Here are three ways of looking at appreciation including my latest understanding of appreciation as “the unifying force of mature integral interiority”. The first comes from the late, great Dick Bolles and the others are both mine, at different points in my writing career.

1Dick Bolles: “There’s a Meanness Abroad in the Land”

Richard Nelson Bolles (March 19, 1927 – March 31, 2017) was an Episcopal clergyman and the author of the best-selling job-hunting book, What Color is Your Parachute?

From the John Hunters’ Bible (“There’s A Meanness Abroad in the Land”)

This is a criticism of critics. Just a tiny bit of irony, in that!

I was reading Newsweek today, and found a review of war films, written by Caryn James. She is a well-known movie critic. I don’t want to pick on her, she’s probably a very nice woman, but she does serve up food for thought about all critics. She was reviewing the new series about World War II, by Steven Spielberg and Tom Hanks. And she had nothing good to say about it. She also had little good to say about The Hurt Locker, the film which just cleaned up at the Oscars. She said that Kathryn Bigelow’s dazzling filmmaking “doesn’t pause to let you realize that suspense and bravery are everything here.” I thought the film was about nothing else but. I went to watch it twice, because I was so entranced with her examination of the virtues and defects of such bravery. (“War is a drug.”)

In many of the reviews I read daily, on a whole range of subjects besides filmmaking, I am so struck with the underlying view the critics seem to have about intelligence. Review after review bespeaks the idea of “look how intelligent I am, I can see – more than most – everything that’s wrong with this.” (Whatever the this may be.) I was raised with a very different view of intelligence: it valued “look how intelligent I am, I can see – more than most – all the things there are to appreciate, about this.”

In our day, and perhaps in other days as well, it is a far rarer soul who makes appreciation the defining motif of his or her life, than those who make criticism their defining goal. Criticism is easy; it takes no brains to say what’s wrong with something. Appreciation however, is difficult; you sometimes have to fight to see things to appreciate, digging for example beneath ugly surface impressions, to see some shining beauty underneath. That’s why prejudice flourishes. It takes brains to see what there is to appreciate in every man and woman who was ever born. Which should be the goal of every intelligent man or woman. Civilization never decays or vanishes because of a lack of criticism in a society; it decays or vanishes because of a lack of appreciation in that society. As a direct consequence of this, that society tends to preserve the commonplace, while it casually throws away treasures. And criticism causes more meanness to be abroad, in the land.

Every critic begins with assumptions, usually unexamined, that they use to justify their hammering the thing they are examining. For example, Caryn James’ assumption here, in reviewing historical war films like The Hurt Locker, is that such films must have “a cultural resonance today,” and feel “relevant.” She has no patience with “outdated ideas” that were dear, she says in the past, like “justice is on our side,” or “warfare was about turf,” or “platitudes about heroism.” She criticizes The Hurt Locker for “ignoring the urgent question of whether the war should be fought at all.” In other words, if she had been making that film, she would have been sure it dealt with that question. Fortunately, no such obligation was laid upon Kathryn Bigelow. She was free to make her own film, not Caryn James’es.

In critics’ articles or blogs, there’s always just a little bit of “Ah, if I were king….(or queen) this is what I would have done.” The one notable exception to this is Roger Ebert, whom I read devotedly, just because he looks for things to appreciate in films that other critics dismiss out of hand.

Now, about history: just because the past was different from the present, with different values and assumptions, doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be depicted. Our history is what defines people, and nations. Show me only a man’s present circumstances, and I may be bewildered by his actions. But tell me that man’s history and I will understand him much more completely, and find much to appreciate in him. Our past is important, and so are nations’ pasts. We didn’t just come into this world fully-hatched, and fully-born. We came into a context, a family, a community, a country, with traditions and values that were important to them, then; and therefore important to us now. In a word, show us our past, and make us really feel our history vividly, and then we will find much more to appreciate about the present. That is what the producers of The Pacific have done, and that is what Kathryn’s The Hurt Locker has done, magnificently.

There’s no way around it: we need more “appreciators” in our society: men and women who, from the beginning, set out to make their lives all about appreciating others, even if it requires some hard thinking. And who think it takes more brains to appreciate than it does to criticize. We need more men and women to make appreciation the goal of their whole career. These are men and women to admire.

