There are many metaphors for spiritual development such as cultivating a garden, climbing a ladder, etc., but cooking is one of the least used and appreciated. Spiritual books and teachers can give us recipes, but we must still apply them and develop our unique take. It is possible to be “too” creative or eclectic in spiritual practice and thought; there are techniques and ingredients for spiritual growth that simply must not be thrown out without considerable risk of indigestion or even food poisoning. Most of all, spiritual realization is like a perfect dish: it won’t look or taste the same to everyone; one’s cultural traditions are going to influence the outcome; and yet there is a One Taste: a simple feeling of deliciousness (bow to Ken Wilber for the borrowed language). So cook up your realization. And cook naked some time, just because it’s fun.
By Joe Perez
It is suspicious that so often profound truths can simply be reversed to discover another supposedly profound truth. Proverbs often work well in their opposite.
A little learning is a wonderful thing. A little learning is a dangerous thing.
Absence from those we love is self from self, a deadly banishment. Absence makes the heart grow fonder.
Or take stillness. Stillness is where we encounter the Divine. Or Stillness is the denial of living. Our responses to this complexity may get stuck in paralysis, confusion, or a refusal of analysis.
But the most profound response may be to embrace paradox enfolded within a model or picture of human nature large enough to handle the complexity. When we are counseled by a proverb to embrace action, we can relate to this injunction as connected to the identification with the principle of Eros or Hetero-philia or self-transcendence in our map of human nature. And when we are told to embrace inaction, we know this is of a piece with Agape or Homo-philia or self-immanence. That which is supposed to be irreducible plurality or complexity is now viewed as merely irreducible pluralilty if seen from a particular perspective, and that perspective is enfolded into an embrace which integrates structures of organization within the chaos.
There is usually a way out of the paradox into clarity if one’s mental worldview is nimble enough. But I do worry when some folks talk about embracing paradox if they really mean to counsel an escape into an anarchic mind. Anarchy is best embraced in moderation.
And then he finally realized that his answer had to be “Every minute of the day, I’m either writing on paper or in my head.”
If you have had a thought in the past minute — or chosen to remain instead in a meditative state — you are authoring. And to author is to receive the song of the Universe, allow it to enter your breath and thought, owning it and releasing its power.
Authorship is the pure creative energy, the fullness of God in the most expansive sense of the word. It is an ethical impulse, but whereas the oughts of human life tend to end with a can’t or a won’t or wouldn’t, authoring is wetter, bathing in a depth of awesome creative energy which can alone satisfy the thirst of existence.
Photo by Photochiel
When I was 33 and 34, I wrote a spiritual chronicle that would later be hailed by a leading philosopher, psychological theorist, and mystic as “perhaps the most astonishing, brilliant, and courageous look at the interface between individual belief and cultural values that has been written in our times.” Was this praise a curse in disguise?
One of the most defining moments of my life happened to me in January 2005. Just released from King County Jail, where I stayed for a week while awaiting the results of a psychiatric examination, I proceeded to re-enter my life. Now with a bipolar disorder diagnosis to go along with AIDS, which at the time was a battle my immune system was badly losing. On a deep level, I felt that I was in the midst of my life’s greatest failure. I even feared my future as a writer was over.
In my manic episode, I did something uncharacteristically bold… insane, even. I mailed the nearly finished manuscript to a book called “Soulfully Gay” to the man who I regarded as the world’s greatest living philosopher, a recluse who exuded an aura of being impossible to contact. I was sure that my reckless deeds had burned a bridge that could never be repaired.
It was a rather odd manuscript, adorned with markings he later would call “crayon scribbles” (but which I regarded as the second downloading of an indescribable mystical sacred language of music, color, number, and Word.) In a whimsical moment, I sprinkled glitter into the FedEx envelope, which I marked “URGENT: FOR KEN WIILBER’S EYES ONLY.” To Ken, I imagine that he saw it as mainly a random act of a confused mind with vague hints of something more subtle. To me, it was an attempt to communicate, in code, a message about the infinite unique radiance of all things.
