses. It was as if he needed  to talk, and my listening simply incubated and fueled his need. That's what made listening to him as if  he wanted to really converse, exasperating at first.

Whatever he said tumbled out of his mouth so fast that it totally overrode his few accidental pauses in which an answer or a response could be squeaked in. The break neck speed at which he talked was punctuated, strangely, by his teeth clicking on each other, his lips smacking together, and his tongue popping  on his palate staccato  as his mouth tried hopelessly  to keep up with the geyser of his stream of consciousness  thinking. "Fortunately he's not prone to spitting ..." I mused to myself dryly.

When he finally slowed down long enough for me to get a word in edgewise, I didn't attempt to respond to him directly. Rather, I said "Whoa there now! Take a break  Big Guy!". Much to my surprise he did. Then his breaths came in gasps as if he'd been running.

Obviously he had a lot  to say. Arguably he had too much to say. In and of itself, that isn't a bad thing - except it was enormously frustrating to him since he was clearly incapable of managing what he said so that any conversation he was in, brought him completion. I sensed he had a lot to contribute. But simplifying how it all came out coherently was going to require some homework - to say the least. If I were to guess that somewhere between the thoughts and his mouth, something was awry, that wouldn't be it. It was earlier than that. It was something prior  to that, something much more fundamental than that.

I knew it didn't matter where I started - as long as I got to it directly. So I said "You talk fast, faster than anyone I've ever known. I can keep up with what you're saying, but I can tell you can't get the thoughts into words fast enough. The thoughts come faster than your tongue can move. This frustrates you, yes?".

My guess is I was somewhere  in the ballpark. But I didn't know how accurate my guess really was until he looked at me, blushed, then lowered his head. After a minute or so, I could see he was crying. "I can never get it all out" he stammered after a while. "There are so many thoughts I want to share, and so many more I have which I can't put into words. I'm actually not very good at expressing my thoughts in words. I'm hopeless  at expressing myself clearly.". "Oh no" I said. "You're very good  at expressing the thoughts you're having, in words. But whatever you're expressing isn't yourself.".

He looked straight at me, suddenly collected. "What do you mean 'Whatever I'm expressing isn't myself'?"  he asked, taken aback yet genuinely interested. "Good" I thought. "Contact! Now we can talk.".

"So tell me exactly what is it you're trying to do" I asked him. "I'm trying to communicate what I'm thinking. I'm trying to put my thoughts into words. But I can't talk fast enough to communicate all of them, so I fail to express myself fully.". "And that's a problem for you, right?" I asked. "Not being able to communicate everything you think, is a problem for you.". "Yes" he said, "that's the  problem.". "No, that's not  the problem" I said. "Listen: they're not your thoughts, and you're not the one thinking them". "What do you mean?"  he asked again. "Of course  they're my thoughts. Of course  I'm the one thinking them!". "No they're not you're thoughts ... and  ... you're not the one thinking them" I said, repeating myself.

He stopped for a moment. Rather, he was  stopped for a moment (to his credit, he was still listening - he was still in the conversation). He was about to say something ... then paused like a goldfish, opening and shutting his mouth with no sound coming out. "About all these thoughts you say you're thinking: you say you're thinking so many thoughts, and you say you're thinking them so fast you can't get them all out, so you fail to express yourself fully. Well, if they're your thoughts" I said, "and if you're the one thinking them, then ... stop  ... thinking ... them ..." I said deliberately, slowly, emphatically.

You can't ever really know what's going on for a person - not unless they tell you. It's even harder to know what's going on for a person when they've just started to confront, for the first time, that the thoughts they've been thinking aren't their thoughts, and that they're not the one thinking their own thoughts. It's a siege. The business as usual  way of looking at who we really are has been ambushed, routed, irreparably altered  - once and for all. His very clothes reeked of stuckness and spinning wheels having lost all their traction, and congested futile attempts to find a way out. He could have  resisted. He could have fought it off. He could have argued bravely against it. He could have tried to debate it with logic. I admit that's what I expected him to do - that's what most  people would have done. But to his credit, he surrendered to it. He got so relaxed so quickly with it, he almost went totally limp.

"It's incredible  what a difference this is. It's so ... well ... quiet. Wow!" he said. He looked like ten years had fallen off his face. "How did you find out about this?" he asked, speaking carefully, calmly, at a normal speed - for a change. "I got it from Werner Erhard. This is vintage  Erhard" I answered. "Who's Werner Erhard?" he asked. "A friend of mine" I replied. "We can talk a lot more about him later. But for now I want to know from you: if it isn't you, then who's thinking your thoughts?".

"I've never seen it this way before" he said. "You've never looked at  it this way before" I interrupted. He nodded, then continued: "It sure looks like the thoughts are just coming. Whether I think  I think them or not, they're just coming. I've always known I can't stop them. But if I can't stop them, then it's not me who's thinking them, right? It looks as if they're thinking themselves. Actually no, it looks as if they're thinking me  ...". "And if they're thinking you" I said, "that's more confirmation you're not your thoughts. Experientially  there's a big difference between the thoughts you're having, and who you really are. Now do you get what I mean when I say you're very good at expressing the thoughts you're having in words, but whatever you're expressing, isn't yourself?".

"I get  it" he said, smiling.

An elephant had crawled off his back. I told him it'd be great to talk with him more, soon. I meant it.

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