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


Who Are You Going To Be?

Cowboy Cottage, East Napa, California, USA

November 9, 2009



This essay, Who Are You Going To Be?, was written at the same time as

When I was a young boy, they asked me "What are you going to be when you grow up?". When they asked me "What  are you going to be when you grow up?", the "what"  seemed to refer to a thing  which did  something. Like a train driver. Like a truck driver. Like a fireman. Like a policeman or a traffic cop. Or a doctor or a lawyer or a scientist.

But they never asked me "Who  are you going to be when you grow up?". And even if they had, I would have thought they were kidding me. "What do you mean 'who'  am I going to be when I grow up? Why, I'll be Laurence  when I grow up, you silly, just like I am now!" I would have replied.

All of us it seems, both them and me, were unclear on the concept. They mistook who I am for a thing which does something, like a truck driver, a fireman, a policeman, a traffic cop, a doctor, a lawyer, or a scientist. And I mistook who I am for my identity  ie for that with which I identify myself ie my name.

Eventually I did get clear (my intention is eventually they'll get clear too). "Who are you going to be?" is a far more powerful question to grow up into than "What are you going to be?". The latter makes you a thing which does something. In other words, it dictates your activities. The former invents your possibility. In other words, it declares the context for your life.

But in a world defined along the dynamic survival  and it's antithesis success, the question "Who are you going to be?" is only heard like a challenge to succeed. The so-called "Who's Who"  listings actually catalog very little of who people really are. Instead they catalog what people do  and have become successful at doing.

Now, if you're hearing this as disparaging success or as disparaging the "Who's Who"  listings, that's not what's being distinguished here. Rather, what's being distinguished here is in a world defined along the dynamic survival  and it's antithesis success, the question "Who are you going to be?" is only heard like a challenge to succeed, and isn't heard as a call to invent possibility. It's only in a world given by transformation ie in a world given by the genesis of a new realm of possibility  (as a Landmark Forum Leader may have said) in which the question "Who are you going to be?" can be heard as a call to invent possibility.

Here's what I find interesting: in a world defined along the dynamic survival  and its antithesis success, the question "Who are you going to be?" is only  heard like a challenge to succeed, and isn't heard as a call to invent possibility. However, in a world given by transformation, the question "Who are you going to be?" can be heard as both  a call to invent possibility as well as  a challenge to succeed.

In the ordinary course of events, we're not practiced in this distinction. If you ask people "Who are you?", some of them will respond, just as I did when I was a young boy, with their name. That's not really answering the question "Who are you?". A question to which your name is an appropriate answer, may be "Who do you identify  yourself as?" or, simply, "What's your name?". But until the distinction "Who are you?" is made like an invented possibility, like a context for your life, people responding to question "Who are you?" usually aren't hearing the question at all, and are responding instead to the unasked question "Who do you identify yourself as?".

If you ask other people "Who are you?", some of them will respond "I'm a train driver", "I'm a truck driver", or "I'm a fireman.". That, too, isn't really answering the question "Who are you?". A question to which your job is an appropriate answer, may be "What do you do for a living?" or, simply, "What's your job?". But until the distinction "Who are you?" is made like an invented possibility, like a context for your life, people responding to question "Who are you?" usually aren't hearing the question at all, and are responding instead to the unasked question "What do you do for a living?".

There are already answers  to the questions "Who do you identify yourself as?" and "What do you do for a living?". However, there are no already answers to the question "Who are you?". To answer the question, to really  answer the question "Who are you?", you have to share the possibility for your life as it is today, you have to declare the context for your life as it is today. But to answer the question, to really  answer the question "Who are you going to be?", you have to invent a possibility for the future  ie you have to declare a context for your life for the future.

Who I'm going to be like a context for my life for the future  is the possibility of communication, transformation, and freedom.

Inventing a possibility for the future ie declaring a context for your life for the future is, simply put, the act of inventing future as possibility. The ability to invent future as possibility is arguably the most  human of all  human endowments. It's arguably the single act which, in and of itself, distinguishes human beings from any and all other sentient beings. The ability to invent future as possibility, in other words the ability to invent an answer to the question "Who are you going to be?" is, I assert quite literally, the possibility of being for human beings.



Communication Promise E-Mail | Home

© Laurence Platt - 2009 through 2017 Permission