“Everything is precious,” I thought in that strange mental state. “Everything must be saved.”
I feared the manuscript was unpublishable, an inevitable flop that would probably never see the light of day. I was practicing apologies to Ken.
Ken Wilber’s reply was absolutely unbelievable to me. He knew something I didn’t.
“Do you know what you have here?” he asked.
I didn’t know what to say. Or at least I didn’t want to acknowledge that I really agreed that the book was extraordinary, for fear of seeming too arrogant. I knew it was a unique book that did nothing I’d ever seen before.
I had produced the world’s very first (that I know of) spiritual memoir written from an Integral level of consciousness which actually catches a key period of shift from fulcrum to fulcrum in the spectrum of consciousness, and makes it conscious to iteself as an evolutionary process. Something like THAT just had to be published. Sheerly as a case study in spiritual development, it was too important not to be published.
Modern or postmodern memoirs can be easily written as stories of self-discovery or self-destruction followed by the hope of self-discovery. There are many wonderful, beautiful, exquisite memoirs written from modern and postmodern perspectives. But to write a post-postmodern memoir, one isn’t deconstructing story explicitly, but starting with a self in rubble from many previous acts of deconstruction and following its evolution to a higher level of selfhood hidden amid the rubble, more whole and interconnected with a worldcentric and cosmocentric consciousness.
Except for the introduction, which just sets the stage, there is no explicit story in Soulfully Gay. The reader has to FIND the story, bringing to bear their own worldviews, including their own level of consciousness. The book is not a stew, but a collection of ingredients arranged in a way that will seem logical and amazing to some, bewildering and maddening to others. It contains my short writings over a 14-month period: blog posts, newspaper columns, and my private diaries, arranged in chronological order.
By assembling all these pieces in a particular way, making the selections and omissions that I did, I created the possibility that some readers will experience the book novelistically, a psycho-spiritual thriller with a cliffhanger ending (literally). I didn’t set out to produce a book of this kind. I discovered after the fact that I had already written a book of this kind without knowing it. I discovered this by being a seeker who was willing to find answers, wiling to re-write script of my life and what I took to be real, even if it caused upheaval. This was the only way, I knew, to show phenomenologically how consciousness actually evolves in the course of one person’s life. You can’t tell a story from a narrator very well. You have to take a journey into remembering your Self, and allow readers to discover You for the first time only after the journey’s end.
It seems narcissistic to be taking with enthusiasm about one’s own books, but permit me to go on. The thing about Soulfully Gay that got me most excited was not its literary inventiveness. What thrilled me was I had ventured an answer to the riddle of homosexuality and its role in the evolution of Spirit that nobody had dared to speak aloud, a dangerous realization to be spoken of mainly indirectly or even through misdirection.
Even the emergence of a “gay spirituality” movement could only reveal that this conception of Homophilia had precursors and glimmers and hints, but no one had ever ventured all the bold, radical claims of Soulfully Gay. Too often even the most highly realized and self-actualized gay authors realized only part of the truth about the role of gayness in The Great Scheme of Things, but they hadn’t actually assembled all the major possible perspectives into a synthesis, one which could itself be transcended only after it had been theoretically established. And postmodern writers in the gay spirituality movement really had no interest in such theorizing or synthesizing at all, which is a major reason their writings haven’t broken out into the mainstream of either the gay movement or broader culture.
Homophilia. Not the love of a person of the same sex for another, but a higher or deeper level. It’s the Love of the Same for Same, the perception of Self-Identity which is the precursor for the Self, the paradoxical intertwining of sameness and otherness at the root of existence. The secret of involution in an evolving world. Homophilia is the secret of spiritual esotericism: the secret for all secrets.
