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

Look At The Children

Monticello Deli, Monticello Road, Napa Valley, California, USA

July 26, 2016

"By their fruits you will know them" ... Jesus Christ quoted by Matthew the apostle

This essay, Look At The Children, is the third in a quintology on Children: I am indebted to my children Alexandra Lindsey Platt and Christian Laurence Platt and Joshua Nelson Platt who inspired this conversation, and to Alexandra and Christian and to Charlene Afremow who contributed material.

Photography by Marissa Carlisle

Sunrise Montessori School
Salvador Avenue, Napa, California, USA

1999 (est)
My children Alexandra and Joshua and Christian

Some conversations are about  things. This category includes the vast majority of conversations going on in the world at any particular moment in time. A conversation about things may be a commentary, a critique, an observation, an opinion, etc. A conversation about things has very little power to bring forth anything new or to shift what currently appears to be bolted in place. There's nothing wrong with that. It's just that it's not its purpose.

Other conversations are for  things. A conversation for possibility for example, has the power to bring forth something new and / or to shift what currently appears to be bolted in place.

Still other conversations are from  things. A conversation for transformation as its name implies, is also a conversation for  something: clearly transformation. But essentially a conversation for transformation works best when it's a conversation from  something. A conversation for transformation comes from the experience of being whole and complete. It's not necessarily about  the experience of being whole and complete (and sometimes it may be). It's for  the experience of being whole and complete, and it comes from  the experience of being whole and complete.

When I'm in a conversation for transformation ie when I come from the experience of being whole and complete, I'm not limited or constrained by whether or not the person or the people with whom I'm in the conversation, also experience being whole and complete. The thing is in coming from the experience of being whole and complete, a conversation for transformation makes the experience of being whole and complete available for everyone like a possibility.

When my three children first participated in Werner's work in the form of the Landmark Forum for Young People, it was a memorable experience for each of them. Something shifted irrevocably and forever in their lives - which means something shifted irrevocably and forever in our  lives. The cat's now out of bag. The genie's now out of the lamp. The conversation for transformation is fully present and alive in our lives - and it shows. Look at them. Look at the children. It's palpable.

If we tell the truth about the way you and I commonly talk ie if we're authentic about it, we'll 'fess up that our conversations about  something often devolve into little more than stream-of-consciousness gabbing. To have a conversation for  something (and in particular, to have a conversation for transformation), someone has to be willing to step up and be intrusive ie to interfere with the gab ie to interrupt the status quo. With my children, that someone is mostly me (that is, for now at least: more and more, they're each taking the initiative in this regard). What makes my role possible is their background of participation in Werner's work. They may continue on to more of Werner's programs. They may not. Either way, the conversation for transformation has been started in their lives ie it's been fully  and completely  started in their lives. You can't put a price tag on this. It's priceless. It gives me an opening to be in the conversation for transformation with them forever.

Alexandra is now a young executive living in Washington DC with a nationwide criss-crossing business travel schedule that adequately reflects the high esteem and trust in which her company holds her. Christian is hand-building specialized computers for a startup tech company whose end-product has the quiet potential of becoming a monster hit. To the company with whom he works, Christian is a godsend. Joshua works with an extraordinary educational ranch here in the Napa valley, the wine country  in California where we live. In his tenure there, his responsibilities have included taking care of livestock and crops (he's brilliant at both) and managing the ranch's social media interfaces. But more recently he's been receiving acclaim for who he's being  with the children who participate in the programs. The children adore  Joshua.


In many ways, Joshua is the most fortunate (and the smartest) of all of us. He's escaped the rat race. He works outdoors in gorgeous surroundings. He experiences himself making a difference in people's lives on a daily basis. He, like me, is a cowboy at heart. The difference between Joshua and me is Joshua has made it real for himself in his life.


None of my children have ever been in trouble with the law, with drugs, with alcohol, with gangs, or even with their own inner workings ("inner workings" isn't a rigorous descriptor, yet here it's good enough for jazz). They're now each in their mid-twenties. They don't smoke. They're responsible. They know the value of investing (they regularly set aside money for their financial future) even at their tender ages. They eat right. They work out. They're fit. They're healthy. They're loving and kind. Mostly they're just nice people  to be around and hang out with. We're best friends. That's how they've turned out ie that's how we've  turned out. Nothing more. Nothing less.

Every now and then, someone asks me "What did you do to have your children turn out the way they've turned out? How did you have them turn out so great? What's your secret?". It's a valid question, to which there are many possible answers, none of which is a secret. Parenting, for the most part, is a try-it-on-and-see  thing. It doesn't come with an instruction manual (as Richard Buckminster "Bucky" Fuller may have said). But that's not a new or even an original insight (ask any parent: they'll echo it). There is, however, one thing I can claim to be somewhat original in my own approach to parenting, and it's this: whenever we (ie whenever my children and I) have a conversation in which I don't know (or am at a loss to know) how to proceed, I steer the conversation with them the way Werner steers the conversation with me whenever I have the good fortune to be in a conversation with him.

What does that mean "the way Werner steers the conversation"?  It means when they're experiencing something with which they're wrestling, I get out of their way and allow them to experience it, rather than trying to come up with something which will alleviate their experiencing it. It means when they don't know what to do, I suggest they look for possible actions they could take (more to the point, I ask them what they see is possible next  for themselves) rather than diminishing them with trite answers and bon mots. From that point on, I notice them becoming empowered (ie I notice them empowering themselves) to pick up the ball and run with it, and eventually drop-kick it through through the goal posts of their own lives while I'm standing here on the sidelines yelling and cheering them on as hard as I can for all I'm worth.

It works. The conversation for transformation works. If you want evidence, look at the children.

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