Un-Branded Consumer Goods: A Quintessential Postmodern Performative Contradiction

Un-Branded Jar (via Fast Company)

Fast Company notices:

For many people, one of the most satisfying things about buying a new widget is the brand attached to it–whether it’s an Apple logo on the iPhone or a Prada logo on a handbag. Unconsumption, a Tumblr blog that explores the idea of creative reuse, is turning the branding concept on its head with the Uncollection, a project that invites DIY-ers of all stripes to stick the Unconsumption logo–a shopping cart known as Mr. Cart–on items they already own.

Many have noticed an impotence associated with postmodernism, a sort of attitude that prefers whimsy and contradiction to practicality. Now such impotence has a quintessential expression: a brand you can slap on everything you own to show you don’t like to own things.

Well, okay.

On this blog and the future of spiritual blog publishing

Squiggles (Credit: Jez Atkinson)

Dear Reader,

One of the many pearls of wisdom I’ve gained from the Signals vs. Noise blog is plain talk questioning the notion of “business planning.” Jason Fried writes:

Busting your ass planning something important? Feel like you can’t proceed until you have a bulletproof plan in place? Replace “plan” with “guess” and take it easy. That’s all plans really are anyway: guesses.

So next time you’re working on a business plan, call it a business guess. And that financial plan? It’s a financial guess. Strategic planning? Call it with it really is: a strategic guess. 5 year plan? You mean 5 year guess.

There’s nothing wrong with guessing, dreaming, or predicting, but it’s not planning. Planning’s too definite a term for most things. We often use planning when we really mean guessing. And what we call it has a lot to do with how we think about it, do about it, and devote to it. I think companies often over think, over do, and over devote to planning.

So next time call a plan a guess and just get to work.

Tonight I’m thinking of my best guess for the future of spirituality publishing on the World Wide Web. Where do I see it going in 5 years or more? Where do I see my own contribution landing and within what bigger picture of what the world is evolving into?

My best guess a week ago — a vision of creating a top “Integral blog” — looks like it may be landing within a more expansive vision. Planning is in constant response to a changing environment. What if I’ve been thinking too small?

In a post on August 9, I explained that I want to be the No. 1 blogger in my niche in the U.S., maybe the world, “Whatever that niche is.”

That’s a vision that spoke loudly through me on that particular day, but one that overall I hold lightly as one piece of a mosaic of contributions I’ll be making to the world in the next stage of my career. But I still believe that in order to be exceptional at what you do, it’s very important to know your niche.

My niche is “Integral,” but it’s not yet clear to me how this label intersects with a range of emerging evolutionary and progressive and intellectually rigorous approaches to being human in the 21st century.  I suspect there may be a more useful way of talking about my niche that can include more people and allow me express my Self without compromise without getting too attached to a particular dialect of spiritual discourse.

Tonight I spent a while on the phone with a friend who offered some insights into how Awake, Alive & Aware might fit into a more expansive vision of world spirituality, enlightenment, and integral development. I’m intrigued by the enriched possibilities that may exist if I revisit the question: what is my niche?

As my blog’s tagline says, I’ve been “blogging for a more integral and conscious world since 2003.” On and off. Much of the off-time has been spent confused about the strategic vision for spiritual communications in a world transitioning beyond postmodernity.

Planning has been next to impossible. Last week’s plans are today’s recyling. The landscape is constantly shifting, and yet a need remains unfulfilled and an opportunity untapped for a blog which really brings fresh thinking to spiritual discourse in America and beyond.

Long story short, in the days and weeks ahead I am entering into dialogue with myself and others about the future of integral spiritual publishing … and how Awake, Alive & Aware can best integrate and lead the way towards a common vision. If something productive emerges from these conversations, you’ll be the first to know.

Meanwhile, I’m blogging as usual. I’m also be putting my plans to open the blog to sponsors and advertisers on hold for just a little while until the dust settles.

Much love,


What is “Parasite Entrepreneurism”?

