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 I Make What Happens Mean

Cowboy Cottage, East Napa, California, USA

June 4, 2020

"I don't believe in what I'm doing at all. I have absolutely no belief in what I'm doing. I already know how it's going to turn out. The way it turns out is fait accompli. I mean there's nothing I can do about the way it turns out. I know exactly how it's going to turn out. You know, it's going to turn out exactly like it turns out. It's been doing that for eons. So you say 'But then Werner: what's your motive? What are you working all those hours for?'. I'm not motivated. There isn't any motive. There's no damn vision  motivating me. You know, if I stopped doing it tomorrow, it wouldn't make a damn bit of difference. And if I keep doing it right to the end, it won't make any difference. The only thing that's going to happen is what happens. But that doesn't fit into our structure. That doesn't fit into our categories."
...   responding to an assertion that he believes in what he's doing because he's motivated by a vision 
"Something's happening because everything is moving."
"There's what happens ... and then there's what I make what happens mean. If I get stuck (translation: when I'm not free to be and free to act)  I notice it's in what I make what happens mean, not in what happens."
... Laurence Platt
This essay, What I Make What Happens Mean, is the companion piece to What Happened As Distinct From The Story About What Happened.

It is also the sequel to
  1. Fourfold Path
  2. Make It Up For Yourself
in that order.

Here are two distinctions: there's what happens ... and then there's what I make what happens mean. And mostly (if my own experience is a statistically meaningful sample) the difference is neither obvious nor intuitive for us. In the absence of any rigorous inquiry, we blur the line between them. We glom the two together as one.

It took me decades to consider a difference between the two. And when I do get it, it's arguably the difference that gives the essential  bastion of living transformed. I wasn't born with it - that's for sure. My life went in a certain direction (all by itself - or so it seemed) until at some point, that difference began appearing, popping up, raising its voice again and again, more urgently each time, more inexorably  each time until I had to admit the truth of it: the two are different ie "What happens" and "What I make what happens mean"  are distinct. And that's nothing more (and nothing less) than a flat-footed observation of how I experience life as a human being. It has hardly any value as my opinion. It's even less useful as my interpretation. And if I start to believe  it I notice it destroys any clear view of it quickly and entirely.

What happens, happens. That's Self-evident. It's drop-dead obvious. Now I may not like  what happens - oftentimes I don't. And I may have a better idea  of what ought to happen instead - and I often do. And I certainly  have my own preferences for what I want to have happen. So watch: what happens, happens anyway. I can accept it, surrender to it, or allow for it as that which happens regardless  of whatever I may want to the contrary. There's never been and there'll never be an instance in the unfolding of life on Earth, not once ever, when what happens, doesn't happen. So the take-away for me is: it's not what happens that gets (or keeps) me stuck.

If I get stuck (translation: when I'm not free to be and free to act)  I notice it's in what I make what happens mean, not in what happens. Those two "spaces" (if you will) are ontological domains. They're places to be, platforms on which to stand and experience life. You don't do  anything with them. You can't trade with them. You can't use them to manipulate or to justify  anything. And it does no good to be right about them - any more than being right about "The sky is blue" does any good.

Before that became apparent to me (which is to say before I opened myself up to the possibility of it, and let it in) I didn't differentiate between the two. And now, even when I am differentiating between the two, I notice there's a rubber band reflex  ie a hair-spring trigger that keeps them glomming back together again, leaving me bound in a pea soup fog, blinded by the tenacious belief that what happens is for all intents and purposes, the same domain as what I make what happens mean.

Now this conversation isn't about not  making what happens be the same as what I make what happens mean. It's not about correcting or fixing anything. Neither is it about making what happens, mean something better, or more palatable, or more acceptable, or more righteous than what I make it mean. It's about standing in both domains, first the one and then the other, and observing the qualities of life which show up when we stand in each. If children master this, the world will transform.

So finally, here's my thesis: standing in what happens, whatever it is, no matter what it is, no matter what  happens, allows a certain freedom to be and freedom to act which, standing in what I make what happens mean, doesn't. That's not a statement of my preference. This isn't about liking the one and not liking the other. This is simply about where  (if you will) being stuck occurs. Being stuck can only  occur in what I make what happens mean. It can't occur in what happens. What happens is just what happens. It's patently obvious we have very little say over what happens. On the other hand we have a lot  of say over what we make what happens mean.

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