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


Three Distinctions Of Word

Cowboy Cottage, East Napa, California, USA

March 17, 2007



This essay, Three Distinctions Of Word, is the third in the trilogy Keeping Your Word:
  1. Keeping Your Word Means Making Happen What You Said Is Going To Happen
  2. Keeping Your Word Is A Black And White Issue
  3. Three Distinctions Of Word
in that order.

It was written at the same time as I am indebted to Vanessa Primalani who inspired this conversation, and to Jinny Riat who contributed material.




In and around and throughout all the worlds of transformation it's long been said who we are is constituted in language. In this regard Werner Erhard simply and elegantly distinguishes a timeless truth which co-incidentally also occurs in one form or another in many of the great texts throughout history. Even though a biblical  context isn't required for the conversation for transformation to work, you may be familiar with hearing it in John 1-1:

"In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God."

If you get all the implications in this awesome verse, if you start to get the power of word ie the power of language, you start to get language as the deliverer of all possibilities. It's more than that actually. The John verse also implies life itself  pivots on word. So it's no mystery why life on our planet is the way it is today, why the world is the way it is today. Life on our planet is the way it is today, the world is the way it is today because we spoke it this way.

In looking at word in this context, I'm not referring to chat, gossip, story, or commentary. None of those. All of them are the talk  referred to in the phrase "talk is cheap". Rather I'm referring to word  as a generator, in fact as a genesis.

In this regard we can carve out three distinctions of word:

  1. Giving your word: saying something will happen and committing to it happening

    Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi gave his word the British would leave India. Non-violently. Was there certainty ie evidence  when he gave his word that he would or even could  keep his word? There was none. But he gave his word anyway. And as we all know by now, the British did  leave India. Non-violently.

    Notice I can give my word ie promise  outside the limits of assured outcome, outside the context of playing it safe, outside of "covering myself".

    Notice the spectrum  of promising:

    a) "I promise The Beatles will reunite."
    - won't happen, with or without commitment

    b) "I promise the wind will blow soon."
    - will happen or not, with or without commitment

    c) "I promise the sun will rise tomorrow."
    - will happen with or without commitment

    d) "I promise I'll repay the money I owe you."
    - will happen with commitment

    e) "I promise the British will leave India. Non-violently."
    - won't happen without commitment

  2. Keeping your word: making happen what you said is going to happen

    If you play small it's easy to keep your word. Small promises are easy to keep. If you play big and make big promises you may not keep your word. That's not bad or wrong. Just tell the truth about it ie clean it up  if it happens. Consider this: if you always keep your word, you're not playing big.

    Keeping your word is typically regarded as taking timely appropriate actions to make something happen you said is going to happen ie doing what you promised you would do (go to the bank, withdraw the money, mail a cashier's check).

    Contrast this with a Gandhian  promise when you make something happen just by speaking it will happen. Even if you know the appropriate actions to take, you couldn't necessarily take them, for example if the fulfillment date of your promise exceeds your time on Earth.

    For all intents and purposes this kind of promise is impossible  to keep. Giving your word this way brings forth a context from and within which to live, a stand for the future. Keeping your word given this way, is fulfilled in word alone.

    About this Werner Erhard says "If you keep saying it the way it really is, eventually your word is law in the universe.".

  3. Honoring your word: recognizing what you speak as who you are

    In an earlier health conscious time it was said what you eat is who you are. In a later wealth conscious time it was said what you wear is who you are. Instead I would like to consider a new possibility, for today and for the future, whether understood or not, that what you speak is who you are.

    That's radical. When you consider what you already know (or pretend  you already know) about who you are, that's radical. In your already always listening  you have a chalkboard festooned with concepts and notions of who you are.

    Soul
    divine being
    pure consciousness
    name
    nationality
    occupation

    is who you are.

    What I have in mind is to pick up an eraser and erase all that from the chalkboard. Then I would pick up a piece of chalk and in place of all that, I would write on the chalkboard




    WHAT YOU SPEAK



    is who you are.

    I would ask you to read what I wrote on the chalkboard not as if it's the truth, not as if it has some secret meaning, but rather as place to stand, as a platform to look from. I'm much more interested in you considering ie trying on newly  the possibility of honoring your word by recognizing what you speak as who you are than I am in you killing that possibility by collapsing what I wrote with "the truth". I'm much more interested in what you see when you stand on that platform and look than I am in you making up something new to believe from what I wrote.

    When Werner Erhard says "honoring your word means recognizing what you speak as who you are", it's powerful to notice keeping your word and honoring your word are distinct. You may or may not  Keeping your word. But you can choose to honor your word whether you keep your word or not. And here I'm not saying "whether you keep your word of not" frivolously. I'm saying "whether you keep your word or not within the rigor of keeping your word as distinguished in the above conversation.

    For example, you make a promise to raise a million pounds to donate to a children's school by the end of the year. That's a big promise. You only raise half a million pounds by the end of the year. Clearly you didn't keep your word. However, you're transformed so you recognize who you are as your word. You haven't kept your word. And you honor your word.
Once we've distinguished word, we've distinguished who we are. This is the timeless gift of transformstion: in the beginning (and in the end), the Word.

I speculate John would find a good friend in Werner Erhard.



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