Friday, August 31, 2007

On "Werner Erhard" getting in the way of Werner Erhard

It is amazing to me how many buttons the name "Werner Erhard" can push, which illustrates for me the difficulty in sharing the things that have made a difference in my life and acknowledging the source. For example, I had the students in a college class I'm teaching read and discuss the truly stimulating talk Werner gave (hmm . . . I'm slipping into calling him "Werner" instead of "Erhard") at the Eranos Foundation. (Click here and scroll down to the bottom of the page.)

We had a great time grappling together with Werner's "cosmic joke," which proposes that who we are in the present is determined not by our past, but by the future in to which we are living. We project our past into our imagined future, so the illusion is we are (inevitably) shaped by our past. It's a brilliant, brilliant, talk. Much of it is almost impossible to understand, which is the part of the point--the cosmic joke is a contemporary koan. Later in the talk, Werner uses the metaphor of a three-act play for one's life. The past is act one; the present era, act two; and the third is the future. The second act has to get you from the first to the third; it's the third act that determines, then, what happens in the second. We have the opportunity to consciously rewrite the third act, which determines how we live the second. The essential principles of Werner's paradigm of living are all there in the talk; it's a hologram for his work.

If you really get into it, it's fucking unbelievable. Which is why I had my students read it. I'm so blown away by it I can't articulate it.

Of course, none of the students had heard of Werner, so they didn't have any Werner Erhard buttons pushed. I had them watch the trailer for Transformation: The Life and Work of Werner Erhard to get a flavor of the man.

It was earlier this evening when I began telling my next-door neighbor about it that I saw how the personality/reputation "Werner Erhard" gets in the way of Werner Erhard. My neighbor is a brilliant, wonderful woman. I was telling her about my class, and as soon as I mentioned the article, I saw her eyes roll, and she was rather dismissive.

Undeterred, I shared my enthusiasm, and when I got to the play metaphor, she started to get it. We had to overcome the source of it, though.

OK, she's from the west coast and old enough to have endured all the est-pestiness of 1970s and 1980s San Francisco. And I realized later that she is in a place of feeling victimized by the circumstances of her life. So it's natural that there was some resistance.

Last night, I spent a good deal of time looking through Laurence Platt's Conversations for Transformation, which I'd glanced at before. Laurence is so beautifully open in his acknowledgment of Werner, and he clearly isn't worried about coming across as a sycophant, a cultish true believer, or a plain-old hero-worshiper.
It works for me to love You as Source. Why? I don't know. It works, always, and it has never ever failed on that level. The courage to be as exposed as You are as Source is mind boggling to me. When You live that way my thankfulness and admiration pour out of me from a place so deep. I trust You completely. I experience You both as a Master and as a regular Joe like me. The fact that You are willing to be both and to let me experience You as both is awesome.
The fears of being perceived in the ways Laurence is unafraid of, or perhaps is simply willing to be perceived as, is real for me. It's frightening to me that on some level, to some extent, much of what he writes is true for me, too. I worry what people will think of me; and I worry that to much open acknowledgement of Werner Erhard will get in the way of sharing much of what I have to share.

Werner is not the only extraordinarily influential teacher/guru in my life. In so many ways, though, I see what a fundamental source he is for me.

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