Homophilia. The hidden, scandalous essence of Christianity, an understanding of Divine Incarnation which is hidden in plain sight: even as the protagonist embarks upon a search for the meaning of same-sex love, the title of the book’s first chapter reveals the direction the book is heading: “God is Gay.” (The answer to the mysteries of gayness are not discovered merely through rational theorizing but also through the encounter with the repressions, the nightmares, and the unspeakable terrors of hiding one’s Supreme Identity, the bottomless depth of grief at the losing of True Love, and the “Coming Out” into One’s Supreme Identity… a journey that takes a whole book and only finds its surprising conclusion in the book’s last sentence.)
I am in the awkward situation of writing a Foreword to a book by a gay person. This is an awkward situation not because Joe Perez is gay, but because I have to point it out. I feel the same damn irritation as having to refer to, say, Edmund White as a “gay writer.” Nobody has to point out that I am heterosexual, although now I hear that I am not a heterosexual but a metrosexual, although, in fact, I have never had sex with a metro in my life. But I’m sure it is a wonderful experience.
Nevertheless, because I have to include that information—culture today demands it, from those both for and against homosexuals—then let me say this. Joe Perez’s book is perhaps the most astonishing, brilliant, and courageous look at the interface between individual belief and cultural values that has been written in our times. By a homosexual, or a heterosexual, or any other sexual I am aware of…
In the years since the book was published in 2007, I have probably had as many conversations about Ken Wilber’s Foreword as I have about the contents of the book itself, a fact that reflects my general sense that the book was missing its market. The publisher, Shambhala Publications (in partnership with the defunct Integral Books), marketed the book to Buddhists as a Christian gay man’s memoir of conquering a bunch of depressing life events, which led him to some bright ideas about homosexuality. This sales pitch didn’t exactly set the world on fire. I don’t know for sure why they buried Ken Wilber’s strongest sentence of endorsement on the back cover of the book and took it off their website; you can ask them.
In subsequent years, the book found its way into at least a handful of seminaries and theological programs, and sold well in the niche market of Gay and Lesbian Studies (which is a pretty small corner). But the book’s ideas weren’t greeted with all the fans who would have assured me that the work I was doing was as valuable and potentially world transformational as I knew it could be. I learned that even among the book’s supporters the key ideas such as the Two Directions of Love and the Cross at the Center of Everything were not being understood in the way that I hoped. If the book’s ideas were going to go mainstream, I would need to find a new language for expressing them…
Back in January 2005, when I finished writing most of the book, I was 34 years old. Maybe that’s too early in one’s life to have one’s spiritual memoir praised by the man who I regarded as a hero and the world’s greatest Big Picture thinker as being a work of “near-genius.” Without a doubt it was tremendous blessing. For for much of my life I have been embarrassed by praise and unconsciously deflect it, to my detriment. After I struggled with trying to write the next book and not finding it, were moments after 2005 when I pitied myself, identifying with child actors who peaked too early and could never really top their early success. Did Ken’s praise feed my arrogance shadow? Did it make me feel isolated because so few people understood me? I’m sure it must have.
But not as much as you might think. Ken says glowing, enthusiastic, wonderful things about many books that he feels are genuinely at the cutting edge of cultural evolution. I read the Foreword carefully and it honestly has always seemed to be that Ken is not primarily saying what he says as a statement about me, Joe Perez, but a statement about the book’s literary significance and about the situation of gay people in the world today.
It’s their/our lives that are being transformed into works of art. It’s their/our lives that are challenging conventional reality into a radical, evolution-spurring soul searching. It’s their/our beauty and dignity and courage in the face of prejudice and AIDS that he is praising, and he was in part using my book as a vehicle for sharing his views on the dignity of gayness. It was one of the first times he weighed in on the gay rights movement in a big way.
Nevertheless, I felt great expectations to follow up Soulfully Gay with something truly worthy of my highest potential, my most authentic nature, my highest spiritual realization. But no idea worked satisfactorily. I scrapped book draft after book draft, sometimes getting no further than the first chapter. I worked for years adding and adding to an epic poem, but eventually let it go. It wasn’t that good.
