I am indebted to Patricia 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
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
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
I could tell he meant it and I took it quite literally.
I have had the
of being Werner's friend for nearly
During that time we've had many conversations, public and private. To
the way Werner's work started in South
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?
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.