Sunday, March 6, 2011

Polarity of Insight – Staring at the Sun

When you grow up with a father who is an astronomer, you learn about optics long before others in your grade. As a little boy, I remember creating a pinhole camera in an attempt to see large sunspots or partial eclipses. I remember going to Rio Hondo Community College and using some of the telescopes to project images of the sun on white surfaces to resolve solar mysteries without blinding my beguiling eye. I also remember loving to start fires with magnifying glasses but that was not part of this story or part of my better childhood behavior so, enough about that! I remember driving across the desert and watching my brother Dan at a gift shop taking a pair of sunglasses and, while looking through them, turn them 90 degrees to see if they were polarized pronouncing to all of us younger siblings that this “polarization” was essential for some fantastical reason. From optics to audio, Dan could explain the importance of things with such a passion that you actually thought them to BE important. And so, at a National Park gift shop somewhere in the southwestern United States, I paid an extra couple dollars and got “better” vision. That I lost the glasses at the Grand Canyon is merely cause for you, the reader, to have great sympathy for me and then imagine what the loss of such value must have had on my psyche!

In collaboration with my M•CAM, Constellation, and other colleagues, I have revisited the notion of polarization realizing that this phenomenon is replete with natural philosophy and wisdom. Unwilling, however, to remain wed to conventional dimensions of polarization in which one filters perpendicular reflected light to reduce glare and sharpen edges, I would like to consider the values of the principles of polarization with infinite orthogonality.

In his most current work, my friend and colleague Richard David Hames explores the “civilizational worldview” in an epistemological criticism of unconscious sense-making assumptions. Using the context of global environmental changes, we work to see what ethnographic impulses can be deciphered when observing the SAME observed phenomenon by systematically shifting our observational vector. While we might, in the Occidental Lens, see crisis in climate change; in our Sinic Lens, we can see that the melting ice may be a godsend to those living systems that have been long starved for methane. By seeing things through different lenses, we find not only new perspectives on the same phenomenon but we… are you ready for this?.. might actually have sentient awareness of other facultative symbiots and see ourselves in-scale rather than in the glare of our own reflective Klieg egos.

Over the course of the past week, I have worked with a number of people to begin understanding the application and integration of Integral Accounting using the hexahedral optics (aka - a cube prism). Pulling a random article from a newspaper, I have asked people to annotate every word, phrase or concept in each of the six orthogonal dimensions of IA. An example is below. I am using a Reuters article entitled “US Corn Belt Braces for Major Flooding in Spring”.

In 2008 (Custom & Culture: time), rains (Commodity: water) pounded (Custom & Culture: evocative of destruction) the northern Midwest (Commodity: land; Custom & Culture: place) from early June into July (Custom & Culture: time) and caused (Knowledge: hydrology) tributaries into the vast Mississippi River watershed (Technology: natural water conveyance) to overflow (Commodity: abundant water), flooding (Custom & Culture: evocative of destruction; Well-being: loss of employment, land, shelter) some tens of millions of acres of cropland (Commodity: land).

Grain prices (Money: grain sales) soared (Custom & Culture: evocative of abundance) during the summer of 2008 (Custom & Culture: time) on fears of damage (Custom & Culture: social response; Knowledge: anticipation of consequence; Well-being: (-fear)) to the bellwether U.S. crops. Iowa farmers (Custom & Culture: class of labor) received nearly $1.1 billion in insurance payments (Money: insurance) in 2008.

Next, take the time to observe each artifact of integral value and shift your optics. When viewed on a global scale of a need for fresh water, are pounding rains destruction or essential to recharge fresh water? And if we take this view, are there pathways which we could imagine which would take the devastation into a new value by using technology, new social narratives, or alternative values on land-use? Are there people or places around the world where knowledge could be shared to turn a narrative from animations of fear, destruction and loss into opportunity? Did anyone win? Did anyone lose? Could any of those dynamics been altered?

By taking the time to apply the polarizing optics of value dimensions into something as simple as a CNBC article, one can also begin to resolve the fulcrum around which the narrative could change. In the story above, fear drove up prices. In the story above, farmers benefited from fear while insurers lost. In the story above, the consumer lost all the way around. Without considering the single dimension consequences in multiple, orthogonal perspectives, we animate a fatalistic, helpless worldview in which there are only winners and losers.

A challenge for the week: pick a story in your newspaper or favorite on-line media and look at it through the six dimensions of Integral Accounting. Then, tilt the image 66 degrees and look at every artifact through one other lens. Repeat at least two more times. See if you are inspired to ask, “Why didn’t someone see it this way?” See if you’re inspired to learn more about something you would have otherwise glanced over. See if you’re inspired to go through your day with a little less of your own reflected glare and a little more direct Light.

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Thank you for your comment. I look forward to considering this in the expanding dialogue. Dave