Po Bonson (Credit: Fast Company)
I’m not exactly sure after reading this article about a new book called “What Should I Do With My Life?”, but if Po Bonson’s story is any indication it’s pretty awful:

My job was to use a ten-key manual calculator and add up columns of numbers on the spreadsheets to make sure the computer hadn’t made a rounding error. If the computer was correct, we put a little red check mark on the bottom of the column. Then, with that same column, we’d do it again. Every column needed to be checked twice. That, and only that, was all I ever got to do. Ten or eleven hours a day, six days a week. I was being paid $12 an hour and being billed out at $75 an hour to our client (which was in turn passing the cost on to the lawsuit)…

I’d had grueling and mind-numbing jobs before (janitor, assembly line), but we always acknowledged we were mere shit shovelers. Here, everyone pretended what we were doing was somehow important, somehow relevant. The pretending was the worst part.

I wanted out by the second day–they’d misrepresented themselves–but I had $42,000 in student loans to pay off versus less than a month’s worth of savings. Besides, I couldn’t quit. Years of competitive sports and my natural stubbornness made me hold quitting in such low regard that it was simply unacceptable. I was sure nobody would hire a quitter. So I made the best of it. “It’s just a day job,” I tried to persuade myself, even though my days usually stretched well into the night.

After a couple weeks I began crying into my pillow at night. My girlfriend would hold me and offer solace. I fantasized about someday getting Saturdays off. I felt like my soul was withering away. Every dollar I spent was extending my prison time that much longer. So I ate rice and cabbage at night. Cornflakes with powdered milk for breakfast. I doctored my bus transfers to use them for the ride home. On my family’s birthdays, I’d save the dollar a greeting card cost and draw my own on a scrap of paper. One day I went swimming at the YMCA. The entrance to the pool was through the showers, and at the entrances to the showers there was a scale to weigh yourself. So I stepped on the base and set the weights at 157 pounds, because 157 pounds is what I’d weighed ever since high school. The lever arm fell hard. Hmm…I must have lost some weight. So I slid the one-pound weights to the left, tap, tap, tap, waiting for that lever arm to rise. Then I moved the fifty-pound weight one notch over, and resumed tapping, tapping…tapping. The lever arm finally lifted up to the balance.

One hundred thirty-two pounds.

I wasn’t metaphorically withering away, I was literally withering away. For several months I’d avoided spending five dollars on lunch by raiding the coffee room…

Read the whole thing.

One of the reasons that I’ve become increasingly disenchanted with the career services industry as it’s done today is the prevailing assumption that its goal is to help people to better adjust to the economic status quo.

Like psychotherapists who rely on a culturally determined notion of neurosis who help to construct the very malady they claim to be curing, career coaches too often reinforce the belief that people are defined by success at their work. Since success seems to be emerging as a theme of the blog today it’s worth highlighting that our world is desperately in need of more integral models of success.

When human beings suffer, they don’t just suffer from 9 to 5. Their entire being — body, heart, and soul — is in pain.

If content is the new currency, what do integralists value?

Coins (Credit: thegrid.ch-flickrstream)

At Fast Company, an article explains why in today’s digital economy “Content Is The New Currency”:

Just because you can broadcast content via Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and Youtube, that does not necessarily mean people are interested in what you have to say. People are intrigued by those who can entertain, educate, or intrigue them. Meaningless and forgettable content is ignored. Dull content is the equivalent of boring and meaningless conversations that are quickly forgotten. The digital world makes it easy for us to contribute to the conversation with opinions, narratives, pictures, and videos, so it is harder than ever to stand out from the crowd.

What you talk about and how you deliver your content matters more now than ever before. Companies no longer have the luxury of communicating in a controlled monologue with consumers through traditional advertising. Technology creates an open environment where millions of people are vying for attention. With content as currency, you must have something relevant, compelling, and meaningful to say.  Today, people respond to content that moves or entertains, so make sure your content is relevant and riveting.

As I am beginning to transition my blog from non-commercial to an advertiser and reader supported business model, I find the article’s claim interesting. What content will you, my readers, find relevant, compelling, meaningful, and even entertaining?

