Mark Feenstra: It’s time for Integral to start “showing up”


On the Integral Global forum, Mark Feenstra writes:

What is broken in the integral worldspace

This is hard to say and so I hope I can get it out without fucking it up too much.

In the lower left there is a maladaptive version of normal which dominates meaning making on a global level. A researcher who sent people out around the world to interview people about how they live called it dollar street.

The results of her research indicated that the similarities and differences between how we live in different cultures are driven by our income levels much more than our cultural values. These days, we all live on dollar street. This is normal.

We can be at various stages of development both individually and collectively in our local culture in our relationship with living in dollar street, including well into second tier, but the normal from which we are orientIng, no matter how “grown up” we happen to be, is still homeostatically orientIng from dollar street.

I’m not going to attempt to define what is maladaptive about this dollar street worldview beyond noting that our planet is unable to fund our present planetary life style, at our current population level, which is driven by dollar street values, and the desire to get to or remain at the wealthier end of this street. As a result of our denial of this reality we are using up various planetary reserves and non-human planetary citizens in ways that screw future generations.

I want to note in passing though, that while there is clearly a spectrum of commitment to the central core of what makes dollar street essentially maladaptive, that every culture lives on this street. I say this because I observe a tendency to adopt the assumption that the most maladaptive end of dollar street is the problem, and that if only we could move normal towards the less maladaptive end of the street all would be, if not well, then well enough. I think this is crap. This perspective only can arise in an environment of fortunate privilege which is simply not an option for nearly everyone, as too many planets worth of support services are required.

There is also a popular assumption among the growing up crowd that all we need to is support everyone to do their work, their developmental work that is, and all will be well. Or as well as it can be.

But this does not account for the reality that dollar street operates up and down the spiral, as every civilizational worldview does, and that until we address this reality we are condemned to act it out. Acting it out from a higher loop of the spiral does not lead to voluntary simplicity for example, or perhaps all might be well.

Then we have the upper left, where the norms of dollar street play out in our supposedly private individual subjective experience.

Only of course because we operate our of dollar street culturally, socially and behaviorally, our own subconscious and unconscious are not only programmed to orient from this framing set of assumptions, but even our efforts to get free of it are largely futile to the extent that we approach this task as a private and personal matter, given the extent to which our place on dollar street is subject to adherence to its norms, and that its setting loose of capitalism and corporations as meta-actors and enforcers of its norms have led us into a world well beyond Orwellian dystopia’s where what now passes for human development integrates these maladaptive norms, leaving them essentially intact in us, no matter what efforts we make as private individuals trying to clean up our subjective space.

In particular the disease of dollar street leads us in our subjective experience to seek to heal our own dysfunction, which actually derives from coercively imposed and self-organizing ongoing and evolving cultural and social norms, as a personal task. We should take responsibility for our own dysfunction. After all, if we are not responsible for it then who is?

But this picture, because it is not situated in an integrative enough worldspace, ignores not just a four quadrant reality, but also the implications of the difference between a healthy or adaptive worldspace versus an unhealthy or maladaptive worldspace.

As far as I can tell this failure to acknowledge the maladaptiveness of our civilization and its worldview, and the enormity of the developmental challenge this creates for every human being who would become well, in the sense of being free to develop more or less sanely, is a disaster of epic dimensions.

On the lower left we operate in the context of a world civilization and global ecosystem with extraordinary diversity in surface features which tend to distract us from basic underlying realities.

For example the task of either holding or arriving at the place we believe we ought to, or desire to occupy, on dollar street, which of course is set in motion by our taking for granted whatever our particular relationship with the context of dollar street happens to be, provides a sense of the distinctness with which we can feel about how differently we see things relative to others.

And if we do decide that these maladaptive norms and the systemic behaviors that embody them, are so unhealthy in some respect that we simply have to find a way to shift them, beyond merely grumbling, we simply cannot see how deeply our own perspective taking, as it arises from subconscious and unconscious norms and collectively sanctioned behaviors is framing what we are seeing of how things really are and what needs to change from within enough of the inherent assumptions of dollar street that there is virtually no chance of any real change to the system as a whole.

