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

What Did You Add To This?

Hall Wines, St Helena, California, USA

April 7, 2018

"In the beginner's mind there are many possibilities, but in the expert's there are few." ... Rōshi Shunryū Suzuki

This essay, What Did You Add To This?, is the companion piece to Beginner's Mind: On Having No Memory.

Photograph courtesy British Broadcasting Corporation
What did you add to this?

When I saw her the other day in a stock photograph on the BBC  (British Broadcasting Corporation) website while fact-checking an assertion I made in an earlier Conversations For Transformation essay, I asked myself "Why am I so in love with this little girl?". I don't know her name (and maybe that's just as well: knowing it, may just get in the way of getting who she's being). In fact I don't know anything at all  about her. Yet that look  on her face ...  I was drawn to her image in a way that instantly melted my heart. It was a sudden, pure, unfiltered experience of love, profound enough to cause me to stop in my tracks, and say to myself "Whoa! What is  it I'm seeing here, that so touches, moves, and inspires me this way?".

Let's face it: you and I have a tendency to explain  (or to try  to explain) the things that touch, move, and inspire us. And I'm not about to fall into that trap. I call it a trap  because my explanation  of that which touches, moves, and inspires me, is not  that which touches, moves, and inspires me. It may even ruin it. Said another way, the experience  of being touched, moved, and inspired, and the description  of being touched, moved, and inspired, occur in separate domains  - or to say this by recreating Werner verbatim, "You can't describe a hole in the ground by describing the stick which pokes the hole in the ground. Sticks and holes in the ground are worlds apart.". So instead, I'll simply share what occurs for me as I view this image.

There are four things really. They're all qualities of being. And given her tender age, you know she didn't figure out  how to be this way. So you can safely assume she was born this way - in other words, you can safely assume it's our natural state. First, there's her pure unadulterated wonder. Second, there's not one ounce of fear in this girl. Third, there's her no judging  (she sees the thing exactly and only for what it is: itself). Fourth, there's her uninterrupted focus as she investigates what's directly in front of her. She, her wonder, her fearlessness, and the thing itself directly in front of her, are one. And if she could express it, I'll bet you good money she'd say that in this moment, who she is for herself doesn't exist  for her, so focused is she on what's directly in front of her.

Now there's something fundamental for us to get here, something profound, something basic, something against which we can measure how we wound up being the way we wound up being. The point of this is not to go ga-ga  over an adorable pink-clad baby girl (and you'll notice how easy it is to slip into doing exactly that). No, the point is: that was you  once. That was once me too. You're looking directly into a face of what Rōshi Shunryū Suzuki heralds as beginner's mind. And I want to ask you: what did you add to this  in your own life? And you did  add something, yes? You added a lot. Even more to the point, what did you justify  adding to this? And what has it cost you? (clearly these are not questions for the faint-hearted). What did you add to this, that muddied your natural wonder, with skepticism? What did you add to this which, in spite of yourself, imposed the thick, heavily tinted Coca-Cola-bottleglass lenses of prejudice, on to the innocent eyes of your inner child?


Listen: the notion of an inner  realm ie some place "inside"  where who we really are  is located, has become openly and completely questionable, now that a realm called "out-here"  has been distinguished and mapped.

With that said ie with the notion of an inner realm ie some place "inside" now challenged and up on the mat, referring to the eyes of your so-called "inner"  child, is good enough for jazz.


What faux-sophisticated street-smartness did you add to this so that you now know better?  You've learned. Man!  have you learned ...  No one will ever pull a fast one on you  ever again, right? You're now certain  that the important things in life could never  be ... oh ... right in front of you, perhaps? What did you add to this by buying into that it's smart  to be afraid, which now blinds you to your own, natural innocence of being? What did you add to this by amassing so many tired, stale, rancid  judgements, opinions, righteousness, interpretations, positionality, and making things significant, all of which you now defer to as your preferred source of proof of what's worthwhile, drowning out your childlike sense of wonder, indeed discarding it unceremoniously on to the slag heap of your distant past?

Here's what I noticed (and if you look, you may distinguish the same two possibilities for yourself): one, I either added all this intentionally ie voluntarily, in which case I now have the occasion to re‑examine my decisions, to determine what they cost me, and to drop them (or to re-commit to them newly); or two, I added them unintentionally ie involuntarily, in which case, I can now assess the cost of not being vigilant when I added them ie of not taking full responsibility for the cost of my own decisions, and again to drop them (or to re-commit to them newly). With that distinguished, for me it's a no-brainer. The choice is clear.

And as for that adorable nameless baby girl I saw on the BBC website? Long may she reign as a shero*  for all of us ie as a reminder of what's possible for being for human beings, indeed as a model of the wonder, the fearlessness, and the focus which comes to us courtesy of the beginner's mind  you and I were born into, which in all the hustle and bustle of our lives, we kinda lost track of, yet is always available for us to fully re-own at every moment under all circumstances like a possibility.

* Especially in the context of (but not limited to) the ongoing worldwide viral MeToo  conversation, a "shero"  is a woman regarded as a hero (aka a heroine).

It's not a new addition to the English language. The word "shero" originated in the mid-nineteenth century as the words "she"  and "hero"  elided.

"Shero" is inscribed in Merriam-Webster's dictionary.

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