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

Worry Or Not, It Turns Out Anyway

Exertec Health and Fitness Center, Napa, California, USA

December 16, 2008
Reposted April 29, 2021

"I never worry. God is in his heaven and everything is right with the world - even though it doesn't always look like it." ... Dorothy, 99, improving on Robert Browning

This essay, Worry Or Not, It Turns Out Anyway, is the companion piece to
  1. Unbelievable
  2. Backdrop
  3. Wound Up Worrier
  4. It's All Unfolding - No Need to Figure It Out
in that order.

It is the prequel to Worry Or Not, It Turns Out Anyway II.

The economy. Terrorism. Iraq. Zimbabwe. Hunger. Global warming. Decimation of rain forests, the lungs  of the planet. Extinction of animal and plant species at a dizzyingly accelerating rate.

These are but a few  components of a particularly pernicious global conversation, a deeply entrenched conversation, a far reaching conversation, a widely pervasive conversation instilling great concern in people of good will everywhere. When we ante up  to this conversation, tossing into the pot chips comprising the aforesaid economy, terrorism, Iraq, Zimbabwe, hunger, global warming, decimation of rain forests, extinction of animal and plant species, and more, the truth of the matter is almost unconfrontable. It's almost too huge  to even begin to confront.

In the face of these catastrophes which I'm impelled to recontextualize  somehow, I notice there's a natural tendency to be afraid of what may be coming next. Yet fear, albeit a natural response, an autonomic  response to this particular conversation (I'm calling it a conversation  - I won't call it a reality, at least not for now), isn't powerful.

In the absence of fear and yet appropriate to my natural concern as a man of good will, I notice my next level of thrown  response to this conversation is to worry. Yet when I look at worry, I notice, like fear, how immobilizing it is. When I say I'm worried about the state of the union of Planet Earth right now, if I tell the truth about it, worrying about the problem doesn't shift anything, doesn't heal anything, doesn't change anything, doesn't alter ... one ... god‑damned  ... thing. As a matter of fact, worrying about the problem actually exacerbates the problem.

Turn on the TV. Switch on the radio. Open a daily paper. Visit a news portal. The news isn't pretty right now. Actually, throughout the years, throughout history in fact, the morning and evening news has never been pretty. This is just what's so  about the news. This is just the nature of  the news. And it's a myth that the news media are in the business of being objective, balanced, or fair. They wouldn't survive if they were. CNN isn't in the business of bringing good  news. If the truth be told, any news media outlet specializing in good  news would go bankrupt before long. If the truth be told, we're just not captivated by good news. Events themselves, the focus in the media on bad news, our propensity to be captivated by bad news, creates a vicious circle  which perpetuates the continuation of bad news. Inside of this vicious circle, we worry. We worry about the bad news. We worry about what's going on. We worry about how it'll turn out. We worry about what we'll do next. We worry if we're going to make it  ie if we'll survive as a species.

It doesn't make any difference. Worrying doesn't make any difference. It turns out anyway.

Other than allowing this perspective to render you totally apathetic (and that's one possible place it could leave you), where's the fulcrum of power in this distinctly Zen perspective?

What I notice when I look at worry from within the question "Does worrying make any difference - like a change, like a fulcrum of power, like an implement to set things right?" is this:

No it doesn't. Whether I worry about what's going on in the world and in my life, or whether I don't worry about what's going on in the world and in my life, I notice they turn out the way they turn out anyway. In other words, what I notice is worrying has no power to impact the way things turn out.

Be careful. This isn't to discount the urgency of what we worry about. This is simply to look at and to examine whether or not worrying makes any difference. This isn't a stand which encourages apathy. Neither is it a justification for not taking action when action is called for. Rather, it's an empowering distinction I get from looking at what I do to myself when I worry in the name of being concerned  with what's turning out, and I notice it really doesn't make any difference  at all!

Spoken with compassion, while it's a distinctly human  activity, worry serves no purpose other than to justify itself. It neither impacts nor shifts what's turning out. Worry, it could be said, even gets in the way of / obfuscates taking action appropriate to what's turning out.

Now ... none of this is useful if it's heard implying "Don't worry!". This isn't the trite "Don't worry, be happy!" of popular song, like a rule to live by. Setting another rule, concocting another recipe, making another resolution only adds another alligator to the swamp (as Werner Erhard may have said). Like any other distinctly human activity, we worry from time to time. Any injunct to stop worrying is as naïve and as futile as the terribly misunderstood injunct to quiet the mind. Rather, what's useful is to distinguish worry as worry  when it shows up, then to notice worrying doesn't make any difference, and to bracket worrying, as distinct from powerfully acting  to address the objects of worry ie as distinct from acting to make a difference in the areas of concern.

This distinction has the power to shift the way things turn out in our world, a world, in which things turn out the way they turn out anyway.

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