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


Yesterday's Wardrobe

Cakebread Cellars, Rutherford Appellation, Napa Valley, California, USA

March 15, 2013



This essay, Yesterday's Wardrobe, was conceived at the same time as

It's a paradox.

Given the choice, given the possibility  of inventing a future of my own creation, given the possibility of inventing a future worth living into, given the access  to forging a life I love, it's ironic how many of my favorite things have the ability to pull me back into and keep me stuck  in the past - with deadly efficiency.

Although I don't get to do it often enough, I love to reminisce with my children, with my family, and with my friends. I love to hear their stories and to tell mine. I love sharing tales about our common pasts. I love to "talk story"  - as they say in the Aloha  state. And if we tell the truth about it, it's easier (at least, at first) to relate to each other sharing experiences from our past as common ground, than it is to generate an experience from the future together, as common ground.

Listen! This isn't a criticism of our love affair  with the past. Instead it's simply an observation that we're crazy  about the past ... so much so that we've even forged our present and future identities based on what we've done in the past ie based on who we were  in the past - which is to say we're quite willing to forgo the possibility of spontaneity and newness in our lives now and ahead, in favor of carefully preserving and even promoting what's gone before.

There's nothing wrong with that. On the contrary, it's just one of the many ways we human beings survive successfully.

Having distinguished this, I've discovered it requires an act of decisive, alert discrimination on my part, to even notice  when I do it. When I do it in some of my favorite moments, I don't realize I'm doing it. Principle among these moments, for example, in addition to when I'm talking story, is when I'm browsing through old photographs. By definition  old photographs can only show what happened. They epitomize  the past. It's a wonderful pastime browsing through old photographs. But when was the last time you browsed through old photographs and noticed ie said to yourself  "As I browse through these old photographs, my experience  is hijacked by the machinery, kidnapped back into the past, abducted back into what happened back then, removed from the present, taken away from the future, and excluded from what's possible"?

Tell the truth, now: you didn't say that when you were browsing through old photographs, did you? You didn't distinguish it was happening while it was happening. You had it on automatic  - and you didn't even notice  you had it on automatic, yes? Neither did you distinguish it when you were talking story, did you?

Something similar happens when I hear the golden oldies, when I'm listening to their beautiful, evocative music. They're the songs which comprise the background soundtrack  for my life. When they come on the radio, they re-activate  the past. Reactivated, I remember the past - in other words, I re-live  the past. Golden oldies, some of my favorite things, have the ability to keep me stuck in the past.

When was the last time you listened to your favorite golden oldies and noticed ie said to yourself "As I listen to this music, my experience is hijacked by the machinery, kidnapped back into the past, abducted back into what happened back then, removed from the present, taken away from the future, and excluded from what's possible"?

Tell the truth, now: you didn't say that when you were listening to the golden oldies, did you? You didn't distinguish it was happening while it was happening. You had it on automatic - and you didn't even notice you had it on automatic, yes?

I intend this conversation distinguishes how easily  we're pulled back into and get stuck in the past. It's more than easily  actually: it's this process of being pulled back into and getting stuck in the past, happens automatically. It's its automaticity  which promotes our survival. In particular, it's its automaticity which promotes us surviving the way we were  over and above promoting (ie rather than)  risking / daring the freedom of what we could become.

As wonderful as our memories from and our feelings of the past are, I'll go out on a limb here and say pandering to them trades aliveness and living a life of freedom and possibility, for living a life of effect, reaction, and machinery  (machinery which has no choice  yet cleverly masquerades as if it does) ... and  ... if I don't deliberately distinguish I'm living a life of effect, reaction, and machinery, then no other life is possible. The emergence of (the genesis  of, if you will) a life of freedom and possibility, starts with ie is enabled by making this distinction.



On Hangers A Few Rows Back



Recently I was rearranging all the articles of clothing hanging in my clothes closet. In addition to getting the closet straight (re-hanging jackets next to jackets, slacks next to slacks, shirts next to shirts, plus re-hanging all articles within each clothing group in order of color from dark through light), I was on a dry‑cleaning  mission: to pull all clothes requiring dry-cleaning, take them down the road to the local village dry-cleaner, and have them dry-cleaned all at once.