(And once I get closer to figuring that out, I want to better understand how it’s a fit with my distinguishing style as a writer and how do tensions arise?)

What’s missing in Fast Company’s analysis is an appreciation that discovering the intersection between content creator and content reader is an All Quadrants, All Levels affair.

Successful bloggers find the sweet spot in which they resonate with fellows who strongly agree with them and even earn readership from people who strong disagree with them.

I’m not so sure that really describes the nature of Integral blogging considering the way in which most readers are not draw to react to posts with agreement or disagreement. I suspect integralists are instead more drawn to content which enables them to fill in gaps in their mental maps and integrated life practices.

I am puzzled over the question of how to entertain people who are drawn to an Integral blog. Until I figure it out better, I’m blogging mainly on stuff that I find entertaining and see what clicks.

Andrew Cohen points to a path beyond the ‘new paradigm’

Andrew Cohen

Are the days of Integral numbered? Indubitably.

Spiritual teacher and publisher Andrew Cohen writes in “From the Many to the One”:

We may have to let go in a deeper way. Indeed, at this juncture, in order to continue to move forward, our attachment to the broadness of our hard-won perspective may need to be given up. To push the edge of our own evolution, we may have to take that leap that only masters take. But in our own case, in order to take that same leap, we have to be willing to go beyond not only the ego but also the very knowing mind and inclusive worldview that has become our cherished “new paradigm.” For those at the leading edge, the way to the future has to take us beyond where we have come to—as significant as it is. What this means is that our perspective has to shift gears, so to speak, so that we will be able to see the many through the eyes of the One.

Read the whole thing.

John Craig: It’s up to artists to bring humanity to the cause of finding a cure

Artists can bring greater support for innovative scientific research of scientists who are working to find solutions for Neuromyelitis Optica (NMO) Spectrum Disease. In “Art and Disease”, John writes:

It always amazes me how distant we are to disease. We collectively understand sickness and illness, those are the ailments that you see on TV whereupon commercials are trying sell you a pill. If a pill can fix your ill health, most of the time food, exercise and simple life changes on your part can as well.

You never see commercials on TV for incurable diseases trying to sell you a pill. You don’t see commercials for a Cancer pill and the same with Multiple Sclerosis, Huntington’s Disease or Parkinson’s.

Incurable diseases are not marketable. They are not product driven illnesses, the bottom line is not profitable nor does the bottom line extend quality of life.

Read his whole post and make a donation. Read a bit about his story.

Stop Trying To Be Normal

Ugly Duckling

Nobody wants to be abnormal. Who in their right mind would want society to tell them they are undesirable, unlovable, unworthy?

The existentialist Albert Camus said, “Nobody realizes that some people expend tremendous energy merely to be normal.”

The cultural middle is not the place you want to be. It puts to sleep your genius and your ambition. It closes your heart to joy and numbs your body with dullness. It promotes idiot spirituality as the new humanistic ideal.

The cultural center of gravity may be the way others construct their reality, but it doesn’t mean you have to live in its papier-mâché world. Ignore it.

The energy you are putting in to fitting in is filling you with cynicism and depression. You are being dragged down by what Ken Wilber has called a “cultural center of gravity which acts like a magnet on individual development.”

If you change, you will need to explore new ideas, fresh approaches, and foreign concepts. The way you think — the operating system powering the software of your mind — will change permanently. You will lose yourself as you have taken yourself to be.

You will need to fight a magnetic force embodied in your friends, family, girlfriends, boyfriends, or spouses. You will put yourself at odds with your co-workers, bosses, or employees. There is no way of getting around it, unless you resign yourself to despair and let the unique light within you go out.

We in the World Spirituality community know that there are other ways of being human in the world. Once we lived in normal, every one of us. Now we are on a path of recognizing our own Unique Self and from this source we are more awake, alive, and aware.

