this is the first tape in volume one of

an ongoing series of audio tapes

entitled the form presents conversations

with Werner Erhard the form is designed

as a public arena in which the

applications of transformation and

day-to-day life were explored a wide

range of topics in the areas of

productivity workability and the

business of living life come up for

scrutiny serious dialogue and action in

the forum this series of three audio

tapes is excerpted from sessions held in

August of 1983 the first tape of Volume

one is entitled defining your life

Werner begins by taking a look at how we

experience ourselves a subject you've

been addressing with the forum

participants so first I want to start

with something we've been talking about

for the last couple of days and the

first thing I'd like to do is to invite

you to take a look at the fact that

probably in your best moments you are

let's say unaware of yourself that when

things are really going well and

something's happening you're even notice

yourself it's like you're not there may

be another way of saying that a little

bit more accurate way of saying it is

that when things are going well you are

transparent you know when I'll just give

you some kind of hints at places you can

look to verify what we've just said if

you think about when you're working and

the work is really going well and you're

really into the work I mean you don't

even notice yourself you're not aware of

yourself you are transparent and what's

showing up is the work that you're doing

that's all it's kind of dare and present

for you is the work that you're doing if

you're really having fun doing something

let's say you're playing tennis or

you're swimming or you're dancing you

don't have any attention on yourself you

don't have any awareness of yourself

that is to say you as yourself is

transparent and what's there is the

activity in which you're engaged and

that's probably very apparent for you

and that's really really really present


it's interesting because this vaunted

and highly regarded thing called myself

is during the best moments not there

it's transparent it's not something on

which we have any attention it isn't

present and it may be there but it isn't

present in the best moments we're not

present I don't know I think to

something you just think about that but

I'd like to invite you to notice when

you show up and I suggest that when you

show up is as soon as something isn't

going well all of a sudden the

transparency disappears and you become

very present like let's say you're

playing tennis and you're really into

the game and it's going well and there's

these great volleys and rallies and

everything's going well in the balls

going back and forth and you know it's a

great game and your opponent's playing

right up it is they're her best level

and you're right up at your best level

and the whole thing is going well and of

course when it's really going well

you're a little ahead but not that not

stupidly ahead just a little bit ahead

and it really engaged and really in

there maybe it's your work used whatever

seemed you like but you know the ball

comes over and it's in your right to

swing of things and you bring your

racquet around but you even know you're

bringing your racquet around and you

flub the shot now I think if you can

picture that or get a memory of that or

something similar that your own

experience you'll see that the first

kind of question that comes up to

something about oh I something it's like

I something and so then you show up or

it's what did i do or that was stupid

something like that but at any rate you

become present for the first time the


now receives a little bit the play now

receives a little bit the activity now

receives a little bit and you show up

like a presents and what happens

invariably in those moments and we can

call those moments problem or we could

call those moments a break down or we

could give whatever name we like but

something's gone wrong

suddenly the kind of at oneness is gone

and there you are and the first thing

that shows up and I want you to notice

this because a very powerful insight

that when you show up you show up like

an assessment a kind of saying something

about something oh that's terrible I

made a mistake that shouldn't have

happened I wonder what went on something

like that but at any rate I want us to

see that when we show up we show up like

an assessment so I'm suggesting I'm

inviting you to consider the possibility

that who you are like yourself that is

to say whenever you show up when you are

not transparent the way you show up is

as assessment so we're now talking about

self as assessment now you can get a

pretty good glimpse of yourself a

readily by not speaking and not doing

anything and just being quiet and seeing

what's there now probably what's there

is you'll have some sensations in your

body we're not going to talk about the

self of sensations in the body for the

moment what maybe there is I don't know

a kind of vague general overall feeling

I would call that mood maybe but what

you'll notice more poignant li more

strikingly than almost anything unless

one of those two is in very bad shape

what you probably notice is the

conversation going on in your head or as

we say going on in your head that little

voice back here which keeps commenting

on things and discussing things and

making comments on things and actually

comments about the mood and when it

isn't commenting about the mood

sometimes coming about the sensations in

the body I want to start commenting on

those two things it's commenting on

something out there or something that

