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 Superstitions

Alston Park, Napa Valley, California, USA

February 20, 2021

"There is no 'is'." ... 
"Who you mean when you say 'I' is not you. It's just something that shows up for you."  ... 
"There won't be an earthquake because I say  there won't be an earthquake. And if I change my mind you'll know because you'll hear the rumble."  ... 
"A superstition isn't a superstition when it is. A superstition is a superstition when it isn't." ... 
"If you say a black cat crossing your path is bad luck is a superstition, it isn't. If you say a black cat crossing your path is bad luck, it's a superstition." ...  Laurence Platt recreating  
"Q: What isn't when it is and is when it isn't? A: A superstition." ...  Zen koan by Laurence Platt 
This essay, Three Superstitions, is the companion piece to Superstitious Minds.

Photograph courtesy

Edit by Laurence Platt
In the quote section in the header of this essay, you'll notice a few pointed takes on what superstitions are, and what superstitions aren't. Read them carefully. They're not definitions  of superstitions per se. Rather they point to our superstitious ways of thinking  (if you will) ie the way we hold superstitions, how we're blind to them. In some cases like the infamous one of the black cat crossing our path bringing bad luck, we may even be wise enough to know it's merely a superstition, and we (knowing better) wouldn't let it run our lives. Yet there are many  superstitions that we've rarely considered to be superstitions which run our lives all the time. This conversation distinguishes three of them. It's not required that you agree they're superstitions. Instead, consider the possibility that they might merely be superstitions, and so discover them for yourself. Then look to see if distinguishing them as mere superstitions rather than as "The Truth", gives access to power. They are the superstitions of "IS", "I", and "BECAUSE". Let's examine all three.

IS: We say "She is  (that way)", "He is  (this way)", "The world is  (some way)" like they're absolute, universal, unwavering facts - not mindful that the way anything "is" for us, may be the way it occurs  / shows up  for us only. When I'm not mindful that she, he, and the world don't necessarily occur / show up that way for everyone, and I hold my "is" to be inviolately factual, it's like a black cat bringing bad luck: it's a superstition. "There is no 'is'" is arguably the  distinction in Werner Erhard's vast library of distinctions. A black cat bringing bad luck, is a superstition. Like that, consider "is" may be a superstition.

I: Who you mean when you say 'I' is not you. It's just something that shows up for you. Look: no skilled surgeon with even the sharpest scalpel could ever take out your "I" like an appendix, let alone find it. There is no "I". It doesn't exist. And yet  ... we live, breathe, and act as if there's a real "I" that we are, inside us. What's more likely the case is who we really are, is the space ie the context  in which our experience  of this thing we call "I", shows up. Yet we refer to our "I" as us without question like a black cat bringing bad luck. "I" is but a superstition too, one that's been in our folk lore for a long, long time.

BECAUSE "Because" may be the simplest of the three superstitions to illustrate. Yet it demonstrably has the furthest reach in our lives. "Why are you this way?", "Oh, because  my parents taught me to be this way", "And why did they teach you to be this way?", "Because their  parents taught them ..." and pretty soon, it's Adam and Eve who are responsible when I'm being a jerk - and if it's not those two, then it's the Big Bang  for sure. "Because" is arbitrary. We could say the reach of "because" is by agreement alone. Consider the possibility of the only "because" that's of any use (with any power) is "Because I say so.".

The take-away from this conversation about superstitions, is not simply three interesting new ones to go along with black cats and broken mirrors et al. It's without vigilance, inquiry, and examination, what's likely is for our entire lives, we'll have it that some things are facts (like the "I" inside us, is who we are) when they're not. That's superstitious thinking. As superstitious thinking is distinguished, our access to power can be reinstated (there's simply no power  in fixed, rote thinking). And if it's undistinguished, the cold truth is it runs our lives, leading to erroneous conclusions about living and who we really are, with unfortunate if not dire consequences.


The presentation, delivery, and style of Three Superstitions are all my own work.

The ideas recreated in Three Superstitions were first originated, distinguished, and articulated by Werner Erhard.

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