I blogged frequently during these years when my health permitted, especially experimental publications designed to allow me to test trial balloons to see what the world was ready for, and what I was capable of delivering. You never know until you try, gather feedback, and take it back to the drawing board.
Two years ago, I held a meeting in Seattle unveiling the Lingua-U White Paper, a blueprint for a genuinely original ogliosynthetic philosophical language of subtle energy, a linguistic construct that I became convinced would be a milestone towards a leap into the next step in the evolution of language. (Lingua-U is planned for release in 2015.) About a dozen people showed up, and I learned so much from their questions and reactions. I also learned that it’s incredibly hard to market a book like the one I wanted to finish. I decided the book was at least five years away from finding an audience.
Had I set expectations so high for myself that I could never fulfill them? Was Wilber’s praise — as I processed it, refracted through my own self-esteem issues and shadow structures — not only a blessing but also paradoxically curse in disguise?
The answer… in part 2 of this blog series… is that the praise inspired me to do something really special. Eventually I found a way to follow a book like Soulfully Gay in a way that is truly a Unique Gift bestowed from the heart of my Unique Self. As you will see in the months ahead, the story of the human being’s discovery of his divinity told by Soulfully Gay is now ready to be met by the story of the divinity’s discovery of its own humanity, an epic tale that ultimately is going to take a total of eight planned books to tell, culminating ultimately in Kalen O’Tolan, Vol. I: Rise of the Great Oracle and two additional volumes in an epic poetic trilogy.
If you know of the conception of Homophilia/Heterophilia in Soulfully Gay, you will see the clear parallel to my journey in one of my favorite ways of talking about my teaching on Love:
Heterophilia is humanity discovering its divinity; Homophilia is the divine discovering its own humanity.
These reflections will be continued in Part 2.
By Joe Perez
Unique Self is the understanding that you are at the level of essence – not merely at the level of social, psychological, and cultural conditioning – you are ultimately unique, you are an infinitely unique expression of All-That-Is, an expression that never was, is, or will be ever again. That uniqueness of essence is your Unique Self.
The video continues with exposition highlighting the role of evolution in creating uniqueness, and then it shifts to take the Integral perspective that everything arises at “all quadrants” (or alternatively in 1st, 2nd, and 3rd person perspectives). Gafni’s shorthand is to say that “uniqueness lives at the biological, social, cultural, and psychological levels” — essentially Ken Wilber’s quadrants in AQAL.
And then with “it’s your unique perspective on your enlightenment,” we see the key conceptual move central to the whole construct: Unique Self IS “enlightenment” in all four quadrants. So by definition it is the source of illumination, wisdom, and identification with the All, the central qualities associated with “enlightenment” as seen from an individual perspective. So the reason that we are calling Unique Self the “Next Chapter of Integral” is that it develops a practical, useful, new construct on top of the AQAL Integral Framework (one which has the support of Ken Wilber, the chief developer of AQAL, a salient fact).
Gafni’s video continues to discuss the epistemology of Unique Self, or the question of how it is that any of us know we are a Unique Self. He says that is a perception of the “Eye of the Spirit,” a claim not likely to be persuasive if you don’t already recognize this capacity owing to your study of Integral Spirituality. Nevertheless, the concept is fairly simple. There are different types of knowing, a claim not yet fully recognized by mainstream secular scientism, which takes an alternative view of knowledge as “flatland,” dismissing any knowledge except facts which are accessible to the senses or extensions of the senses through scientific means. If you agree, you likely need to further exploration. If you are skeptical, then I would point you to Wilber’s The Marriage of Sense and Soul: Integrating Science and Religion as a good place to engage the topic deeper.
If you’re reading this, chances are good that you have an inherent recognition of something you possess that you can call the “Eye of Spirit,” a faculty accessible in causal states of consciousness, sometimes called The Witness or mindfulness. The Unique Self actually IS this Eye of Spirit, to the extent that it reveals itself in YOUR experience, from your unique point-of-view. There’s another name for this Unique Self: in Gafni’s terminology, “Ultimately your Unique Self is God having a YOU experience.” Again, whether or not this is a useful claim depends on your relationship to the word “God.”