happened back there or something that's

going to happen or might happen and it

kind of keeps going around in circles

well that voice is self as assessment or

it's a kind of manifestation that's to

where they want it's a manifestation of

self as assessment and if you listen to

the voice it's Wang and judging and

concluding and analyzing and like that

it's making assessments so that's when

you or I show up we show up as

assessment well I know that's a very

strange way to talk about ourselves and

I repeat again I'm only talking about

ourselves that way because in speaking

about ourselves this way even though it

sounds strange it will actually make

some impact on ourselves see if you say

self as soul or spirit you say self is

mind if you say self is history and

they're very interesting ways of talking

about the self and a lot of people

spoken about self in that way but while

you can have a very interesting complex

conversation when the interesting

complex conversation is all over there

hasn't been much impact on self so I'm

looking for a way to talk about self

that has an impact and I'm suggesting to

you that this way of talking about our

self does have an impact that if you

just left here kind of

in the possibility kind of being with

the possibility kind of allowing the

possibility of yourself as assessment

that there would be something powerful

happening for you so now we have a new

possibility of self not the right one

not the best one a new one and I say

that this new one is the possibility

treating self as assessment opens up a

possibility of having an impact on our

lives so now I want to see what the

assessment is what kind of assessment

you notice I'm proposing that there's

two kinds of assessments first I'm going

to put the one up here which I think we

are generally ordinarily namely that we

are a psychological assessment that the

way you and I are the way we show up the

way we come onto the scene the way when

you're really noticing yourself you'll

notice yourself is as a psychological

assessment so this is being as

psychological assessment let me give

some examples of psychological

assessments I did that because almost

anything you put in after that is a

psychological assessment because the

notion of because it's a psychological

assessment that is to say cause as

expressed in the word because belongs in

the domain of psychological assessment

let me give you some other words for

because or cause sometimes that shows up

as a justification

so justification lots of the

psychological assessment turns out to be

a justification for something or other

or an explanation for something or other

or a rationalization or a reason by the

way you can put under being as

psychological assessment all

characterizations so when you meet

somebody or think about somebody in the

normal course of events you're kind of

like a characterization about them oh

they're great

or they're great but they have this

little problem that they're um

silly or stupid or oh they're he's a

jerk that he's a jerk that's a it's a

characterization so characterizations

and justifications and explanations and

rationalizations and reasons they're all

psychological assessment what's wrong is

a question inviting a psychological

assessment what's wrong with me what's

wrong with you what's wrong with it

that's all possibilities in a

psychological assessment and you'll

notice that whenever you've got a


whenever something breaks down whenever

something's gone wrong that almost the

first thing that will happen is some

psychological assessment and it'll often

be about you like what's wrong with you

okay so

I'm proposing an alternative I'm

inviting you to consider an alternative

way of being alternative to

psychological assessment and for lack of

a better word I'll call it philosophical

assessment by the way psychological

assessment is not something you do it's

something you are and it's not the way

you made yourself you've got born into

psychological assessment you can say

that the society is psychological

assessment or the culture is

psychological assessment at least the

society and culture into which you and I

got born it's one of psychological

assessment so this philosophical

assessment is not one into which we got

born it has to be created for yourself

you have to bring it forth for yourself

you have to generate it for yourself and

it's very very simple to live being

philosophical assessment is to live as

your were the livers of philosophical

being means to live with commitment or

really to live as commitment to live as

your commitments to live committed ly it

means to live with a commitment to


a derivative from that would be to live

with the commitment to wholeness to

being hold to be a philosophical being

means to live with the commitment to

communication so to be a philosophical

being means to live with a commitment to

authenticity to be a philosophical being

means to live with a commitment to

integrity so to be philosophical is to

do your assessment on the basis of your

word to do your assessment on the basis

of commitment to do your assessment on

the basis of integrity to do your

assessment on the basis of completion to

do your assessment on the basis of

authenticity and communication so you're

still going to show up like assessment

because as if the self is is assessment

when it's there what's there is

assessment and for the most part people

have no choice the assessment is very

automatic because for the most part most

of us have not even entertained the

possibility that who we are is

assessment we think we do assess things

I'm not saying that you and I do assess

