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's So

Napa Valley Country Club, Napa Valley, California, USA

April 20, 2006

This essay, What's So, is the companion piece to
  1. It Is OK The Way It Is
  2. Mandala
in that order.

I am indebted to Patricia "Patti" Zentara who inspired this conversation.

Someone who knows me well said to me "Tell me about this Werner Erhard. How did your friendship start?". Her question momentarily stopped me, not because she asked it but because I didn't have a ready answer. Not atypically she pronounced his name with a hard germanic "w" like the "v" in "viable" - "Verner". I corrected her. "It's Werner" I said with a soft "w" as in "welcome". "Oh" she said, nodding in sudden recognition.

Sometimes the answer to the question "How did you meet so and so? How did you become friends?" is as simple as "We met in the checkout line at the supermarket". So I started to look at exactly when and how I became a friend of Werner's. What I noticed was in the beginning there were many places we met (none of which, by the way, was the checkout line at the supermarket) yet none of those occasions marked the time we became friends.

Friendship By Declaration

I became a friend of Werner's by declaration. I looked at what was in the space between us ... and I saw friendship, so I started including speaking in my conversations "I'm a friend of Werner Erhard". Like that, I declared the friendship. Therefore that's when our friendship really started: when I declared the friendship started.

A good question to ask may be "Just because you declare  yourself to be someone's friend, does that cause them to reciprocate your friendship?". Werner had already handled that for me by, many years earlier, declaring himself to be a friend of all humanity, of every one of us specifically, of me specifically. It was clear to me he said it without one shred of inauthenticity. I could tell he meant it and I took it quite literally.

I have had the privilege of being Werner's friend for nearly thirty years. During that time we've had many conversations, public and private. To be sure, the way Werner's work started in South Africa came out of one of our earliest conversations in his home over a midnight snack. Transforming entire countries may not be what we ordinarily think of doing with our friends. But around Werner things aren't exactly ordinary. Extra-ordinary maybe. But ordinary? Hardly.

In the more traditional context of friendship I've gone to him with my stuff, my baggage: failure, divorce etc, you know all those things you turn to your best friend to run by. And whenever I've started conversations like that with Werner, what I've wanted was his advice. I've wanted his coaching. And, truth be told, when I hurt I've also wanted him to give me a way out.

The Immediacy Of Experience

However the immediacy of experience is what's so, and from the immediacy of experience there literally is no way out. Where it comes down with Werner is this. He always listens intently. He gets it. He gets everything  I say. In fact he listens so intently he also gets everything I don't  say. Then he'll say something like "That's OK" or "It's OK the way it is Laurence".

That's almost always not  what I want to hear. Yet to my surprise, when I get that, I'm transformed, I have nothing left to say, and I no longer have issue with what I went to him with. It has disappeared. From weathering the storm, suddenly there's peace and still. Suddenly there's no more wind in my sails.

On one such occasion I had the whole catastrophe going. I was sobbing, tears and snot were coming out of me, I was telling my story, my own personal drama. Werner listened until I finished, then he reached over and handed me a Kleenex. He looked at me and said nothing.

Wiping my face I got that it's just a story - a good story at that - accompanied by tears and snot, and that's all it is. Tears and snot and story. That's what's so. I want solutions. I want a way out. Instead Werner gives me what's so.

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