Why I Stand in Solidarity With the Occupy Wall Street Movement

Occupy Wall St. (Credit: getdarwin)

Today I’m not only writing for my blog Awake, Alive & Aware, but also for the emerging new blog Occupy Philosophy, a venue for philosophers who stand in solidarity with the #Occupy movement. My blog’s readers are broadly familiar with the tradition of integral philosophy in general and integral politics in particular, but I don’t assume that you have any specialized background other than the basic principles of political theory.

Incorporating insights from perennial philosophy, the constructive thread of postmodern thought, and developmental psychology (Piaget, Maslow, Kohlberg, Carol Gilligan, Ken Wilber, etc.) integral politics understands that human consciousness evolves. From this perspective, the Occupy Wall Street movement is situated amid the conflict between modern and postmodern approaches to political economy.

Wall Street epitomizes modernity’s concern with optimizing the autonomy of individuals, freedom from the restraints of bureaucratic control, and a culture of wealth accumulation and global domination. Wall Street is a powerful symbol, and the Occupy Wall Street movement chooses the symbol as a locus of demonstration because of its capacity for dramatizing a radical rejection of some of modernity’s core values.

Thus, the Occupy Wall Street movement epitomizes the postmodern consciousness with its solidarity for the oppressed and marginalized, its internalized guilt over the West’s legacy of imperialism, and a rebellion against materialism and selfishness. That the movement begins with a ritualized expression of outrage rather than a well-articulated list of demands is understandable; long have postmodern politics been impotent in American political discourse, relegated to the periphery in a two-party system with an iron clad grip on power.

View from an integral window on politics

Distinct in its vision of politics, the integral worldview understands that postmodernity follows modernity as part of a deep and complex spiral of development. The evolutionary view it shares with thinkers such as Fichte and Hegel and spiritual thinkers such as Tielhard de Chardin and Sri Aurobindo, though in the 21st century the most serious integral thinkers have shed the baggage of simple metaphysics in favor of a view that is arguably both “post-metaphysical” and “post-postmodern.”

Integral recognizes that postmodern political economics emerges from modern economics and is basically an elite, higher level of political consciousness. Postmodern politics is more evolved, more capable of embodying a spirit of justice and compassion, and more capable of taking appropriately worldcentric perspectives on important global problems. Both integral and postmodern political philosophies sense deeply that the days of ethnocentric social organization and independent nation-states is inadequate for coping with the complexities of today’s world.

Writing on Integral World, Joe Corbett, Ph.D., sketches an integral approach to critical theory:

Including justice as more distributive fairness and inclusion within the discourse of Integral Theory and its practice is something the postmodern (green) level of analysis has already provided. However, postmodernism is mostly about promoting the diversity of social relations generally, and is absent of any explicitly higher level of unity that a class analysis and critique of money and power gives us. Postmodern and post-structuralist analyses critique relations of domination, to be sure, but mostly from a multicultural perspective, and they provide no vision for a higher synthesis. In fact, they are premised on resisting any restoration of synthesis, much less a ‘higher’ synthesis, within the historical dialectic, as that would, by postmodern reckoning, be ‘totalitarian’.

In this way, Corbett suggests that postmodernity’s focus on justice is incorporated into the integral worldview, which alone can provide a “vision for a higher synthesis” which to the postmodern mind is rejected as “totalitarian.” The higher synthesis of which he speaks is made possible because of a sophisticated and nearly comprehensive map of human nature given by AQAL, the most prominent integral map.

Occupy Wall Street’s partiality could potentially be ineffectual or even dangerous

From the AQAL view, Occupy Wall Street can be described as arising out of values and behaviors in terms of particular coordinates: e.g., green altitude (a.k.a. postmodern) cultural values seen from a Lower-Left Hand quadrant angle. AQAL stands for All Quadrants and All Levels, meaning that the movement is optimally viewed from perspectives which include subjective and objective, individual and collective angles at all stages of the developmental spectrum.

The jargon and subtleties of integral philosophy are not so important as the big picture: integral tells us that Occupy Wall Street’s view of reality is important but partial, and if that partiality is not checked by a more expansive vision of human nature it can easily become ineffectual or even dangerous.