things I'm saying that you and I are

assessment you know if you are doing

assessment then let's see you stop that

little voice in the back of your head

you just sit quietly and don't think

turn off the voice in the back of your

head if you're doing it stop doing it

but if you are doing it then you stop

doing it I'll tell you when it stops it

stops when you stop if there's no self

that voice shuts up but if there's a

self that voice is there

so that self as assessment now most

people haven't even entertained the

possibility so most people have never

given themselves the chance to know

themselves as they are I'll call it

thrown to be thr o WN thrown to be it's

like the way you show up when you become

yourself for yourself is as assessment

and you are that and you are that as a

psychological assessment with this stuff

because that's the way you're thrown to

be very interesting to watch that

phenomenon in infants when they start

being themself for themselves doesn't

happen right away

so most people don't know a that this is

what they are therefore obviously don't

now recognize that they've got a choice

but as this as you become willing to

experiment with this as you become

willing to live with this as you become

willing to be inside the possibility of

it then the choices begin to show up and

one of the choices is to live as a

philosophical being

next miRNA talks about the qualities of

a psychological being in particular he

looks at the nature of most of the

conversation in that domain and

suggested for the most part it has no

impact on life you notice when you say

it's a nice day nothing happens to the

day that's chattering did you have a

good weekend oh great a good weekend

that's great

have a nice weekend that's chattering

and then nothing wrong with chattering

I'm not against chattering I mean some

chatter seems to be appropriate but when

that's all there is that's a little

questionable now some people are

chattering with a very heavy load

I mean chattering is not always light

some chattering is very very very very

heavy you know you listen to people

talking about nuclear war or nuclear

weapons for that whole issue about

nuclear this and that that's very heavy

and some of them are very heavy about it

but if you listen to it it's all chatter

so their opinion or their belief you

know if you go into a diner for a cup of

coffee and there's just you and the

diner some some people have these

experiences and bars but them from the

east coast or diners on the East Coast

you see so we go into a diner and it was

just the guy behind the diner in you you

have a cup of coffee and you get into a

conversation the guy behind the diner

sight the guy behind the counter in the

diner knows everything there is no

subject about which you can speak that

he does not have an opinion and he is

rabid about the opinion I mean he's

really into the opinion and if you

listen to most conversations about

nuclear issues or politics or religion

heavy subjects illness the economy

raising children relationships if you

listen to those conversations I think

you'll see that for the most part here a

bunch of people who work in diners

having an opinion about everything or

anything that's all chatter so there's

plenty of words in this psychological

domain plenty of words but they all show

up like chattering they show up like

opinions and beliefs usually people say

I think and then what follows is

chattering their opinion

so we're talking about showing up as

your word is something different than

chattering so there's a kind of wording

that's clearly not chattering now it can

be turned into chatter but as it's real

self it's not chattering promise or

promising is not chattering it's a

different kind of wording and something

worth looking into a promise is

distinguished in the philosophy of

language as a speech act so I'll repeat

that a promise is distinguished in the

philosophy of language as a speech act

so promise is an action that's very

strange don't you think

I mean everybody knows that words are

not actions just like at one time

everybody knew the world was flat and

everybody knew man would never step on

the moon

so anybody knows that words aren't

actions and yet there are serious people

very serious people people not kidding

people who've devoted their whole lives

and their intellect to the study of

language who say that there are speech

acts and they say that a promise is one

of those and it's interesting

specifically promise is that kind of

speech act called a performative it

actually performs and I'll show you

about it so if you say I promise the use

of the word promise in that saying is

itself a promise so if I talk about the

chair the use of the word chair the word

chair is not itself a chair if I talk

about a hand the word hand is not itself

a hand but if I say I promise I am

promising by saying promise and promise

is a very special category of saying

in the philosophy of speech acts

it's a performative it actually performs

it acts that's interesting because it's

possible to make a promise not a promise

I'll show you how to make a promise not

a promise I want to lose weight see I

want to lose weight the statement I want

to lose weight is not wanting and it's

not weight the word I is not I the word

want is not itself wanting the word

weight doesn't weigh anything much the

word lose that's not losing that's what

people do it New Year's they make

resolutions which are really not

performative that is to say they're not

acts they're descriptions I want to lose

weight is a description of an internal

state it's a description of the state

