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


Watching The Wall

Exertec, Napa, California, USA

November 11, 2005



This essay, Watching The Wall, is the companion piece to I am indebted to Elizabeth Russell who inspired this conversation.



I swim.

"Butterfly Road"
I promise to swim. Twice a day. Half an hour in the morning. Half an hour in the evening. A mile each session. Two miles a day. And more. This promise is a bigger promise than I keep. Yet I promise it anyway. I almost  keep it but the truth is I don't keep it exactly.

In my life, to be sure, I set a premium on keeping promises. And what I've noticed is when I'm keeping all  the promises I make, I'm playing too small.

My promise to swim twice a day isn't a promise I make to be right about. Neither is it something I do to score points or to be better than. It's a context I create for my life. It's my word as my future. In addition, of course there are rewards of fitness and my body feeling good.

When I first started swimming I targeted distance. As I swam I counted laps. I didn't always meet distance targets so I switched to targeting time. As I swam I watched the clock. I didn't always meet time targets either but I met more time targets than I met distance targets.

Eventually it dawned on me what I was really  doing wasn't swimming by distance and nor was I swimming by time. What I was really doing was swimming by promise. Distance and time targets were secondary. Primarily whatever I promised, distance or time, if I kept my promise I met the target and if I didn't I didn't.

I don't keep my promise to swim because I have integrity. I have integrity but keeping my promise to swim has nothing to do with it. Neither do I keep my promise to swim because I gave my word to swim although that's almost in the ballpark. As I swam I saw I keep my promise to swim if I keep my promise to swim  unless I don't, and I became intrigued with those times I don't keep my promise to swim the distance or the time.

That's when I started watching the wall: whatever's between me and keeping my promise.

The wall isn't physical. Neither literally nor figuratively. The wall is just another conversation. Specifically it's a conversation which kills off possibility rather than a conversation which creates possibility. Here's what I mean by that:

After swimming for a while I notice the voice justifying ending the session early before my promise for the session is fulfilled. "You've already swum once today" it says (true). "It's time you got some work done" it asserts (hmmm ...). "No one cares if it's only twenty five minutes and not half an hour" it teases (maybe so). "You've exercised more this week than most people do in two months" it reasons (hard to argue with that). Jabber ... jabber ... jabber ...

It's not that the voice jabbering needs to shut up or to be shut up. That's because it's ... the voice. It's job is to jabber. It's doing what it does best. It jabbering proves life works. Thank it for sharing. Then swim until the promise is fulfilled.

There's no wall but my act buying into the voice justifying, or not.



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