What Does the World Most Need Now?

Note: The following post was originally published on Joe-Perez.com on February 5, 2012.

Some say the world needs more peace and others say the world needs less complacency.

Some say the world needs fewer carbon emissions and others say the world needs more jobs.

Some say the world needs less hunger and poverty and others say the world needs more gratitude.

Some say the world needs a cure for terrible diseases and others say all disease is in the mind.

Some say the world needs equal rights for women, racial, ethnic, and sexual minorities…and others say the world needs to recover a social order from ages past.

Some say the world needs more conservative solutions to problems, and definitely more individual liberty. But others say the world needs more progressive solutions to problems, and definitely more cooperation.

Some say the world needs people to feel more and get “out of our heads.” But others say the world needs people to be smarter, more rational, and moved less by irrational feelings.

Some say the world needs nothing: that it is perfect just the way it is.

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Truth from a World Spirituality Perspective

Note: The following post was originally published on February 2, 2012, on Joe-Perez.com.

I’m fortunate to have had the opportunity to have had a good education in philosophy, theology, comparative religion, psychology and sociology of religion, and so on. This has given me the chance to see how the brightest minds, past and present, have addressed the fundamental question in philosophy: ”How am I to live?”

Those smart people haven’t always agreed. In fact, the study of these subjects in college is pretty much an exercise in learning the different schools of thought and how to argue one side against another. In ethics, there are consequentialists and Kantians. In psychoanalysis, there are Freudians and Jungians. And then there are about a million different views of religion.

It wasn’t really until over a decade after I finished my formal study of religion that I encountered the work of the philosopher, psychological theorist, and mystic Ken Wilber. His work was remarkably different because he didn’t care less how exactly one thinker disagreed with another thinker. He was only really interested in what they had in common. How were they looking at the world in such a way that he could understand that in a way they weren’t really disagreeing? He saw that they were only talking past each other, comparing apples to oranges.

For Ken Wilber, there really is something that you might as well call Truth with a capital “T,” to distinguish it from all of the various perspectives that people have about truth. He doesn’t think we ever really are able to talk about Truth or grasp it intellectually without diminishing it to truth with the lower-case “t.” There is Truth. And then there are perspectives on Truth. And we are always, everywhere, taking a perspective.

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Language as a Frisbee

Note: The following item was originally published on Joe-Perez.com on January 23, 2012.

Sometimes I wonder why I (more than occasionally) read Language Log. In a lengthy post ostensibly on the word “draft,” Mark Liberman offers a memorable simile for people who like etymology.

He writes:

[H]umans who love to explore etymology are like dogs avidly smelling the crap that other dogs have rubbed into their fur.

By way of explanation, he quotes Tom Davis’s book Why Dogs Do That:

There are couple of theories, by no means mutually exclusive, that explain why dogs take such obvious and unabashed delight in rolling in stuff that makes us gag: excrement, carrion (the older and fouler, the better), anything and everything that is rotten, putrid and deliquescent. And they don’t just roll in it; wriggling joyfully on their backs, they do their damnedest to smear it around and rub it in. The specific hypothesis suggest that dogs roll in stinky stuff to mask their own scent, and thus gain an edge over prey species […] (Contemporary human deer hunters do much the same thing when dousing their clothing with various bottled scents.)

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The Future of Art and Integral

Originally posted on Joe-Perez.com on May 2, 2012.

Last month, I engaged in dialogue with Stuart Davis, a contemporary American musician, actor, and stand-up comic. With over 10 full-length music albums to his credit, including the brand new Music for Mortals, Davis has bravely brought depth and spirituality into popular culture — including the topics of God, sex and death — crafting them into lyrical and memorable pop songs. The following post contains an excerpt from the whole interview.

Joe Perez: As an introduction to this interview, let me say that I did a board retreat for the Center for World Spirituality last month [February] and met a couple of dozen of people contributing to World Spirituality in different fields working in this area that nobody even knows about. The more I am exposed to that, I think, there really seems to be something bubbling up in the world right now. And then there is the article by Terri [Patten] and Marco [Morelli], “Occupy  Integral!” that people are talking about… Did you read that?

Stuart Davis: I think I did read that, a couple weeks ago.

Joe: Their basic idea being that there is something about Integral that hasn’t completely entered the cultural consciousness yet, and so there’s a discussion around what needs to happen, where are we at, what is this moment, and how can we best rise to the potential of the moment. What’s your take on all that, Stuart?

Stuart: I couldn’t agree more for starters. To go back to the initial, for me when this first started, the passion about integral entering the public consciousness at large, however you want to frame that, let’s say crossing over the threshold into something that’s bigger than our own private club, whatever that means in different domains. When I first encountered Integral, I encountered something that many people probably do, and I didn’t realize what it was. But when you get that initial hit of Integral and you begin to crackle alive in that regard, you have this sense, almost tactile, not just an idea or a promise, but you can feel it in your gut. And that promise is Integral taking its place and inhabiting its portion of the body of humanity, growing, being a truly emergent, novel dimension coming to life. And we all sense that.

And what I think has been interesting to navigate and process is that when I first felt that, I felt it was just a few years away. I felt it was just a few years away. It was 1998. When I first read Sex, Ecology, and Spirituality and first met Ken [Wilber]. I just had this certitude that it was pregnant, that we were giving birth, and it felt to me that the baby was crowning. Right, so I began, much in the fashion that people who think the apocalypse is coming, and that’s been going on for centuries, I began to prepare and anticipate and behave and conduct myself as though that promise was emergent and it wouldn’t be long, it would be just a few years, that you could turn on the NBC, or feel it coming from the White House, that it was going to enter into every domain.

I was really intoxicated for many years, and I was really wrong about a lot of timelines. I’ve felt the same certitude that I felt back then. It’s either inevitable because we’re talking about human development here. Either this is coming down the pipeline… or there won’t be humans around. Because we’ve never seen humans not develop. But on the other hand I will fully admit that I was really wrong about the timeline, what it was going to take, and specifically in the realm I can speak most precisely from, which is entertainment, because where I work is movies and film, television and books. I felt an immediacy that has turned out to be much more difficult. This inevitable process occurring I way underestimated in the people that I work with. I would say the way that I feel about it is that: Yes, I read that article and I have felt ever since day one that it’s occurring and I would qualify it by saying I’ve also been wrong about the timeline and how hard it would be. “Hard” in quotes. It’s a beautiful difficulty. It’s tough.

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Right Intentions

“The WE spirituality ethos recognizes that that which was out there is also in here. Tribalism, totalitarianism, militarism, democratic capitalism, and global interdependency—these structures are pillars of our world that mirror the pillars of our psychic interior. Totems, magic, myth, fundamentalism, skepticism, relativism, and integralism—these structures are mirrors of our interior self in all its phases of development.  The spirit of evolution demands recognition of these currents of unfolding unity that are coming into being. But the obstacles are formidable for the self is deeply attached to its habits and defends itself against change. Your good intentions must give way to the right intentions that never occurred to you.” – Joe Perez