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

Zen Bland

Napa Valley, California, USA

January 23, 2010

"Just the facts, ma'am." ... Sir Arthur Conan Doyle embodying Sherlock Holmes (widely attributed erroneously to Jack Webb embodying Sergeant Joe Friday, Dragnet)

This essay, Zen Bland, is the prequel to Source Of Zen Bland: Hand Grasps Itself?

It is the fifth 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
  22. No, It's What You Say  About It
  23. Located Inside Language
  24. Be A Good Day
  25. Words Are Like Numbers
  26. Law In The Universe II: An Inquiry Into Inquiring
in that order.

It was written at the same time as Stoopid  Fantastic.

Plain speaking, simple speaking, bland  speaking isn't always deployed as the coin of the realm of the sports bars nor of our day to day conversations. It's seldom heard in water cooler  chit chat or in locker room banter or at cocktail parties. When we talk, we're thrown  to calling for attention, to making an impression ie to looking good, and to exchanging signals, more than we're thrown to generating who we are as our word.

There's nothing wrong with that. Really. Nothing. In fact arguably until honoring your Self as your word  is distinguished, that's all we'll ever deploy talk for: to call for attention, to make an impression, and to exchange signals. Indeed, until honoring your Self as your word is distinguished, calling for attention, making an impression, and exchanging signals through talking is arguably the sole purpose  of language ie it's all we ever use language for.

If I remove all the embellishments from what I say, if I drop all the flowery decorations from my speaking, if I leave out all the dramatic inflections  from my tone of voice, if I omit all the cleverness  from my discussions, if I cut out all the one-up-manship from my idle chatter, if I excise all the shields  and protections  from my verbalizing, if I erase all the exaggeration  and significance  from my accounts and descriptions, if I forgo all the gossip in my interactions, if I stop manipulating  through who I am expressing itself as my word.

To permanently transform my speaking this way, to speak the Zen bland "what's so"  truth, to speak simply as a matter of Self expression and not deploy talk only as a means to garner kudos  or bravado by attempting to sound intelligent or hip, and to get  language as more than merely a medium in which and with which to exchange signals, is an exercise in and of itself. It ain't easy. Talk isn't cheap. But we sure know how to cheapen talk.

The exercise starts with considering the possibility of  (and then making the shift from) language as conveyer of content  to language as context. Language as context is already there. Rather than requiring creating, language as context is already there, requiring little more to presence it than simply to notice it's already what's so. Then, rather than language being a vehicle commonly deployed for exchanging signals pertaining to  who you are, your circumstances, and the events in your life, language (in this new, shifted, transformed  paradigm) is  who you are.

In this sense, the distinction bland, when it's applied to language, yields interesting results. Language as context, language as who I am requires no embellishments, no flowery decorations, no dramatic inflections, no cleverness, no one-up-manship, no shields and protections, no exaggeration and significance, no gossip, and no manipulating. All of the above are simply add ons  and plug ins, additional devices we put on top of language when the distinction honoring your Self as your word isn't present.

Bland language leaves nothing  but presence of Self in the space. Bland language (the way I'm distinguishing bland language) doesn't mean no communication. It doesn't imply no exchange of signals and ideas. Rather, bland language, the way I'm distinguishing it, allows who we really are ie Self to be present as the context for communication, as the context in which the content of signals and ideas are exchanged. Language which only  conveys content without enlivening context  is what I'm refeRring to in this conversation as non-bland language.

All well-intentioned attempts at being the life of the party  aside, non-bland language only seems to get in the way of, only seems to interfere with Self presencing itself. Please notice I didn't say non-bland language interferes  with Self presencing itself. I said it seems  to - in my experience. As for whether or not it does for you, that's a distinction worth looking at for yourself. Well ... does it?

At best, non-bland language is, indeed, the coin of the realm in conversations where Self is not yet presenced ie in conversations in which honoring your Self as your word  isn't yet distinguished. And there's nothing wrong with that. Really. Nothing.

From the Cambridge International Dictionary:


not having a strong taste or character or not showing any interest or energy

There's part of what I require in this dictionary definition of "bland". I've also found part of what I not only don't require but which also gets in the way of my particular use of "bland" applied to language. The "usually disapproving"  qualifier may not work or be appropriate here, and neither will the "not showing any interest or energy", although the "not having a strong taste or character" is bang on the money  for the way I'm using "bland" applied to language - as in Zen bland.

Dictionaries, given the inexorable advent of transformation in the world, will eventually need to be re-written, given the seamless relationship between transformation and language, and between language and dictionaries. Transformed language completely recontextualizes dictionary defined language.

Eventually I'll rewrite some of these definitions myself. In the meantime, what interests me is the possibility of Zen bland language as context, without embellishment, without flowery decorations, without dramatic inflections, without cleverness, without one-up-manship, without shields and protections, without exaggeration and significance, without gossip, and without manipulating.

In other words, what interests me as a possibility for language, what interests me as a possibility for language as a context for presence of Self is language which is Zen bland, which creates a context for Self to be present while blandly communicating just the facts ma'am (as Sherlock Holmes may have said) so the content doesn't get in the way.

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