What is needed is not merely anger at Wall Street or demands for specific policy changes, but an expansive vision which tells us how remedying social injustices is connected to changing individual hearts and minds and the culture and social organization of a world economy.

Steve McIntosh, one of the leading figures in articulating an integral politics situated within a call for global governance, writes:

In solidarity with postmodernism, integral consciousness sees that in the long run, the ethnocentric politics of group selfishness are dead, that the future belongs to those who recognize that all lasting political progress is grounded in morality, and that everybody counts. The integral worldview thus recognizes that civic improvement ultimately depends on the further development of the ethic of fairness within human society and government—integral consciousness can see that the increasing morality of interpersonal relations is the foundation of all real political evolution.

Since its rise as a political force in the sixties, postmodernism has been influential in the politics of the developed world (achieving considerably more success in Europe than in the U.S.), but there are still many important ways in which its agenda is currently trumped by modernism. Yet from an integral perspective, this is evolutionarily appropriate. Postmodernism may stand for the future of worldcentric political mores, but its policies are not yet mature enough to take charge of the developed world. Integral consciousness can thus make political progress by helping to moderate and restrain postmodernism’s radicalism so that its important contributions can be better integrated into the politics of the developed world. Integral politics must therefore concentrate on the two areas where I believe postmodernism needs the most development: moderation of its often staunch anti-modern bias, and education regarding the “fragile ecology of markets.”

In other words, just as you would expect from any philosophy with a basically dialectical understanding of history, when the integral philosophy supersedes or overcomes postmodernism, it reemerges with a renewed appreciation for modernity, the previous wave in the spiral.

Thus, an integral politics appreciates the contribution of Wall Street to increasing wealth, improving opportunities for education, and lifting the standard of living of people throughout the world. Integral politics knows you can’t just burn down the banks. Integral is not anti-business.

Other points of solidarity and tension

Integral thought — which has influenced politicians of the Democratic center such as Bill Clinton (a fan of Ken Wilber’s writings) and Al Gore (another Wilber enthusiast) — is not a natural fit for extremism of the right or left. It tends to resonate more with Third Way politics, and some integralists laud Barack Obama’s leadership style as pretty integral in spirit.

What’s more, integralists such as myself are loathe to join in Occupy Wall Street group activism which would require consensus for making all decisions (we see that as an ideological commitment which absolutizes the value of including diverse views to the point of sacrificing other important values such as efficiency and valuing of expertise).

Still, I find myself in sound solidarity with Occupy Wall Street, even as I am concerned that the movement’s participants may not have a large enough view of their goals and effects. Why?

America has always suffered from wealth disparities, but in recent years the enormous gaps between haves and have-nots has grown horrifying. That such differences have not been achieved on merit and that they also exacerbate racial divisions adds to the gruesomeness.

Moreover, societal inequality foments tensions which are disruptive of social cohesion and could ultimately harm all sectors of society. A society in which the top one percent of the population dominates wealth and exercises exorbitant influence over the political system is called, to my way of thinking, a “dominator holarchy.” That’s a bad thing.

No one has done more in such a short period of time to highlight this pressing social injustice than the Occupy Wall Street activists and others who have begun to emulate their activism throughout the world.

They are not alone. Even Warren Buffett has had a valuable role in arguing for increased taxes on millionaires and billionaires. If the movement matures in more integral directions, it could have a lasting and revolutionary impact on American politics. And leave the know-nothing Tea Party behind in the dust.

Many on the left wing view the conflict with Wall Street through the prism of politics as war: “us” vs. “them.” However, a more integral approach calls us to bear in mind that there is a greater unity behind the differences, and we are all called to a higher purpose which is justice for all.

Integral morality advises non-violence but does not repudiate civil disobedience, even if it means choosing a higher law over the law of the land. That peaceful protesters seeking social justice are jailed while hedge fund managers who brought the world’s financial system to its knees receive multi-billion dollar bailouts and multi-million dollar bonuses outrages the conscience.