As the great composer of beautiful music, Jean Sibelius, famously said, “No one ever erected a statue to a critic.”

2Must we choose between being systematic and original in our thought and deeds?

Joe Perez’s Rising Up (2006)

Here’s a reader’s comment related to my post on defining integral:

Joe, I applaud your independent STEAM streak .. Orienting consciousness maps are a good thing… and – but 🙂 I think following any ‘leaders’ methodology to a ‘t’ restricts one’s own flow of creative juices…

Ah, that’s the rub, isn’t it? In a modern, American culture that places a high premium on having an “independent streak,” and being “leaders (not followers),” and above all not restricting the flow of “one’s own creative juices,” then how the hell do you become a truly systematic thinker? Are we so tied to narcissistic notions of creativity and independence that we are incapable of merging into a more encompassing and ego-shattering whole? Is “that sounds like group think” or “he’s just another Ken Wilber ditto-head” the worst insult we can hurl at something new? Must originality be limited to how we resist something greater than ourselves, and never describe how we surrender?

I think it is possible to be both integral and original, independent and systematic. One way is to latch on to the broad movement called integral and claim that your version of integral is the most correct version, or at least a better version, and point out how other versions leave something important out. If you’re right and persuasive, then perhaps your ideas will have an influence in shaping what counts as truly integral. And then you have demonstrated that you’re both an independent thinker and a systematic thinker. You haven’t erected a new system or demolished the old system; you’ve strengthened the value of the system by correcting its shortcomings.

I imagine that pretty much all good internal criticism of integral would have to look something like that. (By distinguishing between internal and external criticism, I am talking about criticism launched from within a second-tier stage versus criticism launched from a lower stage. An example of second-tier critique is: “This model of reality leaves something important out, obscures valuable distinctions, or fails to incorporate the ideal number of contexts to be truly useful.”) In contrast are criticisms such as “It doesn’t make central to its paradigm the act of listening to marginalized or oppressed minority voices,” or “There’s no rational proof for the supposedly trans-rational benefits of meditation,” which are perfectly valid concerns derived from a first-tier level of analysis. However, even if all first-tier criticisms are granted, a second-tier system remains standing.)

As useful as it is to think about criticism in helping one to develop a sense of distance, originality, and independence of thought, it’s not the only valid approach to life. That would be like saying that the only way to be a creative, integral thinker is to continually search for weaknesses and faults in the foundation of one’s own consciousness. I suspect that such a sentiment is more a holdover from first-tier rationalistic philosophy than truly a second-tier mode of being. Transcending rationalism means finding ways of being appropriately critical in the right time, for the right reasons, and to the right degree, without spending inordinate, unnatural amounts of one’s time and energy in the smashing idols and gods. In other words, as we ascend in stages of concsciousness and incorporate more angles in our life-maps, we become more fully rational, not rationalists.

So I think the sentiment that “following any ‘leaders’ methodology to a ‘t’ restricts one’s own flow of creative juices” is a perfectly understandable and ordinary sort of view. And it may be right or it may be wrong, but it’s a recipe for narcissistic abandonment to the self. There’s nothing wrong with a little first-tier “I want what I want and damn anyone who says they’re a leader worth following, this is my life, I’m doing it my way” sort of thinking. I’ve got a healthy “red streak” myself, even as it doesn’t define me. The challenge with STEAM-powered living, as I see it, is to think about the world in a comprehensive and systematic way that defines the proper place and relation of self, other, world, and the Divine, in the context of an evolving world… and to live from that vision as deeply and graciously as possible. If that isn’t being original in this culture and age, then what is?

3Appreciation: The Unifying Force of Mature Integral Interiority

Joe Perez’s Brief Reflections Inspired by the Integral Konstruct of Lingua-U (2018)

Mature Integral consciousness — in technical terms, I’m talking about early Turquoise, a station after the maturation of Second-Tier awareness past Green and Teal called §5.1 — is the yin to the yang of Philia (𝌏𝌃) (Friendship) and and the yung of Willing (𝍅𝌃). Whereas Philia (at Formal-Mind) tethers the mind to an object external to itself in order to support or protect the self from frightening realities of “otherness” and “foes” and come to an inner freedom from the vicissitudes of life, Appreciation (𝌪𝌃) lifts up an object in order to gain insight in how to Usher it into a more comprehensive worldview and how to Understand it more fully as it is in its own uniqueness and dignity. Furthermore, when Philia and Appreciation are combined, they describe the powerful potentialities available in a community of friends, mutually uplifted in support and appreciation, their individual Wills subsumed into a world-centric Mission.

