Sunday, November 6, 2011

'Occupy' Your Mind

Returning from Salt Lake City to Charlottesville via Chicago provided a suboptimal venue to listen to the audio of Ken Wilber’s interview conducted by my friend Todd Goldfarb ( It turns out that cheap courtesy headphones from a hotel gym have no sound damping value to overpower the engines on a CRJ-700. The good news was that the audio quality was so dreadful that I had to concentrate. So, I sat next to the window, focused on the ground passing below and listened to Ken describe the passage of humanity’s transitions. And it was in the observation of the millions of acres of industrial farmland over which I was passing at 38,000 feet that I settled in on the puzzle that is this week’s InvertedAlchemy: Is it possible to perceive human transformation as a first person actor or are evolutions of consciousness only discerned in retrospect?

Let me provide a bit of background. Todd and Ken were discussing the notion that we’re on the edge of a new inflection of the human experience. This edge is, in part, defined by previous inflections (from archaic to magic to mythic to rational to modern to post-modern to…?), has several particular characteristics that were noteworthy. In his description of the ‘Integral’ transformation, Ken suggested that, in contrast to previous inflections, rather than rejecting past human narratives, a hallmark of this inflection is the explicit inclusion of wisdom and experience from all previous epochs. And, for a moment over Iowa, I found myself trying to reconcile this vision with the reality from which I had just come. You see, I had just been at a board meeting where I had heard representatives from one of New York's leading investment banks talk about the merits of fixed income investments and had heard them discuss the fact that they were encouraging investments in revenue-based instruments – like water – rather than debt issued by cities and counties. After all, they argued, even unemployed poor people have to drink! The neatly groomed fields below me, the echo of merchants peddling water as a safe investment, and Ken all converged in an unholy trinity between Cedar Rapids and Oxford Junction. I can recall the moment. Ken was in the middle of one of his many “never before in human history” generalizations.

Who do we think we are?

We’ve got a real problem. You’ve read me describe – with effusive affection – my respect for Karl Popper on numerous occasions so I will not belabor his criticism of our Occidental hubris again. As I have commented in my recent posts on the Occupy movement, what I find most disturbing about our present consensus delusional state is the intersection of our belief that we access information and our resulting belief that we’re informed.

Has capitalism ‘worked’ when:

1. The largest communist country on earth actually owns a controlling interest in our debt and supplies a considerable amount of our consumables;
2. We have never – since the Land Act of 1820 and the Morrill Act of 1862 to our modern military, technology, and service profit-subsidized government procurements of today – actually had a phase in our nation’s history where we actually had open, unsubsidized free markets; and,
3. Our income distribution and growth is at its all time greatest asymmetry?

Has our social conscience evolved when:

1. Ken Wilber describes our evolution past slavery, for example, at a time when there are more humans (per capita) in slavery today than at any recorded period of history;
2. When we continue to promote 19th century narratives about wisdom traditions ranging from Egypt to Peru to Mongolia without consideration of the possibility that these civilizations actually may have out-engineered our self proclaimed modern marvels; and,
3. When ‘Hope’ and ‘Change’ has led to more remote control assassinations than the notorious Bush / Cheney regime?

It would be lovely to imagine a world in which we would hold ourselves to an abiding commitment that ‘evolution’ would actually involve some notion of improvement. Improvement of the means by which we interact with the Earth. Improvement in the manner in which we engage cultures diverse from our own. Improvement in how we assess the qualities of ourselves and our ecosystem. Improvements in how we engage in dialogue and discourse holding genuine respect for alternative points of view. But, alas, the evidence shows us that we seem to be more drawn to evolution that involves the selective repression of ever larger numbers of voices – voices who have long memories and have alternative views to our own. Is humanity at a tipping point or are we walking past the masses from whom our ignorance has extracted humanity?

The fulcrum around which a real tipping will occur will be discerned when it is set into place by the hands of all tribes, communities, families, and peoples. We’ll know it by their presence – not tell them in their absence.


  1. Please, How do you see "their presence". tnx in advance

  2. "Their presence" means that we will NOT have a Euro-centric, American-centric or any other incumbency as the leading or exclusive voice or actor. Transformation will include inputs from multiple value systems, multiple cultures, and multiple world-views.

  3. This is already heppening, but where is the presence - "in atomized individualistic-group incummbecies"?


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