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 Goes On Internally

Chicago, Illinois, USA

Fourth of July, 2017

 "People go through life that they are  what's going on with them internally."  ... 
 This essay, What Goes On Internally, is the companion piece to
  1. Internal States
  2. You Are Not Your Internal States: The Showing II
in that order.
It is also the second in the ninth trilogy Visits With A Friend:
  1. Intimacy In A Crowded Place
  2. What Goes On Internally
  3. Riding The Horse Revisited
in that order.
The first trilogy Visits With A Friend is:
  1. Second First Impression
  2. Do Artists Retire?
  3. Presence Of Love
in that order.
The second trilogy Visits With A Friend is:
  1. Black Brick
  2. Wet Water
  3. On Saying Nothing
in that order.
The third trilogy Visits With A Friend is:
  1. Master Of Life
  2. Face To Face
  3. Love And Kindness
in that order.
The fourth trilogy Visits With A Friend is:
  1. Personal Piece
  2. Magnum Opus
  3. Walk A Way With Me
in that order.
The fifth trilogy Visits With A Friend is:
  1. Natural Expression
  2. Essential Question
  3. There Is No "The Answers"
in that order.
The sixth trilogy Visits With A Friend is:
  1. Sophisticated Palate
  2. Open To Everyone
  3. Portal
in that order.
The seventh trilogy Visits With A Friend is:
  1. Meetings With A Remarkable Man
  2. Being Directed By The Unanswered Question
  3. Out Here
in that order.
The eighth trilogy Visits With A Friend is:
  1. Read To Us
  2. Seven Fingers
  3. Smart People
in that order.
The ninth trilogy Visits With A Friend is the sequel to A Request Asked Harder.

It is also the prequel to Reinventing The Game.

This essay, What Goes On Internally, is also the eleventh in a group of sixteen written on the Fourth Of July:
  1. Anticipation: Accounting For An American Love Affair
  2. Independence Day
  3. I'd Rather Be With Me
  4. Do It For Nothing
  5. The Only Way Out Is Through
  6. Under All Circumstances
  7. Word Power
  8. When There's Nothing To Say
  9. The Possibility Of Being Independent And Free
  10. Intimacy In A Crowded Place
  11. What Goes On Internally
  12. Imprints Of Love
  13. Bookends: A Reflection On Mortality
  14. Come Back To Being
  15. Nobody Is Responsible Except You
  16. Like A Monk In A Cave
in that order.


Unlike most of the other essays in this Conversations For Transformation internet series of essays, the body of this essay, What Goes On Internally, embeds no links to other videos, photographs, quotes, papers, music, music videos, other websites, or even to other essays.

My intention in omitting these useful links from this particular essay is to clear the space of all but the absolute minimum required material so you can be with it and give it your full attention with no distractions, allowing you to recreate the exchanges portrayed in it as accurately as possible for yourself. It's in recreating the exchanges portrayed in this essay accurately for yourself, that you'll get to own its experience in its entirety.

What it comes down to is, we being human beings, the issues that concern any one of us are likely to concern all of us - to one degree or another. And whenever we become concerned about something, a certain context goes AWOL:  the is-ness of everything, the such-ness, the thus-ness of it all, the alright-ness of it all. Being concerned, we're likely to get mired in "Something's wrong  ...", and thrash around looking for ways to fix it. That's a distinctly human way to be. And I'm interested in coming up with solutions for our concerns. But what I'm more interested in, however, is seeing if I can restore that missing context in the midst of being concerned.

He asks "OK what else?". It's my cue to move on to the next item on my list. "This could be a very short conversation" I say, "What's your take on the current state of American and world politics?". I'm clear, given the many other items we could be talking about, this may be totally misusing our time. If I asked this question of almost anyone else, I'll bet there'd be a drawing of breath, a pursing of lips, and an embarking on a long string of opinions plus a litany of complaints. The question has broad interest. It's compelling for many people worldwide. But all he gives me is a beatific look that communicates he's got little to nothing to say on the subject.

Then, just as I'm about to say "I thought so ..." and move on to the next item, he comes out with this nugget: "It's disgusting. But it [ie politics] is not set up in a structure inside of which you can make a difference.". And I intuit  he's not going to say anything else about it (he doesn't: that was the sum total of his answer to the question). I say "I get it.". I do: my take on it just so happens to be the same as his. "Let's move on" I say, to which he replies "OK what else?".

