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 Whole Truth

San Francisco, California, USA

May 27, 2004

This essay, The Whole Truth, shares my completion with my father Asher Manfred and his with me.

It is the companion piece to Nothing But The Truth, which shares my completion with my mother Andee Platt and hers with me. This is The Whole Truth and Nothing But The Truth.

It is the first in a group of twenty three on Parents: I am indebted to my father Dr Asher Manfred Platt who inspired this conversation.

Photography restoration by
Ana Paula Monteiro Tavares Zolezzi
Asher Manfred Platt
My father signed my homework with his initials AMP  ie Asher Manfred Platt. Although his first name was Asher, throughout his life he was known by his middle name Manfred. My earliest attempts to pronounce "Manfred" yielded "Mampit".

When he was dying and our time together was running out, I made a list of all the things I'd always wanted to say to him but had never said to him, and a list of all the questions I'd always wanted to ask him but had never asked him. And I asked him to say to me all the things he'd always wanted to say to me but had never said to me, and to ask me all the questions he'd always wanted to ask me but had never asked me.

This isn't a conversation about dying. This is a conversation about completion and creating completion.

Our incompletions, especially our incompletions with our parents, are legion. It could be said being incomplete with one's parents, is the single most disruptive skew in a human being's life.

I can create completion in one of two ways:

1)  I can declare an incident complete. It's complete because I give my word it's complete.
2)  I can speak the truth unflinchingly, listen, inquire, reveal, offer, confront, give something up, or invite until there's nothing left incomplete.

The latter is what I initiated with my Dad. I intended to create absolute completion between us before he died. I wanted our relationship to be a state in which nothing was left unspoken, nothing was left unheard, nothing was left unasked, and nothing was left unanswered. Were we to accomplish that, I intended there would be nothing between us except the marvelous emptiness of pure relationship, and "I Love You".

That set the context from then on for all the remaining conversations we had together.

* * *

For most of my adult life with my Dad, I considered he trivialized our conversations. I shared something profound. He listened, offered no response, then asked: "So what else is new?". That, it seemed to me, completely ignored what I'd shared, as well as devolved our conversations into chit chat. It took me many years to get that between my Dad and I, "So what else is new?" was my Dad's most intimate conversation. I got it was not he who trivialized the gift of my profound conversation. I got it was I who trivialized the gift of his intimate conversation.

I told him I'd considered he trivialized our conversations. I told him I wanted him to ask questions other than the questions he asked, or I wanted him to ask the questions he asked but not in the way he asked them. I told him I'd not allowed him to be himself with me. I told him I'd disallowed him communicating with me just the way he is and just the way he isn't, and I apologized to him for ripping him off in that way.

He was silent (almost pensive) for a while, then he said: "Thank You, Lar" (his term of endearment for me), "I have never ever come across anyone who communicates like you do. I love you very much.".

* * *

As I was refining my list of what was incomplete for me with my Dad, I recalled a time when my Dad spanked me when I was a young boy. It was a different era then. Even at the school I attended (modeled as it was after the austere English public school system), we were routinely beaten with a bamboo cane as a disciplinary measure. In most cases (whether it was at home or at school), regardless of my opinions about the method of discipline, I knew why I was being disciplined. Yet there was one occasion when I recall my Dad spanking me, and I didn't know why. I asked him about it. He said he didn't remember.

I asked him to look again, which he did. After a while he said again he didn't remember.

So I asked him to look yet again. I had to know.

Then he said: "Let me ask your mother", and I could hear his voice muffle as he held his hand over the telephone and spoke with my mother Andee in the background. Then he came back and said: "Laurence, we just don't remember.".

That completed it for me. He'd looked authentically, and it was complete for me, even though I didn't get a specific answer to my question. What completed it for me was the fact that he was willing to look with me. He'd authentically looked until there was nothing more to get. I thanked him for looking, then deleted the spanking incident from my list of incompletions.

* * *

He asked me: "Why didn't you invite me to come inside when I came to visit you?".

That was all he said - no lead in, no set up. Yet I knew exactly to what he was referring.

Thirty two years earlier, I'd moved out of my parents' home for the first time. I was staying in a house with some friends while I studied at the University of Cape Town in South Africa. One day a girl friend and I skipped lectures and came back to my house. At the age we were then, it was a big deal for us. I was living in my own house for the first time. We were socially free for the first time. And we were skipping lectures. And as we were reveling in our new found freedom, there was a knock at the door.

I looked out of the upper story window of my house, and there stood my Dad. He'd come to visit. As I wondered how he knew I was at home when I shouldn't have been, I realized my car was fully visible in the driveway.

Not wanting him to find out I was at home with a girl, I went downstairs, opened the door, greeted him, and closed the door behind me, standing there in the driveway, chatting with him nervously but not inviting him to come inside.

Now that I have children of my own, I can see how my Dad would have then been at the age when his children were starting to leave the home he and my Mom had created for them. I can see what it must have been like for him to come and visit me, his first born son who had just moved out of the home he had worked to create for him for nineteen years, and not be invited to come inside. It must have shocked, frustrated, dismayed, and hurt him.

So thirty two years later, I finally 'fessed up  and told him I had skipped classes with a girl friend who was upstairs. I told him I hid that from him because I was embarrassed, and that was why I didn't invite him to come inside. I apologized to him for not inviting him to come inside. Thirty two years later, he finally got it and he had closure. He accepted my apology. I saw what I thought was a totally innocuous act on my part had cost him.

* * *

I asked him: "Who is your favorite son: Brandon (my brother) or me?"

He replied: "You can not ask me that, Laurence!".

Now the thing is my Dad and I both already knew the answer. It was Brandon. Over the years, I'd become OK with that. But my Dad had never been straight with me about it. It was a covert truth between him and I. And completion is stifled by covert truth.

So I said persistently: "Dad, you and I don't have much more time left together. Tell me the truth: who is your favorite son, Brandon or me?".

Again he said: "That's a question you can't ask me, Laurence!".

But I did ask him - again - this time pounding my fist on the table emphasizing my words.

Finally he relented and said: "Brandon.". And then he kind of gasped and waited, as if he'd said something he was later going to regret saying.

But there was nothing more forthcoming from me. I said: "Thank You, Dad!" thanking him for his honesty, "I love you.". And that was that.

I wasn't out to nail him. I was out to have everything said that was unsaid between us. I had no preference for the quality of what was said between us. I simply wanted the unsaid said, whatever it was. My Dad got it too. It might not have been a conversation he would have initiated of his own volition. Yet in dying, he saw he could trust me going to those places with him to which he might not have gone by himself.

* * *

When my Mom called me early one morning to tell me my Dad had died (I knew my Mom was calling and I knew why she was calling as soon as the telephone started to ring), it was like a gentle wind blew a page over in an upturned opened book, and life had simply moved on. There was love not grief. I didn't mourn him: I celebrated him. There's nothing in the space of our relationship now except marvelous emptiness, completion, and love.

My Dad's gift to me in completing with me that way was huge. Being totally complete with my Dad, I get how much of what we know as sadness in someone passing is simply the incompletions that remain, as Kevin La Prade said, when the truth is not fully and freely communicated.

Completion recontextualizes relationship. Truth recontextualizes loss. Being whole and complete, we can't be diminished.

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