the internal state called wanting to

lose weight

I wish I could lose weight it's a

description of an internal state

someplace in there you have the notion

that there's a wish and you're

describing that internal state called

wishing I should lose weight that's a

description of a an assessment it's not

a promise

I would like to promise that's not a

promise either this is a description of

an internal state the only thing which

is in fact a promise is I promise so to

show up as your word is to show up as

promising to show up as an assessment of

yourself as your work to show up as a

philosophical being is to show up as

assessing your promises like promises

that's very interesting when you do a

philosophical assessment assessment of a

promise here are the possibilities

I promised or I didn't promise I

kept my promise I didn't keep my promise

for I am keeping my promise I am NOT

keeping my promise and that's about it

that's the whole conversation but if you

live like your word at least in this

instance it starts to get very quiet

inside your head there's not much you


but you remember back to the beginning

of this conversation when life's really

good is not much you around there's the

work or the play or the person or life

so this philosophical way of being this

living as a philosophical assessment

when something goes wrong or there's a

breakdown it's a problem to do a

philosophical assessment gets you right

back to work or right back to playing or

right back to being do some real value

in it now promises however because

they're mostly assessed in a

psychological domain most people think

that not keeping your promise is bad

that's the psychological assessment and

then a psychological domain I suppose

it's even true that not keeping your

promise is bad but in a philosophical

domain not keeping your promise is not

keeping your promise that's what it is

and it's not more or less than that now

assuming that not keeping your promise

is not bad assuming not keeping your

promise is not keeping your promise what

would a person do if what they did was

to not keep their

Armus well they would probably clean up

the damage done by not keeping their

promise they would probably say to

whoever they made the promise to I

didn't keep my promise

I apologize wouldn't be a whole big

victim number or guilt or blame or a lot

of rationalizations and justifications

there would be just the kind of simple

acknowledgement that I made a promise I

didn't keep the promise and an

expression of responsibility since you

are living at as your word for the

consequences of not keeping your promise

you know whatever those consequences may

be maybe it's a new promise I told you I

would be here at such-and-such a time I

wasn't here at that time I was late I

promise to be on time from now on see I

want you to see how that leaves the

person listening as contrasted with Jim

real sorry no kidding I really feel bad

about not showing up on time but I want

you to know the traffic was terrible and

I was trying to get out of the house and

the kids knocked over the lamp on how to

stop and get the lamp fixed and while I

was picking up the lamp we knocked over

the picture I mean the flower base and

the water went all over the place and

it's just terrible now what we're going

to do together and don't you want to

hear some more promises from me I don't

think so I think a you don't want to do

anything with me and B you certainly

want to hear any more promises from me

but if I can say to you look I promise

to be here at nine o'clock it's 9:30 I'm

late and I promise you I won't be late


and if there was some cost or some

consequence to me my being late is there

some way I can make up for it you notice

that the thing kind of goes away when

you can handle it like that now never

mind what it feels like for the other

guy what does it feel like to the guy

who isn't making the justifications and

the rationalizations and the excuses and

feeling badly about it and all that

stuff what's it like for that person but

I'll tell you what it's like for that

person what it's like for that person is

like nothing it's like disappearing it's

like that not being present it's like

just being it's like being like being

transparent and so life is showing up

instead of all this assessment now most

of us don't know what life would be like

lived like that I mean really we don't

know what it would be like live like

that and I'm not saying I know I'm not

saying I don't know but I'm inviting you

to see what would it be like to live

like that what would it be like to be

thoroughly engrossed in life

what would it would it what would it be

like to have problems of breakdowns come

up and handle the assessment so rapidly

that you were back working on it being

with it just like you were before the

breakdown happen but now you're with the

breakdown like that like you were with

the work you're now with the breakdown

like you were with the fun you're now

with the repairing the breakdown I mean

what would it be like I don't know I

think that that's what people call being

alive that's my suspicion I think it

would be like being really being alive

so am I talking to you about this is not

designed like a recipe or like a

prescription those words I'm not telling

you how to do this this is not a recipe

of prescription I'm offering it to you

and sharing it with you like a

possibility like a question you might be

asking yourself like something you might

explore for yourself like something you

might check out for yourself like a

question you might live with for a

number of days just to see what you can

see for yourself