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 Way We Are

Calle De Donoso Cortés, Madrid, Spain

March 7, 2011

"To make sure a person doesn't find out who he is, convince him that he can't really make anything disappear."  ... 
"To make sure a person doesn't find out who they are, convince them they can't really transform the way they are." ... Laurence Platt
This essay, The Way We Are, is the companion piece to
  1. Superstitious Minds
  2. Another Possibility
  3. The Way I Am
in that order.

It was written at the same time as Last Train To The Suburbs.




For the most part, the way we are ... for ... our selves  ... is a superstition.

Be careful now. It's not useful, in fact it will obfuscate  it's value, if you consider this like it's "the truth". Rather, it's something to try on for size. It's a point of view from which to look at the way we are. Let me expand.

When I say "This  ... is just the way I am!", it's a superstition. When I say "This  ... is just the way I am!" is a superstition, it isn't a superstition.

If this evokes perplexity  (and it almost assuredly will - maddeningly so), wear it ike a badge of honor. It's the same perplexity which precedes the breakthrough when you interact with / wrestle  with / come to grips with a Zen koan like the similar "What is when it isn't, and isn't when it is?" which in this  context is even more appropriate than the brilliant and perfectly minimalistic "What's the sound of one hand clapping?".

Take on being responsible for making the following distinction: if we say "A black cat crossing my path is bad luck", it's a superstition; if we say "A black cat crossing my path is bad luck" is a superstition, it isn't a superstition. Sit with it in your lap like a hot brick. Black cats crossing our paths bringing bad luck have one thing in common with the way we are for ourselves: I assert they're both  superstitions.

If we say "I'm shy", we usually say it as if being shy is a given, as if it's somehow coded in our DNA, as if being shy is a quality we're born with - like an arm or like a leg. If we say "I'm not a social  person", we say it as if not being social is a fixed  way of being, as if it's an unchangeable  quality we're endowed with, which we'll have for Life. If we say "I'm easily upset", we say it as if being easily upset is a permanent, solid  characteristic which we'll have forever. It's more than that actually. When we say "I'm shy", we say it as if being shy is an implicit component of who we really are. When we say "I'm not a social person", we say it as if not being social is an implicit component of who we really are. When we say "I'm easily upset", we say it as if being upset is an implicit component of who we really are.

But that's simply not true. If I am indeed some or all of the above, then I'm shy or I'm not social or I'm easily upset only because I say so. That's both subtle and profound. It's also very easy  to overlook. On the one hand, when I say "I'm shy", at first glance it appears I'm reporting  on a kind of immutable, incontrovertible reality  that I'm shy. In fact, when I say "I'm shy", it's by saying "I'm shy"  that I generate who I'm being as shy. There's no such thing as "I'm shy" like a solid, concrete reality, like an implicit component of who I really am. There's only me speaking "I'm shy"  which constitutes me as shy. In other words, if you dissect me with a scalpel, you won't find "shy"  - being shy is a purely linguistic act.

The way we are isn't fixed. It's malleable. It's transform-able. Who I'm being at any particular moment is a function of who I generate  myself to be in language, rather than a function of some implicit given  in my DNA over which I have no power, no choice, and no sway. That's why I'm not invested in belief systems which label me as a certain fixed type, and then define me to be an identifiable, predictable  way based on, for example, a one time assessment of where the planets happened to be located in the universe on the day I was born, or (worse) on the color category  personality type I'm arbitrarily assigned to.

The quarrel I have with those belief systems (and others like them) is they allow no possibility for moment to moment  creativity, no clearing for coming up with something completely discontiguous  and new throughout the course of my life, no chance of inventing a new possibility for my future which, until then, simply wasn't going to happen. But what's even more important to notice here is there's no possibility of responsibility  in them either. After all, if I'm being a certain way because I'm a Gemini  or because I'm a blue  personality type or whatever, then I'm not responsible for how my life turns out. Rather, how my life turns out is determined by my sign or by my personality type color or by my background or by my past or by my circumstances or by my karma  or by my ... (fill in the blank) ...  In other words, how my life turns out is determined by anything other than my own accountability.

If someone is superstitious, they believe a black cat crossing their path is bad luck. But if you scoff at them and say "That's ridiculous! Everyone  knows it's just a superstition", ask yourself if you've ever said about the way you are "This ... is just the way I am!". Because if you have, that's as superstitious - if not more so - as believing a black cat crossing your path brings bad luck.



Communication Promise E-Mail | Home

© Laurence Platt - 2011 through 2016 Permission