Does this word point you in the direction of your enlightenment, or do you feel it is something you have had to get over in order to develop spiritually? If it’s the latter case, Gafni says elsewhere (in Your Unique Self: The Radical Path to Personal Enlightenment) that “the God you do not believe in doesn’t exist.” In other words, he is expecting you to move beyond whatever it is that led you to reject God and to attach “God” to your ultimate concern, which is enlightenment. Integral Theory has also made a similar move in recent years, in no small part owing to Gafni’s influence on the movement, with its view that God is another way of talking about Spirit in 1st, 2nd, and 3rd-person perspectives (basically the “I AM” of God, the God as “Thou,” and God as “Great Spirit” views).
And so with these words Gafni introduces the reader to Unique Self and invites them to proceed further into the dialogue series (a total of about 20 videos). What the introduction lacks in academic footnotes which would help to clarify the terminology he uses, it gains in simplicitly and inspiration. Marc doesn’t merely want to describe the Unique Self Theory or explicate a concept; he wants to invite you into a new way of being human. A dharma talk such as this is a very good vehicle for Marc’s unique gifts as a teacher.
The methodology of transmission is implied by the postmodern nature of the teaching itself, tied up as it is in the notion of a radical multiplicity of worldviews and perspectives. There is no totally objective standard when it comes to talking about anything, and part of living in our world today is recognizing how we are situated in particular contexts. Gafni doesn’t seem to be fond of calling Unique Self a “theory,” but I think it’s inevitable that students of this Next Chapter of Integral must use phrases like “Unique Self Theory” or the “Unique Self Construct.” Unique Self is a flexible idea that can be made relevant everywhere, including scientific and methodological discourse which is included within Integral philosophy.
That Unique Self teaching is possible at all today in our postmodern situation is a sign that we are collectively leaving its dark forest. The dimness is retreating, the paths in the woods are growing straighter and the brush underfoot is thinning. Our world is waking up to True Self on the other side of the philosophy of the deconstructed self, and whatever step forward we take together in talking about enlightenment in this context is going to have to look something like this. Gafni’s just the one who, as it happened, got there well ahead of many of us, and is trailblazing a path towards its emergence.
Photo: Patrick Hoesly
By Joe Perez
Every so often I address a column or blog post to my lesbian, bisexual, and gay readers. This one’s for you. And, because your journey is my journey, and ultimately there is only One True Self – this column is really for everybody.
Whereas mainstream pundits and public intellectuals in the U.S. are focused on the next election, and many other folks are focused on the next Saturday night, there is a wider and deeper perspective. Looking as wide as this moment in over 2,000 years of socio-cultural evolution since the beginning of the Common Era, and looking as deep as this moment arising when the cutting edge of individual consciousness is a postmodern mindset, and even this edge has become dull and dismal.
It is an odd time to be gay or bisexual. For American men of my generation – past 40 – our lives have been crises of meaning and meaninglessness. We were born into a world in which the reigning moral, religious, and spiritual authorities condemned how we love and would have forced us into closets, castration, or so-called reparative therapy, We could read the mystics and enlightened sages of centuries past and with only a few exceptions could find no evidence that affirming the spiritual dignity of same-sex love was meriting even a moment’s thought. And we did, and by unprecedented numbers gays, lesbians, and bisexuals rejected organized religion and set out upon paths of individual spiritual seeking. They found their ways into Zen monasteries, radical faerie gatherings, drumming circles, hot yoga classes, and not a few very, very, very liberal churches and synagogues (places where they worried about marginalizing atheists and making sure language was neutered of any hint of white heterosexual patriarchy).
Read the whole article.
