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

Sitting Quietly In A Room Alone

Napa, California, USA

June 4, 2018

"To do nothing means to do exactly what you're doing. That's the way to do nothing. If you do what you're not doing, that's doing something. If you stop doing what you're doing, that's doing something. But doing exactly what you're doing - that's doing nothing."
"All of humanity's problems stem from man's inability to sit quietly in a room alone."
... Blaise Pascal
"I'm just sitting here watching the wheels go round and round. I really love to watch them roll. No longer riding on the merry-go-round, I just had to let it go."
... John Lennon, Watching The Wheels
This essay, Sitting Quietly In A Room Alone, is the companion piece to It is also the thirty second in an open group Encounters With A Friend:
  1. Showing Up
  2. Poet Laureate
  3. A Man In The Crowd
  4. Real Men Cry
  5. A Different Set Of Rules
  6. Nametag: A True Story
  7. Half-Life
  8. Waiting On You
  9. Erotica On Schedule
  10. A House On Franklin Street
  11. NeXT
  12. Reflection On A Window
  13. Here And There
  14. How To Enroll The World
  15. Demonstration
  16. Two Of Me II: Confirmation Not Correction
  17. Holiday Spectacular
  18. Hello! How Are Things Going For You?
  19. Regular Guy
  20. A Scholar And A Gentleman
  21. Images Of You
  22. With Nothing Going On
  23. Where No One Has Gone Before
  24. Attachment: Causeway Between Islands
  25. If You're Not Then Don't
  26. Images Of You II
  27. Living Where Life Is
  28. Create Me The Way I Am
  29. How Do You Spell The Sound A Ratchet Makes?
  30. You Don't Ask "Why Me?"  When It's Raining
  31. The Stink Of Zen
  32. Sitting Quietly In A Room Alone
  33. Footsteps On Metal Stairs
so far, in that order.

It is also the eighteenth in a group of twenty on Nothing: It is also the sequel to Empty And Meaningless And Free.

The first time I experienced it, it rocked my world. I was up before dawn when it's quiet and cool, completing paperwork at my desk in front of my window facing the sunrise, making for spectacular views. I completed the last of my scheduled projects just as the first sliver of sun winked over the east hills. Taking advantage of the impending show, I sat back in my swivel chair to enjoy it ... and was still sitting there four hours later. The truth is it wasn't the sunrise that fascinated me - that was over. It was observing all the thoughts, evaluations, opinions, judgements etc I had going on about sitting quietly in a room alone. What a compelling, uncouth noise!

"You're wasting your time" - no I'm not: everything is up to date; "You should be doing something worthwhile" - this is  worthwhile: it's a rare, Zen opportunity to watch the universe unfolding; "Doing nothing is lazy" - actually it indicates a certain luxury, a freedom, a success; "It's not allowed:  get into action" - on the contrary, it's allowed: hamsters unable to get off the treadmill show no mastery ... you know, on and on and on. Whatever that voice is, it's got a big  issue with doing nothing!

Werner Erhard
Get this: sitting quietly in a room alone is only doing nothing if, while you're sitting quietly in a room alone, you're sitting quietly in a room alone. It's only doing nothing if you're doing whatever you're doing while you're doing it  - which sounds like (and, to a great extent, is) a paradox, to such an degree that I wondered if "nothing" can ever really be done at all. Then I witnessed Werner doing it.

He's sitting in a chair. It's one of the most remarkable things I've ever seen in my life: this man ... just sitting ... in that chair.

You may ask "What's so remarkable about something as mundane as a person sitting in a chair?".

The thing is you never  see a person just sitting in a chair. A person sitting in a chair is never just sitting in the chair. When they're sitting in a chair, they're doing something else other than  just sitting in the chair. They're thinking. They're looking around. They're fidgeting. In fact when they're sitting in a chair, they're doing everything but  just sitting in the chair.

He's just sitting in the chair. It's both disconcerting and mesmerizing to witness.

There's a ground state  of being which we can't stand  (ie we can't be  with it). We can't sit quietly with it, doing nothing. That's why we do a lot of what we do: to avoid  our own ground state. Say whut?  Tell me: ultimately, what good can possibly  come from that?

And that's why Blaise Pascal's quote which starts this essay is so utterly riveting. No, it's more than that actually. It's when you really get what he's distinguishing, it'll render you (to deploy a colloquial term) gobsmacked. I mean who woulda thunk  to look there  - of all places? Yet the more you dwell in its inquiry, the more patently obvious it becomes, and the more patently obvious it becomes, the more forehead-slapping wonderment it brings with it. So now that you finally figured it out, go ahead: do it: sit quietly in a room alone. Be with whatever's there. Don't flee from what you see and hear and feel. Rather, grab a hold of it. It will transform your life.

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