Furthermore, to fully Appreciate something is to befriend it in a way that enlarges you and it into a larger whole, grounded in a healthy worldview in which all stations of life are given a place of dignity and ordered in a manner that sustains a healthy Gaia (planetary soul). True and good Appreciation does not easily veer off into idolatry or possessiveness, though addiction is a temptation if the appreciation is incorporated too deeply. It is not a stance of taking a good for use or consumption or an idea or dogma for the purpose of making it exclusive and superior to all others. Appreciation requires situating the object into a relatively comprehensive worldview, one that can find a place for something where it can be most useful for the entire realm.

Appreciation is a Kingly (𝌮𝌁) function, psychologically speaking, in consideration of a universal Archetype gendered yin-yin-yin-yin-yung (𝌮𝌀). Speaking intuitively, we may say that the King’s first yin sees its place in the whole order of things; the second yin sees its place relative to other objects in the realm; the third yin sees its place relative to the King himself; the fourth yin perceives what the object is not; and the yung grasps its usefulness. The inner King is able to offer his blessing to the object even when others cannot because he is powerful enough to situate the object, create movement through influence, or even quarantine a potentially harmful object (as a last resort).

If one doesn’t have a healthy and strong relationship to the inner King archetype, one may find it difficult go bless others or offer a full appreciation, mature and wise. Forgive me for the heresy of combining Jung and Wilber, but it is unavoidable! Growing in one’s relationship to the King is essential for development into mature Integral consciousness. (The inner Queen is also essential, though she “comes online” later in the maturity of Integral development when it becomes necessary to Qualify candidates for selection.)

Another way of looking at the role of Appreciation in the emergence of mature Integral consciousness is to note its stabilizing and conservative function in the individual and collective. A psyche in which all the sub-parts or micro-personalities or inner archetypes are appreciated and given a valuable place is a healthier, more integrated inner life. A society of appreciators is much more harmonious than a society of acrimonious critics or rebels. A culture based on the exchange of mutual self-esteem and appreciation is happier and a fuller expression of the Goodness of Existence.

Let me add that within the interiority of the Integral mind there is a three-station dynamic. In the yang or initiatory station, there is noticing “the given” (𝌪⚍). The object is grasped as it is in itself, not as we want it to be, and not as we would expect it to fit into reality based on our preconceived notions and theories. It must be seen in four modalities: its Pitifulness or compassion-inducing partiality, its Figurativeness or way of representing the Image of God, its Distinctiveness including its contribution to diversity, and its Symbolic role. In the yin or responsive station, there is a “giga-sizing” (𝌪⚏) of the object. It must be given an active function relative to every other object in the emerging Global-Mind — thus, maps of human nature, developmental stations, narratives of holonic tenets, and so on, are extremely important now.

Finally, at the yung or unifying station, there is the triple function of “appraisal” (𝌪𝌶⚌) and “appreciation” (𝌪𝌶⚏) and “approval” (𝌪𝌶𝌁). Appraisal is the yang-yang move: it looks unflinchingly at how the spaciousness of our own Mind meets resistance in the object. Appreciation is the yin-yin move: it brings the object into the Kitchen of our spirit (which is another way of talking about incorporating it into a mature, healthy, well-functioning ego). Finally, Approval is the yung-yang move. It allows the object to exist within the King’s realm in its own way, circumscribed by its nature and the whole scope of Existence’s requirements. Disapproval does not come easily for early mature Integral consciousness, so this stage of interiority will frequently find itself “collapsing” into earlier modes of reactivity (especially the “polarizing” of objects at Protective-Mind or the “foeing” of objects at Formal-Mind/Amber or the “disapproval/destuction” of objects at Diligent-Mind/Orange or the “shunning” of objects at Systemic-Mind/Green).

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