On October 8, I will resume my duties as the Executive Editor of the Spirit’s Next Move weblog at Center for World Spirituality. In this role, I have the great fortune to be collaborating with Marc Gafni, Ken Wilber, Sally Kempton, Mariana Caplan, Vidyuddeva, and many other contributors to the weblog. My blog posts here at Awake, Alive & Aware (joe-perez.com) will be minimal.
Marc Gafni, Director and Scholar-in-Residence of the Center for World Spirituality, will helm the publication as Editor-in-Chief. His dynamic and enthusiastic style, married with the heart of a lover, the mind of a scholar, and the spirit of a mystic, will provide constant leadership. Our aim is to present a daily glimpse into the workings of spirit in the world’s evolution today. We are not merely linking to information, but linking the context of contemporary thought and news to the perspectives emerging from today’s Integral World Spirituality movement. One of our first features is an extended series of recorded dialogues between Marc Gafni and Ken Wilber on the Next Chapter of Integral Spirituality. Don’t miss it!
And so in the months ahead, I anticipate posting less frequently on Awake, Alive & Aware. Instead I’ll be focusing again on Spirit’s Next Move as well as daily postings to Facebook and Twitter. Additionally, sometime soon I will be launching my first e-mail newsletter — tentatively entitled Awaking into YOU!.
In today’s world of information overload and daily status updates, why start another newsletter? Basically because after nearly five years of not publishing books (while I developed my Lingua-U of subtle energy, theory of poetics, and poetry), I’ve lost touch with many of you. I’m entering a new phase of my writing career and will soon start to publish the first book of a series of at least 10 books over the next decade. This “New Chapter of Joe Perez” means it’s more important than ever that I’ll be traveling and generally publishing more often and in more places than ever before. I would appreciate the chance to be able to keep in touch to let you know what’s happening. Sign up for my newsletter at the top right box on the joe-perez.com homepage.
We live in a world in which at least 15 million children die of hunger every year, we face a global climate and energy crisis, human rights are in tatters in many dozens of countries, and we must combat other increasingly dire worldcentric challenges with what fragmented and selfish consciousness is to be found in tribalistic and ethnocentric cultures too often distorted by fundamentalism in both religious and secular flavors. Our time demands action. Action demands having the self-knowledge of firstly recognizing our interdependence on each other, and secondly seeing our collective interdependence on the forces of evolution. We require the faith to believe that the evolutionary impulse is in fact God, the Spirit of Love alive in our midst, until such faith finds a home in the knowledge of Self as All-That-Is. In other words, until we attain the True Self realization taught by Eastern masters for thousands of years and the Unique Self realization taught by hidden (esoteric) Hebrew, Christian, and Islamic mystics for centuries.
Today the Center for World Spirituality is providing thought leadership and community building in order to bring these two enlightenment traditions together, East and West, under the label of World Spirituality based on Integral principles. The labels aren’t so important in the end. Building hope is important. Transmitting Self-knowledge is important. Creating bold solutions together is important. Make room for We-space to emerge, letting the Unique We evolve us as one despite all the forces of chaos and malice that pull us apart. We are doing our work with the help of literally thousands of people from every continent on Earth, with special hubs in San Francisco, New York, and the Netherlands. I know that if you follow the bloggers I’ll be featuring on the Spirit’s Next Move blog, you will be as impressed as I am with the depth, distinction, and delightful-ness of the writing.
In conclusion, whether you are a longtime reader or just discovering my blogs and poetry, your readership is valued. You know where to find me in the months ahead: Spirit’s Next Move, Joe Perez on Facebook, and @JoePerezLive. I’ll be right here.
Love & Light,
P.S.: Thanks for the wonderful feedback on my recent excerpts from The English Kabbalah: Poems at the Edge of Language, a book of poetry that will see publication next year. How encouraging it is to see signs which in my mind confirm that poetry can yet be a powerful medium of mystical expression, transmission, and transformation in our time. You can expect to see even more excerpts from the book in 2013.