I hang the clothes I wear most often, on hangers in the front rows where they're easiest for me to reach. Behind them on hangers a few rows back are the clothes I once wore a lot in the past but now don't wear much anymore. On the very back rows are clothes having (for want of a better word) sentimental  value which I never wear anymore but haven't yet donated to a thrift store or to Good Will  or to the Salvation Army.

As I shuffle through them selecting those needing dry-cleaning, I notice how clothes (some of my favorite things) have the ability - just like talking story, just like browsing through old photographs, just like listening to the golden oldies - to keep me stuck me in the past. Here's the jacket and slacks I wore while delivering hundreds  of week-long technical seminars. The jacket is starting to fray. I try the slacks on. They no longer fit me around the waist. They're too tight. It's not likely I'll ever wear either of them much again. Yet I still hang on to them - because they remind me of the extraordinary enterprise undertaking that was Laurence Platt and Associates  in its halcyon days.

Here's the plaid shirt I wore when my son Joshua was born. It's worn thin  in parts, and now it's tight around my chest. It's not likely I'll wear it again. Yet I still hang on to it - because it reminds me of the miracle, the privilege, and the joy of witnessing Joshua's birth and participating in his delivery ... that, and his less than one minute old body actually touched this very shirt.

<aside>

Wow! If that  isn't sentimental, then I don't know what is ...

<un-aside>

It's not just jackets, slacks, and shirts. Here are the snow boots I wore for après ski  at Aspen, Vail, and many of the other great ski resorts of these United States. They've seen a lot  of mileage. They're scuffed and mud-stained beyond any possibility of being restored to their original pristine white. It's not likely ever I'll wear them again. Yet I still hang on to them. And here's a veritable pile  of carefully folded sweaters whose colors no longer suit me. I'll never wear them again. Yet I still hang on to them.



The Past Is In The Past, The Future Is Calling



Now I've upped the ante  in a new game I'm playing. In addition to a ruthless purge  of articles of clothing in my wardrobe, the game is this: whenever I acquire a new article of clothing (be it a jacket, slacks, shirt, footwear, or sweater) I toss out one I currently own, or donate it to a thrift store or to Good Will or to the Salvation Army, saying goodbye to it and thanking it like an old friend  who's served me well. In this way I'm committed to re-doing my entire yesterday's wardrobe  for the future.

Arguably the first step to being free to be what we could become (rather than staying stuck in the way we were) is leaving the past in the past. Arguably the sharpest tool in the toolbox for leaving the past in the past is simply recognizing ie simply distinguishing the pull  the past has on us (surfers may call this "pull" the undertow, the backwash), simply noticing it's some of our favorite things which have the ability to pull us back into the past and keep us stuck in the past - with deadly efficiency (it's very  pernicious).

One of the most extraordinary powers available to every human being is the power of distinguishing - in other words, the power which is leveraged by making distinctions. In this regard, Werner Erhard's enormous contribution to humanity by distinguishing distinguishing, has yet to be recognized, fully appreciated for what it is, and acknowledged globally.

In the act of distinguishing how talking story, browsing through old photographs (which includes watching old movies), listening to the golden oldies, and continually wearing clothes from yesterday's wardrobe (especially sentimentally) keeps us stuck us in the past, we create the possibility for Self, glossed over by the past, to re‑presence  itself. Interestingly enough, what you then choose to do  about talking story, what you then chose to do about browsing through old photographs and watching old movies, listening to the golden oldies and wearing yesterday's wardrobe, isn't as significant as it may at first appear, now that they've all been recontextualized  (I love  that word) by distinguishing how unexamined, they pull us back into the past and keep us stuck in the past.

With this recontextualization, Self re-presences itself. When Self re-presences itself, everything is new, anything is possible, the future is calling.



Communication Promise E-Mail | Home

© Laurence Platt - 2013 through 2016 Permission