Finally, integral morality does not arise from resentment, feelings of jealousy, or animosity of any kind. It asks us to look at our individual shadows and acknowledge when our own antagonism towards the ultra-rich borders on its own sort of greed and will to power. Integral politics is based on love.

In future blog posts, I may explore in more detail the specific contributions of integral philosophy to the dialogue around redistributive justice in America and worldwide.

Thomas Hübl’s Vision Of Aligning Ourselves From The Source Within

Thomas Hubl

Thomas Hübl, a contemporary spiritual teacher based in Germany and Israel, has been traveling in the U.S. recently to give talks and workshops related to a new form of humanity which he calls “We culture.” Several resources providing glimpses of Hübl’s teachings are available online at his website and various videos on YouTube. There is also an online dialogue between Hübl and Terry Patten, one of the founders of Integral Spiritual Practice.

I’ve selected one short clip to give readers a small taste of of Hübl’s approach to spirituality, one which explains the way he looks at friction in evolutionary processes. He says, “Every time evolution can manifest itself it manifests itself without the friction. Every time there is a creative impulse, we are very connected to the source within.”

Transcript from “Natural Flow” (YouTube):

There are two things that we can say about friction. One friction is a very creative friction that pushes us to the limits, to the borders. It starts like if you take a diamond, the friction will clear the diamond. This is a very healthy friction. Also some of the conflicts can have a very healthy friction in them that allows us make a step in our life, that allows us to grow.

There is another kind of friction that feels more destructive than creative. It feels more stuck and this stuckness starts to accumulate more stuckness and more stuckness and more stuckness. The lives of the people don’t expend, they just don’t integrate a wider range of reality. It feels like a swamp that is getting heavier and heavier and heavier, which is also part of our experience. And at the same time, a clear seeing of the places that are the crystallization points of this heavy stuckness start to release energy. Through the release of this energy life can come into a flowering again.

So we need to discern where is the friction coming from. In this lovely metaphor that says if you put a hand in the river there is a natural movement to evolution. Every time evolution can manifest itself it manifests itself without the friction. Every time there is a creative impulse, we are very connected to the source within. Every time the creative impulse comes it expresses itself as an awake life, no friction.

In the moment we are living in the conditioning, in an automatic way of living our lives. It is not present, not aware every moment. This creative impulse happens, but it bumps against the addiction to this behavior, and then tension happens, and we feel this tension in our body-minds.

So when we are not living according to our own inner truth, according to our own authentic energy, then the creative impulse, for example, to express sexuality … if it bumps against a No to sexuality, then the body produces a lot of energy that cannot connect in a natural way, fulfill itself… and by the fulfillment there is a natural movement to it. It’s not a big thing, it’s not a small thing, it’s just what it is.

In the moment it cannot express itself, then energy will stay stuck and it will create tensions, muscle tensions, even diseases maybe, because the healthy impulse of life cannot express itself. Sexuality is just one example, but this happens on all levels of our life. Again, if you have an intuitive insight to not take the next corner but to continue three streets and then take the corner, we don’t follow this intuition, even if our mind says why this is the shorter way, we end up in a traffic jam.

By not listening to the deeper place within us, we start being more and more consumed by the noise of reality. So if the noise of reality is louder than our inner connection, then we live our life like a machine, like an automatic… We are driven by the past, thousands and thousands of years of human conditioning.

The more we align ourselves internally and we live our life from the Source within, less and less friction will happen, and evolution will take place within this eternal Now. There is development, there is innovation, evolution, and so the friction will get less by listening moment to moment to the freshness, to the originality of who we are.

On October 22-23, Thomas Hübl will be in Seattle at Seattle University’s Wyckoff Auditorium and Gallery. He will be presenting a workshop on “Sharing the Presence and a ‘New We.’: Evolutionary Ways of Creating Community, Society, Spirituality.”

Tickets are on sale now from Pacific Integral. Courtesy of Pacific Integral, I will be attending Hübl’s workshop in Seattle as a participant and member of the independent media, and will be writing at least one blog post about the experience.