I remember being in a workshop with John Enright, perhaps the most inspired workshop leader I’ve ever known, next to Werner Erhard, and having John set for us our initial icebreaker exercise.
“Please turn to the person next to you and tell them how you’re going to manipulate them in this workshop to get what you want.”
Oh, it didn’t stop there.
“Now please turn to the person on the other side of you and tell them what pretense you’re going to use in here to emerge looking good.”
Raising our own acts and numbers to awareness doesn’t have to be hard. In fact it can be – and before long is – pure fun. John billed his workshops as “hard-nosed permission giving.” What he gave us permission to do was live.
Raising our own acts and numbers to awareness doesn’t have to be hard. In fact it can be – and before long is – pure fun. John billed his workshops as “hard-nosed permission giving.” What he gave us permission to do was live life fully.
Werner Erhard’s trainers constructed an elaborate exercise in which they had people at a Six Day Training share some of the deepest traumatic events in their lives. The sharing began very solemnly, one participant at a time.
The first participant worked for perhaps fifteen minutes, maybe longer. We were all riveted. And then very subtly the trainers sped up the process until they had people who had had one thing done to them simply standing up and then sitting down again; then everyone who had been in another heavy situation simply raising their hands.
They were making the point that sharing about our past did not have to be heavy and significant and we definitely got the lesson by this means. People “got off it” and got on with the much more meaningful work of breaking through, emerging, coming out of our shells.
Coming out of our shells could be said to be what all this was about. Another word for shells is automaticity.
Human being are perhaps the only species who build a shell, program their behavior, create a thought form, as it were, and then substitute this “I, Robot” for the real thing – for living life.
Automaticity means substituting for the real us a preprogrammed. laid-out, cut-and-dried version of ourselves, a constructed self. We experience less and less of life, become deader and deader, and retreat more and more into a shell-like, protected environment.
Werner used to say that if we wanted to be protected from the outside world, he could oblige. He would gut us, hang us from a hook and suspend us in tepid water. There would be no risk, but no aliveness or no self-expression either. “Living is dangerous,” he would say.
When we talk about acts, numbers and routines, we’re talking about devising winning ways that get us through life safely and secure for us the things we really want – approval, wealth, sex, etc.
When we talk about scripts, we’re talking about writing the lines we’ll speak, fashioning the parts we’ll play and planning the moves we’ll make.
When we talk about the games we play, we’re talking about the manipulations we use to defeat others, get what we want from them, and avoid giving anything we don’t want to give.
We script life, plan our moves, dress for success, learn how to get girls, and look out for number one. None of this works if life is what we want to experience.
Life became a video game before we had video games.
Our chats in the lunchroom I used to call “howdido” conversations. We rehearsed what we said to the boss, planned our next approach, got our stories down pat of how we did even if we had to shoehorn details in or shave off whatever went wrong. We emerged looking good and sounding great.
But there’s no aliveness to all of this. These are soulless ways of encountering life. Well, in reality we don’t encounter life. Our scripts do, our numbers, our rackets.
So when we talk about the old paradigm, we’re not merely talking about the greed and corruption of the powers that were. We’re also talking about our designs and subterfuges, our ways and means of looking good and sounding great that have us live life at one remove.
All of this has to go.