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


You Are What You Speak

Cowboy Cottage, East Napa, California, USA

September 6, 2014



This essay, You Are What You Speak, is the thirteenth in an open group on Language:
  1. Last Word
  2. Speaking Of Freedom
  3. The Transformation Of The World
  4. Constituted In Language
  5. Zen Bland
  6. Source Of Zen Bland: Hand Grasps Itself?
  7. Linguistic Acts
  8. Language: The Scalpel Of Experience
  9. Wordsmith
  10. Source Quote
  11. Being And Acting Out-Here: Presence Of Self Revisited
  12. My Word In The Matter
  13. You Are What You Speak
  14. Residue Of Meaning
  15. The Effortless Breakthrough
  16. The World's Conversation
  17. Read To Us
  18. Everything You Say
  19. Breakfast With The Master IV: Language As Music
  20. Leading With My Word
  21. Language And Results
in that order.

It is also tenth in a group of sixteen on Integrity: It is also the sequel to Last Word.




In an earlier, health conscious time, it was said "You are what you eat.". I've also heard it said in a later, wealth conscious time "You are what you wear.". I would like to propose, instead - for today and for the future - "You are what you speak.".

But really, let's backtrack for just a moment. Let's impose some rigor  on this sort of talk: are  you what you eat? Are you really? How many people who know who you are, know what you had for breakfast today? Do they have  to, in order to know who you are? And are you really what you wear? Does anyone who really knows who you are, know which shoes you wore yesterday? or what's in your wardrobe? Do they have to, in order to know who you are?

It goes with the territory of being human, to speak without rigor, to speak loosely. Yet even before we impose rigor on speaking, it's obvious (that is to say, it's obvious after the most simple consideration) that anyone who really knows who I am, knows what I speak  (in my own case, that may be "what I write"  ... and that's good enough for jazz). Anyone who really knows who you are, does  have to know what you speak / write in order to know who you are.

If "you are what you eat" is going to have any validity at all, you're first going to have to tell me what you eat  ie you'll have to speak it if that's how I'm going to know who you are. And if "you are what you wear" is going to have any validity at all, you're first going to have to tell me what you wear (if you're designer conscious, you're first going to have to tell me who  you wear) ie you'll have to speak it if that's how I'm going to know who you are.

The bottom line is I know who you are by your speaking - or, if you like, I know who you are by what you say. "You are what you speak" implies you are your language  - more specifically, it implies that the kind of creature you are, is a language-er  (human beings, for the most part, are language-ers, yes?). Said another way, human beings are the possibility of language. And as a language-er, who you are is your word.



Integrity Shows Up In What You Speak



Enter integrity - front and center stage.

When who you are is considered to be what you speak, the whole erstwhile slippery  idea of what integrity really is, can be cleaned up and become imminently graspable. The trouble with considering integrity to be the erstwhile "being true to oneself" is the question "Well ... what exactly is  this 'oneself'  to be true to?". "Being true to oneself" can now be fleshed out as "being true to one's word". Integrity shows up in what I speak.

Be careful. There's also a little problem with "being true to one's word" as a definition of integrity, which is this: there's an unwanted dichotomy  in it. Watch: there's you  (ie there's who you are), and then there's your word to be true to. So there's two  - you, and your word - and that's the dichotomy. How-ever  ... with integrity, there's only one  (as the Highlander may have said), whole and complete. So "being true to one's word" as a definition of integrity, presents an enigma, a dilemma.
Werner Erhard's terse and brilliantly crafted definition of integrity resolves this dilemma decisively without imposing yet more distracting dichotomies. For Werner, given the now axiomatic  "You are what you speak" (in other words, you are your word), integrity is "honoring your word as yourself".

<aside>

Notice integrity defined as "being true to oneself" as well as integrity defined as "keeping your word", are time honored views of integrity. Yet both of them miss the mark of what integrity is, albeit ever so slightly.

The thing is a miss is as good as a mile, and those misses are wide enough to render both of those time honored definitions of integrity devoid of any real power, and largely conceptual.

<un-aside>


Integrity Is Your Relationship With What You Speak



In this particular view of who you are as what you speak, Werner's massive contribution asserting integrity is "honoring your word as yourself" suggests the closeness of your relationship with what you speak (which is to say the closeness of your relationship with your word, which is to say the closeness of your relationship with language) is actually the only worthwhile and useful yardstick for integrity and for being in integrity. Furthermore, it makes language available (in other words, it makes your word and what you speak available) as a powerful access to being in integrity.

I began this particular inquiry listening Werner thirty six years ago, pretty much convinced integrity is a matter of keeping  my word. Many of my early writings in this Conversations For Transformation internet series of essays, reflect that - and I've left them that way, unchanged, as a matter of historical record. The thing is, what I've slowly gotten to appreciate in subsequent conversations with Werner, is integrity as keeping my word, can't account for and doesn't account for those eventualities when, for whatever the reason, I can not  keep my word yet I'm still in integrity.

Integrity as a matter of honoring my word as myself, on the other hand, can and does account for and includes such eventualities. Integrity as honoring my word as myself, is my relationship  with what I speak, even more than it's the predictability  and / or the count-on-ability (if you will) of what I speak - and I want you to know I don't say that dismissively: I do prize these two qualities highly.

Now: don't think about that too much. It's very Zen, it's very beautiful, and it'll drive you crazy if you try to figure it out. Rather just sit with this in your lap like a hot brick: being in integrity dictates you are what you speak, and you are what you speak defines being in integrity.

This is the timeless gift of transformation: in the beginning (and in the end), The Word ...



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