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

Locker Room Banter

American Canyon, California, USA

August 6, 2011

This essay, Locker Room Banter, is the companion piece to Start A New Conversation (If You Don't Like The One You're In).

It is also the prequel to Locker Room Banter II: A Closer Look.

I am indebted to Curt Hill who inspired this conversation.

Conversations (which is to say human beings interacting through speaking  and listening)  carry the power to alter the outcome of Life.

Conversations bring forth the possibility of shifting the very quality  of Life. Every conversation is a potential vehicle for transformation to make its presence known in the world. Transformation isn't a static state of consciousness or a frame of mind or a belief or a concept or even a code of behavior or a place to get to. Transformation in its simplest expression is a conversation.

Interimly transformation can be a conversation with myself. Ultimately it's a conversation between human beings. In other words, transformation is brought forth in and by language. Transformation in effect is a linguistic act. That's why this website is titled "Conversations  For Transformation" and not "Exercises In Transformation" or (less likely) "Opinions About Transformation" or (even less likely) "Thoughts On Transformation" or (least likely) "Blogs  Of Transformation".

Notice this: the possibility of conversations is transformation itself. It takes my breath away. It elates me. Simply becoming aware of it is enough to put me into a space of ecstasy and keep me there. It's so clean. It's so simple. It's so profound. And it's so easily and so abundantly available.

The next thing I notice is how often I don't use the occasions of conversations to bring forth transformation. That's disappointing - to say the least. I see whenever there's an opportunity to bring forth transformation in my face to face interactions speaking and listening with people ie whenever I'm in conversation  with people, I don't always take it.

And the next  thing I notice (which is even more  disappointing) is that when I don't  take the opportunity, I don't take the opportunity automatically. I see how wired  I am to not  take the opportunity. Noticing this is as vexing as it is perplexing.

Perfect Laboratory

I've discovered the perfect laboratory  (if you will) in which to observe this phenomenon. Of all places, it's the locker room of the gymnasium where I work out daily. I'll call the phenomenon "locker room banter"  even though it certainly doesn't only occur in my gym's locker room. It occurs across the board in Life.

Locker room banter comprises brief snippets of sporting news from the day before, interspersed with a few sentences (but no more) of opinionated political bias. That's against an ongoing background of noisy reasons and certainty  why Life as we know it is going to the dogs. Jokes and cleverly snide  comments with a few moot points, bon mots, and non sequiturs  are thrown in. It's not exactly a Petri  dish for Conversations For Transformation.

The essential thing about locker room banter is it survives by self correcting  in its own favor: any attempt on my part and on the part of others to lead into the plethora of opportunities  in the world today, or to discuss the possibilities  which could be generated to our advantage from worldly situations couched in locker room banter, are instantly met with ... well ... more  locker room banter, laughter, more jokes, more snide comments etc. And the very worst  of it for me is I find myself swept along with the current, flailing against the tide. In spite of knowing about the possibility of conversations, I find myself automatically  talking locker room banter in spite of myself:  telling jokes, making snide comments, and offering up moot points, bon mots, and non sequiturs.

Listen: I'm not criticizing the other guys  in the locker room for keeping the possibility of conversations mired in locker room banter. I'm equally responsible. What vexes me is I notice how, in spite of all my good intentions, I'm drawn into it ... automatically. What vexes me is I notice how, in spite of all my good intentions, when I'm in the environment of the locker room in my gymnasium, my own conversations automatically  devolve into locker room banter, regardless of what I notice about being seduced by its automaticity, regardless of knowing the real possibility of conversations.

Opening For Possibility

It took me a while, but I finally figured it out. I finally figured out the opening for possibility  for locker room banter. I finally figured out the catalyst. This opening for possibility, this catalyst not only works for locker room banter in the locker room in my gymnasium: it also works wherever locker room banter in any of its forms  occurs across the board in Life. I'm not only speaking about how to simply respond  to locker room banter. I'm also speaking about a way of being which takes on my own thrown-ness  to get entangled in locker room banter, bringing forth possibility rather than automaticity in my conversations:

Listen for peoples' real  concerns, then speak to them. Listen for what matters to people - then respond to that. If they're not forthcoming, then ask them. Instead of trumping the joke with a better joke, instead of trumping the political opinion or sports analysis with better ones, ask what matters to people. This is what I started doing. The response has been amazing. There's an air of friendship in conversations like these. There's none of the skittish avoidance of what really matters, which locker room banter is simply perfect for adroitly skipping around and away from.

I ask a plumber how his daughter is doing at school. He lights up. He tells me she's a "spoiled princess". But he says it like a badge of honor. I can tell how deeply he loves his daughter. I ask an insurance salesman if he's going to marry his girlfriend any time soon. He not only responds openly (after a pause he tells me, authentically, he's not ready yet - which is pretty bold to get into in a locker room): he invites me for dinner, saying "No one's ever asked me that before.". I share (when it's appropriate to the ongoing conversation which is now sounding less and less like locker room banter by the minute) how my working hard and starting investing early made it possible for my three children to have college educations. The locker room banter immediately  swings away from pat, flip  prognostications for the dire economy (in a locker room, everyone  is an economist), and towards acknowledgement and congratulations which, while seemingly directed at me, actually capture the interests of and inspire the whole group.

Suddenly it's easy to have conversations for possibility with people in the locker room - or, as I said, wherever locker room banter occurs. Locker room banter doesn't matter. We all know it - even while we engage in it. What matters  matters. Re-direct the conversation to what matters. Just change the subject - and you don't even have to be subtle about it. Even the most die hard locker room banterists  (if, indeed, there really is such a word) have things which matter to them. Really they do.


The presentation, delivery, and style of Locker Room Banter are all my own work.

The ideas recreated in Locker Room Banter were first originated, distinguished, and articulated by Werner Erhard during a recent conversation.

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