The Heart of The Matter
The subject of this is transformation – a deep, profound and committed choice about the way we live our lives. Transformation is the possibility for a breakthrough in our living, a clearing for aliveness to show up in our everyday activities, self-expression and commitments.
Talking about transformation is no more than a representation, an image of the real thing. It’s like eating the menu instead of the steak – neither nurturing nor profound. It is in being transformed – in being authentically true to oneself – that one lives passionately free, unencumbered, fearless, committed. It is in living life in a transformed way that the steak and its sizzle show up.
We invite you to be here this evening for the actual benefits of transformation, for the meal – not the menu. Thank you for being here. Thank you for participating.
THREE KINDS OF TALKING
Our language, the way we speak, shows up in three different ways.
The first is “talking about.” In “talking about,” our commitment is to describe, report, or explain situations or events. Such talk, however, seems to have no impact on the thing it represents. For instance, talking about tennis in the clubhouse after the game doesn’t seem to affect anyone’s performance on the court.
Another kind of talking is that which evokes. Its commitment is distinct from using words to represent. Poetry, for example, never simply talks about something. Rather, it brings something present. Poetry can bring sadness into our immediate experience, or joy, or wonder; in the presence of such experience, we are moved.
While speaking that evokes seems to have more impact than speaking that represents, the “you” that it addresses is the same “you” that was present before. Neither evocative speaking nor representative speaking has the power to reach down into being and alter the possibilities that you have, or more importantly, to alter the possibility that you are.
There is, however, a kind of speaking that does alter being. It profoundly expresses what it is to be human. It speaks possibility itself, neither merely representing it nor even evoking it. Rather, it brings forth the possibility that it speaks, in the very act of speaking it. Such speaking has a direct and lasting impact; in the very act of speaking, it alters the course of events.
SPEAKING THAT ALTERS THE COURSE OF EVENTS
Although most of us seldom think about it, the kind of talking that reaches down into being and alters what is possible, deeply affects our lives. For example, the truth that all men are created equal did not exist before the creation and signing of the Declaration of Independence in 1776. At that time, there was no evidence for the equality of men. It was a truth brought forth in the declaration alone. In the act of speaking – in the authors’ willingness to give themselves over to the possibility, to stand fully for their creation – an equality that had before been impossible, was born. Two hundred years later, in the space of that declaration, we are still exploring the possibility of equality and discovering its implications as they extend to all humankind. Once you have heard what the Declaration of Independence had to say – not as a representation, not even just to be in the presence of it, but as a clearing for the possibility that it is – then what you can think and feel and see is altered. Your actions are altered. Who you are has taken on a new meaning.
The work of transformation springs from a commitment to this particular kind of being, this kind of speaking, listening, feeling and thinking. This is a distinct way of being with life. Transformation does not merely change our actions, does not merely give us new options from which to choose. Rather it uncovers the structures of being and interpretation on which we are grounded, often unaware of our grounding in them. This is our work: this revealing of ourselves to ourselves, which occurs in a profound way that alters the very possibility of being that we are: Inescapably. Decisively. Forever.
TRANSFORMATION IS NOT A PRESCRIPTION
Transformation offers no formula for achieving success. It contains no prescription for living, no answers to dilemmas of existence, no magical code to unlock the mysteries of human life. Instead, what transformation makes available – as an inescapable presence – is the moment-by-moment choice from which the realities of our lives are shaped.
Transformation is not an alternative. It releases no hidden potential; it changes no facts; it adds nothing to that which we already know. Rather, in the moment of transformation, we shift our attention from acquiring or mastering rules for survival in our personal lives, to asking and engaging authentically with the questions, “What does it mean to be human? What is the possibility of living?” In the asking of those questions, we are empowered to express those possibilities in our lives and our relationships.
These questions produce no answers to, or definitions of, fundamental issues that are, for most of us, a part of being alive. Instead, in the asking of them, we deepen those same questions, unmask our common assumptions, and begin to think creatively – to think for ourselves. In so doing, we come face to face with our original choice in the matter – with the fundamental ways of being that we adopt, and that we create, for our lives.
THE FREEDOM TO CREATE
Rather than trying to find our true selves – struggling to figure out “who we are” – in transformation, we bring forth the possibility of creating ourselves, so that life is a creative expression of our stand.
Transformation does not increase or improve the options we have before us. Rather, in the moment of transformation, there is the presence of choice, as the phenomenon of creating possibilities – no more, no less. The actual choosing remains of our own making – no more likely, nor guaranteed. Yet, in the recognition and ownership of the choice appears true freedom of action – an action born solely of the courage to be.
excerpt from a presentation on “The Heart of the Matter” by Werner Erhard, 1982
Filed under: Writings
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