One of his most extraordinary, defining, most recognizable characteristics is he's always on. He's on  24 / 7 / 365, and has been for fifty years if not more. Always. I know no one else like him in this way. No  one. I ask him if he ever needs to take a break (I'm clear I  do - from time to time). His answer is not what I'm expecting.

What he talks about is life's wear and tear on the body, a natural function of our human aging process. There are ways he takes care of his body that, at nearly 82 years old, he's scrupulous about. He excuses himself every hour (if he's in the middle of meetings or phone calls at the time, they wait on hold) to take five minute stretch and yin yoga  breaks. That's when I realize he's assuming I'm asking about taking physical  breaks. However, what I'm really asking about are Self-expression  breaks (if you will). I'm asking whether or not he ever takes a break from being always 1,000% fully Self-expressed. He dismisses my clarification - which confirms he's congruent with what I've always observed: he never takes a break from being fully Self-expressed - ever. In the way he is (which is to say in the way he creates himself to be), there's no other way to be except  fully Self-expressed 24 / 7 / 365 (and with him, it's effortless because he's not doing  "fully Self-Expressed": he's being  "fully Self-expressed"). And occasionally he takes stretch and yin yoga breaks in deference to the demands and care of his body.

Sitting face to face here with him today, the Fourth of July (and yes, being with him on Independence Day does have a beautiful appropriateness to it) it occurs to me (as it has, regularly, over the nearly four decades I've known him) it's not me impressing  him by sharing outlandishly great things, that he acknowledges. Rather it's what-ever  I share, he acknowledges ie he gets me, and there's nothing in it for me other than  he gets me. He can't be manipulated - not because he's good at not being manipulated (and he may be) but rather because all he does is get my communication. Any encounter with him is not unlike talking with a mirror: I can't manipulate my reflection. A mirror gets me - that's all a mirror does. Trying to manipulate him gets me nowhere. Having tried and failed, I'm content to simply be  with him. That's  the priceless opportunity these visits with him best afford.

From my list of "Items to be bone-numbingly open with him about", I ask him about being depressed. Sir Winston Leonard Spencer Churchill called his infamous bouts of depression "the black dog". Even if that's overly-dramatic for me, for Winston it was clearly an apt descriptor, so I borrow it. I tell him I get depressed from time to time ie I share with him my own experience of the black dog, and how, once it begins, I'm powerless over it, and there's nothing I can do about it except wait for it to pass (like on a rainy day, waiting for the weather to change).

He looks at me intently. I start squirming, interjecting something ... then stop, realizing he's formulating his response which I don't want to interrupt. Soon he speaks again - emphatically: "People go through life that they are  what's going on with them internally" he says (adding as an aside  "Every single word in that statement is very, very  carefully chosen."). I stop, momentarily forgetting we're talking about being depressed. "That's  the quote for my website!" I tell him, wide-eyed, balling my right fist to my heart in triumph. He smiles, then asks me to consider something: internally  (as we human beings are thrown to conceptualize it) all there is, is ... He challenges me: "I'll bet  if you look at what goes on with you internally, there's not one thing  that doesn't fit into these categories.". I look .. then I say "I can  think of one thing: perceptions!?". "Perceptions aren't  internal" he says, "they're external.". I re-look ... and I notice he's right: perceptions are  external, not internal.

He makes a decisive point. What's going on with me internally when I'm depressed, can seem like it's a huge, overwhelming, invalidating, never-ending torrent of many components for me to manage, to handle ie to deal  with. Yet reduced brilliantly like this to its quintessence, I realize it's just possible that there's in fact really very little going on with me internally when I'm depressed, aside from I'm thinking a depressing thought. "And you don't like thinking that thought? Too bad!"  he says, warmly and powerfully like a velvet tsunami  coming at me (there's no place to hide). "Listen: you're not  thinking it - it's  thinking you!".

The impact of this insight and the space it creates for me to be, momentarily strikes me silent ie it renders me speechless - and if you know me, you'll know that's a difficult thing to do to me (very few people have ever succeeded). In one mighty swing of his sword, he's isolated and decapitated the significance of what goes on internally, revealing a wondrous and wonderful new space out-here  to master instead. I get it (I don't stay stoopid  for long). I'm in awe of the magnificence of his gift. It's meticulously crafted. It's vast, not to mention sublime, astute, pragmatic ... all that, and it's also got true import. Living legend Zen masters want to have dinner with this guy. For me, this is why.

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