Werner Erhard on Authenticity

Personal development goes all the way back to the beginning when Plato said the unexamined life is not worth living and it’s not a matter of contemplating your navel, it’s a matter of having questions the consideration of which allow you to get an authentic look at yourself. We human beings are kind of wired to be admired. We want to look good. We want people to think well of us. So we try to be authentic. We try to be real with each other. Because one of the things that everyone knows is admired by others is if you are authentic. If you are kind of a phony you know no one is going to admire you. So, we want to be authentic. The beginning of all authenticity is to be authentic about your inauthenticity. And that’s how you start to get an honest view of yourself, is to be authentic about your inauthenticity.

I’ll give you an example. So in the normal course of events we think of our listening as a kind of empty bowl, so someone says something to me and there it is in that empty bowl and I take a look at it and then I respond and they respond. But if I suggest to a person that the bowl isn’t empty – there’s a listening there that’s already there before anyone says anything and it’s not only already there it’s always already there. So kind of already, always listening. For example, when I began to be authentic about my own inauthenticity, one of the things I discovered about my already always listening was that I already always knew. So it would be like, you and I are going to have a conversation and I have to say, “now hold on for a second, because you need to know before you tell me anything, that I already know, now what was it that you wanted to say?” As you can imagine I was a pretty difficult kid for the people who tried to teach me something. And that was the listening that I was. That’s actually the listening that I am – the difference is that I know about that inauthenticity about myself. And when I can be present to that inauthenticity I can kind of stop honoring it – I can stop being stuck with it. And I can actually empty my listening so that I can really hear what somebody says to me and kindof be in their shoes recreating what it is for them that they are saying to me rather than merely the way I understood what they said.

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