“The context is decisive” Werner Erhard
What does Werner Erhard mean when he says that “The context is decisive”? Let me ask that question in another more concrete way. What is Werner pointing us towards? I do not know exactly and given that is so I understand it in the following way. Let’s think of context as ‘playing field’ rather like a soccer pitch (complete with all that goes with it including the goals, line markings etc), a rugby pitch, an ice hockey rink. Yet ‘playing field’ is more it can also be the chessboard, the monopoly board. There is still more ‘playing field’ includes stuff like centre court with the completion of the semi-finals during the annual June tournament. Get the idea behind ‘context’ as ‘playing field’?
Exploring what Werner is pointing towards and making available to us when he says “The context is decisive”
Saying “The context is decisive” Werner is pointing us towards the fact that a soccer pitch calls ‘a game of soccer’ into being. A rugby pitch calls ‘a game of rugby’ into being. A chessboard calls a ‘game of chess into being’. Get the idea? I hope so and lets continue our exploration.
Now imagine centre-court at Wimbledon during the annual June championships. The semi-finals are complete, there are only two players left in the tournament and it is the afternoon of the final – to decide who become champion. On the day of the final there is a particular context (‘playing field’ ) that is in play – it both calls some stuff into being automatically AND at the same time this context rules out a whole bunch of stuff. For example, given the context which gives rise to the final we can say:
- The context calls the finalists to prepare thoroughly to be worth players on centre court and co-create a great match;
- The spectators (sitting in the stands) have high expectations regarding the match they expect to see – they expect a thrilling battle between two masters of the game of Tennis, they expect twists and turn, they expect to be thoroughly engagement in an enthralling drama;
- Amongst the spectators are members of royalty, heads of states, captains of commerce, celebrities of many kinds and past champions – the context has called them to be present another context (an ordinary tennis match) would not bring these people to be present and watch the match;
- The umpire, the linesman and the ball boys and girls are carefully selected to ensure only the best end up on the court – anything less is simply not appropriate, it lacks Integrity as regards the context that is giving rise to the play;
- The context rules out all kind of stuff like replacing one or both of the two remaining contests. It excludes the possibility that there will not be a reserve umpire, reserve linesmen, reserve ball boys and ball girls. It also excludes the possibility that all the equipment (needed for the match to take part in a way that works) will not be checked and probably double checked. It also rules out the possibility that the sports media elite will not turn up to record and make commentary on the final. And so forth.
What the heck does that mean for our lives, our families, our organisations, our society, our world?
When it comes to ‘that which shows up’ and our ‘experience’ of living context is the most determining force. To leave the context intact and get busy on changing ourselves, changing other people, change processes, changing technology – the stuff that is readily at hand and visible to us – is a fools errand, it is a futile endeavour. The key leverage point is the context:
- transform the context that gives being to our living and we transform our living including our experience of living and the results that we co-create and show up in our lives;
- transform the context underlying and giving being to our organisations and the experience of leading, working in, being a customer of these organisations is transformed. Yes, changes may need to happen when it comes to People, Process, Technology, Strategy etc. Yet these changes will flow effortlessly from the appropriate context. This is what the Chinese mean by ‘wu wei’ – natural action, effortless effort, that which happens without doing;
- transform the underlying context that determines that which does and does not show up in our society and our society will be transformed;
- want to ‘Play BIG’ at the level of our world – ‘a world that works – nobody excluded’ – then lets work, collectively, on transforming the context that currently underpins and drives what does and does not show up in our world.
Thank you Laurence Platt and Werner Erhard
Werner Erhard I thank you for bringing Transformation and Possibility into being. Thank you Laurence Platt and Conversations for Transformation – you have been as a source of inspiration and an existence structure keeping me in touch with Werner’s work for the last ten years especially during the times when I was lost in the darkness of ‘Playing small’ full out. I love you! I am grateful that you exist and that it has been my privilege to be in touch and be touched by you and your work.
They say that when the student is ready the master appears. I first got access to Werner Erhard’s work a little over ten years ago. I first got access to Laurence Platt’s work about 8 years ago. Whilst I knew about the work, I was not ready to get the work. This month on December 23rd it happened (as a result of reaching the lowest point of existence) the student was ready and the masters appeared. I declare that there is no going back to HELL (for me) as I am present to the truth which Hemingway stated in his story “The Old Man and the Sea”
“A man is not made for defeat…a man can be destroyed but not defeated.”