Archive | November, 2015

Blast from the Past – est

15 Nov

Today we found ourselves wondering if est, popular in the 70s and 80s, was still a thing. Turns out that it is, although now it’s called the Forum or something like that. est was the brainchild of Jack Rosenberg, who changed his name to Werner Erhard and began teaching seminars in human potential.

During the 80s, we had a friend who’d gone to the est training and encouraged us to go to an introductory session. What the heck, we did, though we went in with a healthy skepticism. We’d heard stuff about est – that it restricted “bio breaks” for one thing. The other thing we’d heard that turned us off was that est trainers seemed to have a penchant for referring to those in the seminar using a popular (and vulgar) euphemism for the sphincter in the lower body. (this was true, at least at the time, though this did not occur at the session we attended.)

Anyhoo, we went to the session along with a few other friends of our friend. The trainer was a chap named Larry who seemed like a nice guy. He began his talk speaking about how people tend to put others into categories. “He’s a businessman”, he said, pointing at a man in a suit, “she’s a teacher”, he said, pointing at a woman, “he’s an auto mechanic”, he said, pointing at us. He’d hit pay dirt – not with the man, who turned out not to be a businessman, nor with us (we weren’t an auto mechanic, though we dressed like one then.) The woman though, was a teacher. It seemed to us that he gave her a little bit more attention the rest of that evening, apparently because he’d correctly guessed her occupation. (We don’t know if she signed up for the training.)

He went on to talk about how he’d recently sat next to a guy on an airplane who worked for the Department of Defense. Learning his fellow passenger’s occupation, he braced himself, expecting to hear a lot of hawkish views. Larry was surprised when the man told him that he hated war and hated to see wars break out.

This was all pleasant enough – we’d heard someone speak about not judging others by our impressions of them, which was sound advice. We then recall that a couple of est graduates sounded us out to see if we wanted to take the training. We declined – the training was not cheap, and though we’d enjoyed the evening, we weren’t going to plunk down the several hundred dollars needed to sign up – we didn’t make as much money auto mechanics did. The graduates did not press the point, and the evening ended on a positive note.

After he took the training, our friend seemed to like to use the phrase “I got it!” This was not annoying – we even kind of liked it. However, we ourselves never really “got it”. Though we attended at least one other event (at which Werner Erhard himself spoke), the idea of taking the est training seemed alien to our way of thinking, like asking a baseball fan to drop the game and take up cricket instead (or vice versa). In retrospect, we’re wondering if it came down to us not respecting any group who’d agree to have us as members.