Today I saw an excerpt from a book by a philosopher who writes:

I owe more to [Ken] Wilber than I perhaps give him credit for in this book. However, being a metamodern thinker who believes more in ideas under development than in individuals, I do not feel I owe anything to any of my inspirations. As I have said, metamodernism is idealistic piracy.

(I won’t cite the source just now, for multiple reasons including a sense of irony, but it won’t be hard for anyone to figure it out from context with a bit of research if it’s not obvious to them.)

Let’s talk a bit about giving credit to a movement visionary versus idealistic piracy. It probably won’t surprise you that I think there’s an alternative — a higher center — between slavish recitation of lineage and idea piracy.

We are all cultural appropriators. All writers and artists and philosophers are all borrowing or thieving or taking from those who came before. The notion that writers are idea pirates is not a particularly original notion. Steve Jobs said, “Good artists copy; great artists steal.” (He might have got that from Pablo Picasso.)

But cultural artifacts — the work of artists, scientists, writers, painters, and even high-tech industrialists — can be misappropriated. There are skillful and less skillful ways to appropriate. There are ethical and less ethical ways to appropriate. Much depends on context including legal realities, professional mores both written and unwritten, good manners, and ethics of right relationship v. exploitation.

So I find myself a bit suspicious when someone who leans very heavily on one source in particular seeks to obscure that relationship from the public eye, making it more difficult for those who come after him to trace the similarities and differences. At the same time, I would acknowledge that there are times when it’s not necessary to give credit and even times when it can be useful to put a mask over one’s influences in order to reach out to an audience that isn’t ready to absorb the information at that level of detail.

Let’s put the topic in a wider context. The philosopher who I quoted seems to be writing a bit as a disembodied thinker, perhaps secluded high in the mountains somewhere, one can imagine. But integralism isn’t, or shouldn’t be, the creation of intellectual artifacts of isolated individuals. It’s a movement that requires a collective sense of responsibility and accountability for acting in ways that support each other to the extent possible. We ought to have a coast guard ethic (maintaining a well-regulated organizational culture), not a pirate ethic (projecting community as a sum of competing individual ambitions).

What do I mean by “the integral movement”? I would say that it’s a set of loosely affiliated or unaffiliated persons who perceive a great shift in our time towards the need for systemic, complex, developmentally-aware, and globally-reaching collaborations in order to address our individual evolution and collective growth in service to a loving and compassionate response to all sentient beings.

Therefore, I would avoid any blanket proclamations about integral thought or metamodernism or evolutionary spirituality as being essentially about idea piracy. We are real people here, almost to a one of us, not sock puppets or avatars. Our creative output is an expression of real “blood, sweat, and tears”, just as the creative output of our forerunners and lineage holders was also an intensely invested experience.  We need to be careful in how we appropriate others, so as not to misappropriate; in turn, we deserve the same.

Ideally, it’s about having the wisdom and discernment in a myriad of contexts to cite credit appropriately where due but not when it isn’t appropriate. Maturity of “Integral” judgment is often simply a matter of claiming the capacity to do the appropriate thing in the appropriate way in order to produce a quality outcome.

Here’s a meme to help you remember my last point. Feel free to pass it along, naturally.

Meme by Joe Perez. Photo Credit: Wayhome Studio/BigStock.com

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