Enlightenment is not evolution beyond ego, but evolution beyond the EXCLUSIVE IDENTIFICATION with ego. And by “enlightenment,” I mean the process of identifying with All-That-Is, the Absolute Reality that calls to us and obligates us to be one with — in all dimensions, states and stages*
When we are ready to say, “I AM ___” and fill in the blank with something outside of our comfort zone, then we are evolving.
No wonder that the great liberation movements of modernity and post-modernity — anti-slavery, anti-colonial, feminism, gay liberation, and so on — are stepping stones towards enlightenment. They strip our individual and collective egos of exclusive identification with that which is dominant.
And having won a measure of success, there is the danger of identifying exclusively with that which was once repressed or oppressed.
In attempting to consciously evolve beyond exclusive identification with ego, it’s understandable that we seek out new attachments: more embracing and inclusive philosophies (such as Integral theory) or spiritual paths (such as an evolutionary or world spirituality). While there’s always the risk of re-identifying our ego with such attachments, it is also possible to enjoy new philosophies and spiritual movements which feed not the ego, but the Self beyond ego.
Identification such such philosophies and spiritual paths strengthens the Unique Self, so that every time you go deeper you are solidfying your identification with the Self and weakening your identification with ego.
* In other words, AQAL: All Quadrants (individual and collective dimensions, interior and exterior aspects), All Levels, All Lines, All States, All Types. See the work of Ken Wilber and others.
Photo Credit: Peter Cartwright
“We’re all just walking each other home.” — Ram Dass
For Ram Dass, the story of the spiritual journey as a walk home among friendly people is an important one.
It’s a story that resonates with me more since I turned 40 than earlier in my life, when I would have been more likely to say, “We’re all choosing our own adventure.”
Journey from the Source to the Unknown Self — the great adventure of Life — is also an important story, no disrespect intended to Ram Dass.
The return journey from the Unknown Self to the Source — homeward-bound — is equally important.
These are also what I call the Two Prime Directions of Love, the outward, other-directed drive of Eros, and the inward, same-directed drive of Agape.
My own story about the spiritual life is it’s hard to make universalizing statements about life such as “We’re all just walking each other home.” We are both coming and going, giving and receiving, reaching outward and falling back. We are generally caught in time, and yet we also can recognize a timelessness to existence.
We’re all just walking each other home?
We’re certainly telling stories to each other about what it means to be a human being and have a life worth living. We are also certainly examining those stories in relationship to one another, you listening to me, I listening to you. And it’s in the telling and re-telling of useful, memorable, and true stories that we find ourselves — stories as paradoxically unique and as universal we all are.
Photo Credit: moriza
There’s a recently redesigned and expanded Starbucks Coffee within walking distance from my home in Seattle. I used to go in there quite a bit, but gradually the place has become so busy and noisy that it’s impossible to find a good seat (sometimes it’s even been standing room only), so I’ve found alternatives.
I wouldn’t go so far as to say the Starbucks was ever a “home away from home,” but it was the spot where I first attended a Seattle Integral meet-up, and where I met many business clients for a while. Now I’ve come across an article in Forbes claiming that Starbucks may be making their coffee shops intentionally a bit uncomfortable so that they drive away people who linger too long in one spot and bump up the customer churn rate.
A Starbucks company spokesperson isn’t exactly denying the claim, so it looks like there’s some truth to it. And it ought not surprise anyone. Starbucks is a publicly held company with an obligation to increase profits. But what does it say about Starbucks customers — which is just about everyone in Seattle and hundreds of millions of people throughout the world — that it matters so much to us?
Alice Walton, writing in Forbes:
The new “let’s make it slightly uncomfortable” model has a larger effect on the psyches of the customers – those who come to work or to play – than we might think at first. This is because the coffee house plays the central role of “Third Place” in our lives – home being the first and work being the second – and Starbucks has always been vocal about its desire to be this third place for its customer. What’s interesting is that humans actually really need this place, and we’ve needed if for practically our whole existence, according to some.