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

Write Off

Cowboy Cottage, East Napa, California, USA

August 9, 2014

I am indebted to Radheshyam Sharma who inspired this conversation.

There's the pertinent Zen tale about a monastery raided by bandits who broke a hole in the roof to get in. Upon discovering what happened, the students said, "Let's pick up clubs and go look for the perpetrators of this terrible crime, and punish them for what they've done to us.". On learning their intentions, the abbot said "Let's go and look for the people who did this for us and thank them for their beautiful remodeling. I love how I can see the moon and the stars through my new skylight.".

This sort of thing, this way of being  is the essence of living Zen. Possibility rather than predicament is in the abbot's focus. If we tell the truth about it, our natural tendency as human beings is to avoid distinguishing that. Yet if we choose to, we can create possibility out of nothing. Creating possibility out of nothing isn't merely a good idea. And if you say it's positive thinking, that's certain to ruin it entirely. Rather, it's a way of being, an active way of being. It's a committed  way of being. The fundamental positioning is the same. The actual fact, "hole in the roof", is the same. Yet from the students' point of view, a grave, reprehensible wrongdoing has been perpetrated, while from the abbot's point of view, a beautiful gift was bequeathed to the monastery. Same positioning. Different possibility. A vastly  different future.

The abbot's message is to give up, to relinquish, to say bye bye to, to let go of empowering those tired old furrows of ways of being ie many of our most cherished  ways of being, which long ago lost any semblance of spontaneity and creativity and which, by now, are just old habits on full automatic, and to stop accrediting them. That's often hard to do - but that's the easy part. Here's the hard part: to stop accrediting those tired old furrows of ways of being ... and ... to give up expecting any reward or acknowledgement for doing so. In a phrase, the hard part is to write off  ways of being which have lost their spontaneity and creativity like it's no big deal.

From the Cambridge International Dictionary:

write off

phrasal verb, with write
to accept that a debt will not be paid or that money has been lost

This dictionary definition speaks about the phrasal verb "write off" only in terms of an unpaid debt ie in terms of money. The idea itself, however, is a grand one. It's worth more than that local focus. So I'd like to extend the notion of what it is to write off something, to beyond simply an unpaid debt, to beyond simply money, and to include ways of being which don't work. In other words, I'm proposing trying on the possibility of "writing off" ways of being which don't work, too - that is to say the possibility of writing off ways of being which may have worked once  at one point in the past, but which don't work any more now, and walking away from them.


It's an appropriate deployment of the phrasal verb "write off".

Money is but one of our currencies. It's our ways of being  which are the real coin of the realm.


The grave wrongdoing which is the hole in the roof, is morphed  into an opportunity, a generous gift in fact, by consideration alone. It's a new skylight through which the moon and the stars can be seen. Same positioning. Different possibility. A vastly different future. Listen: it takes a big  person to write off being wronged, to write off being ripped off, to write off being done to, with no expectation of getting back, with no expectation of being compensated, and with no expectation of any reward or any acknowledgement for being big enough to write it off ie especially  with no expectation of any reward or acknowledgement for being big enough to write it off.

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