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


This Isn't That

Cowboy Cottage, East Napa, California, USA

December 17, 2014



This essay, This Isn't That, is the companion piece to This Isn't That II.



The conversation in which it occurred was a conversation about a success workshop a friend of mine recently attended. But that's not the way the conversation started. The way the conversation started was with my friend asking me about these Conversations For Transformation which she'd come across after googling  something else on the internet (that's one of the really great things about the internet: you google one thing, and then after a discontiguous series of links and hops, you come across other things, even entirely unrelated other things, which are extremely valuable). She wanted to know what Conversations For Transformation are.

It's a challenge to respond to that in ten words or less of one syllable each. But that's what I did. And almost as soon as I'd closed my mouth after the last word, she said "Oh I know what you mean: I just did something similar" and she proceeded to describe her success workshop.

I listened attentively. I've read about the workshop she described although I've not attended it myself. The thing is she could have been describing any other workshop or any other program which she could riff off  (if you will) this Conversations For Transformation internet series of essays, with her "Oh I know what you mean: I just did something similar.". She could have been in any  other workshop or program or enlightened religious service  even, and say exactly the same thing about Conversations For Transformation and Werner's work: "Oh I know what you mean: I just did something similar.".

I let her finish without interrupting. She was alive and enthusiastic - and I like that. And when she'd finished her description, I looked at her and said "This isn't that.".

There are two insights here. The first is success doesn't equate to transformation, any more than a hole in the sand equates to the stick you made the hole in the sand with. Holes in the sand and sticks are worlds apart. To equate success to transformation, would be like equating the hole in the sand to the stick you made the hole in the sand with (as Werner Erhard may have said). The second insight is we live our lives driven by the logic system  "Everything is the same as everything else ... except not always"  (another of Werner's incisive ideas). That's how we listen: as if Conversations For Transformation and Werner's work are the same as success workshops ... except not always. Without inquiring into the way we listen or at least being willing to examine it, it's not likely we'll ever listen any other way. I knew I had to give her the space to listen that way. When I said "This isn't that", I had nothing attached to it. I just wanted her to get the way she was listening.

The truth is it may take a day or so of inquiry to really get underneath the way we ordinarily listen and to get clear about how we're run by unexamined assumptions about life: for example, the way we're run by success and by the drive to be successful. And if you're thinking "So what if we're run by the drive to be successful?", I'd ask you to consider a successful machine is no different than an unsuccessful machine: a successful machine is run by the drive to be successful - just as an unsuccessful machine is run by whatever it's run by.

Now that's something worth looking into. The drive to be successful is the drive to escape being a machine. The trouble is you can never escape being a machine. How poignant is that! You can easily recognize the machines who are run by the drive to be successful. They're the ones with the rictus grins  painted on their faces (you've seen them - you do know who I mean). They're successful, yet poignantly they're still machines.

"OK" she said "If it's not that, then what is it?". "It's an experience" I said. "Nothing more and nothing less. If there's one thing which all my essays have in common, it's an experience. So there's really nothing to figure out or to make sense of. The thing is to just read them, and to have whatever experience they leave you with. That's mission accomplished. Some things you can't explain or figure out. But you can experience them.".

There's one more thing: "This isn't that" distinguishes one thing from another. It was applied in this particular conversation. But we actually apply it all the time  in life continuously. It's arguably one of the most fundamental distinctions a human being makes - indeed must  make, without which we couldn't function at all or even get along. If we don't make the distinction "This isn't that" from time to time, we can't distinguish between doors and the walls they're built into. You can easily tell which people can't distinguish between doors and the walls they're built into. They're the ones with the banged up, bruised looks on their faces - from walking into walls.

Transformation occurs in the realm of distinctions like "This isn't that.". Success, on the other hand, occurs in the realm of the world and doesn't require transformation - indeed transformation is often glaringly missing from the lives of some of the most successful people on the planet (you've seen them - you do know who I mean).

I don't know for sure if she got anything from our conversation. My guess is she probably did, but it's too soon to tell with certainty. I'll find out when we talk again. But if I ventured she did get something, it would be how easily and unthinkingly we slip into listening everything's the same as everything else - like listening success training is the same as Conversations For Transformation and Werner's work.

No, this isn't that. This is an experience, the experience of the context for all the events of our lives. It isn't the same  as success. Not even close. It includes  success.



Communication Promise E-Mail | Home

© Laurence Platt - 2014 through 2017 Permission