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 Happened Is Not A Problem

Napa Valley, California, USA

November 9, 2004



It was a simple enough series of events, a simple enough sequence of what happened.

First X happened. X didn't work. Then Y happened. Y worked.

I am accountable for what happened. I knew X didn't work because it wasn't well thought through. I knew Y worked because it was well thought through. When I recreated the sequence of events for my friend afterwards, I described the entire sequence to him as "Y happened". X did not occur at all in my account. I considered that since X didn't work and didn't produce the result and since Y did work and did produce the result, there was no need to recreate X for him.

I thought nothing more of it. For a while the incident seemed to be complete. Yet when something is complete it disappears, and this one was not disappearing. It nagged me.

Very quickly it became clear to me that it wasn't complete because I had not said everything. Indeed, what I did say was the truth but it was not the whole truth. I am not a liar. He is my friend and I wouldn't lie to him. Yet there it was: plain evidence that I did not tell him the whole truth. It was embarrassing and disconcerting.

Getting by telling the woolly truth is distinct from unflinchingly telling the whole truth. I pride myself in being a truth teller. Indeed, truth teller is one of my strong suits. Yet during this inquiry I saw that I actually almost never unflinchingly tell the whole truth, the entire  truth with no one and nothing left out, with no incident too small to be relevant, with no detail too insignificant to be described. It's not personal. We live in general agreement that we have told the truth if the truth we have told is good enough for jazz. Yet whichever way we turn and squirm, if it isn't the whole truth then it isn't the truth. Period.

I have the integrity to tell the whole truth. If I did not tell the whole truth, I have the integrity to go back and say "I did not tell the whole truth"; I have the integrity to go back and clean it up. Going back and telling the whole truth and cleaning it up does not change a thing about what happened, nor does it change the fact that I did not tell the whole truth the first time. But you don't tell the truth in order to change something: you tell the truth in order to tell the truth.

So I went back to him and I said what I had not said. I told him that before Y happened, X happened and X did not work.

He got it and he thanked me for completing it. Then, referring for the first time to the unworkability of X, he responded so subtly that at first I almost missed the depth of it:

"What happened is not a problem."

I heard not one but two responses: one forgiving the unworkability of X; two, in a general sense "what happened is not a problem" recontextualizes the past and speaks into existence a powerful new platform on which to stand to build new futures. I always hear my friend that way. When he speaks I hear both the specific as well as the general.

In the space between the bridge of my nose and the back of my head a noise went very quiet. Where there was agitation there is flat calm. Where there was dither there is cool certainty. Where there was circuitous assessment and reassessment there is a powerful opening for forwarding the action.

In the James Joyceian sense I am drunk on it. I love the obviousness of it even though hindsight is always 20/20 vision. I love the gift it is. I love that my friend spoke it to me. I love that his speaking and my listening in a dance together opened a new world. I love that when we human beings communicate, our speaking and our listening in a dance together opens new worlds.

Our eyes are created and positioned to look forward. Yet we spend much of our lives trying to look backward. In the domain of direct experience the problems of the past are not in the present and nor are they in the future when we put the past in the past where, appropriately, it belongs.



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