Particularly given that the system itself is held in place and unfolds in ways the are governed by actors and meta actors who are simply not amenable to forms of evolution outside their maladaptive operating assumptions.

Once the systems become self-organizing and adaptive based on maladaptive norms, the power of individual actors to enable systemic change without other factors coming into play is so attenuated as to be irrelevant.

Hence the potential value of feedback loops that disrupt normal and trigger collapse of the present civilization.

Then to the upper right quadrant. Our individual doings.

Clearly the larger society, ecosystem and culture we are enmeshed in is constantly triggering reactions in us as individuals that indicate how to align with their norms.

Clearly it is possible, to some extent, for us to collaborate in becoming aware of how this process is unfolding and, with enough skillful practice, to become normally able to experience how this process is unfolding in is and others without acting it out.

But this simply shifts the burden of our suffering from denying the maladaptiveness of our way of living to experiencing it, and in particular experiencing our inability to live, as private individuals, in ways that express a more truly healthy integrative worldspace, without a committed integrative collaborative that can help a viable number of us cultivate and reinforce the emergence of a new self-sustaining healthy integrative worldspace we can actually live out of from moment to moment, within the context of the maladaptive maneuvering and coercion of dollar street.

The concept of waking up, cleaning up and growing up seem to me to indicate the tasks associated with this possibility. But not until we add in the necessity for understanding the maladaptive nature of the larger context within which this task is being undertaken can we open the possibility of moving beyond inadvertently aiming to become evolutionary agents of the maladaptiveness of our present normal.

I think of this as showing up.

To add showing up into the mix it seems to me necessary to construct new types of integrative developmental holons that accept the overall maladaptiveness of our inner and outer worldspace as a starting point, so that we undertake the work of engaging in integrative development in ways that accommodate the need for an additional set of considerations to be designed into our developmental work in order to wake up to not only the nature of reality itself, but also the reality of the maladaptive worldspace we are operating in and the ways we ourselves as individuals and collectives are enacting this worldspace from moment to moment.

The absence of this dimension of the conversation and developmental agenda in the integral community, along with the tendency to discourage integrative map making and enquiry, leave me feeling that it is largely missing the need it might otherwise have the potential to help address.

I don’t feel like I got over the line in terms of not fucking this up, but am hoping enough of the signal got through that the noise didn’t destroy what I was trying to say altogether.

Thanks for bearing with me.”

End of quote. Reprinted by permission.

Beautifully put. Although I would not diagnose the Integral community’s issue with “showing up” in quite the same way, part of the beauty of being part of an intellectual and spiritual movement like Integral is that people are all adding their unique perspectives — merged with their embodiment of Atman, Universal Self — into a dance or jiu jitsu with other smart and dedicated people.

Does Integral not fully appreciate the “maladaptive nature” of the world’s current socio-political and ecological situation? I suppose my answer would have to depend on the answer to the question: Who is the Integral movement/community? After all, Mark’s a part of it, as are many fine individuals who are writing passionately on these topics. As an integralist, one can’t point the finger at “Integral” without casting a finger-shadow on one’s self as well.

Perhaps more people than I do still think of “Integral” as Ken Wilber, his writings, and the official publications of Integral Life? Is that who Mark and others mean when they accuse “Integral” of not denouncing capitalism with the vehemence of a Marxist theorist? Well, I’ll let them speak for themselves on this subject. As for myself, I will be discussing this topic next month when the dates of The Kalendar turn beyond Systemic-Mind (Green/Teal) with its obsession with the dynamics of systems into the Global-Mind (Turquoise) in which the understanding of system itself is revised in ways that we ought to pay attention to.

Until then, let me just say that everyone in the integral community could probably benefit by asking themselves, “How much evolution do I need personally in order to best bring my unique gifts into the world, with the most healthful impact, for the most sentient beings?” And then live according to that wisdom. Some integralists are not yet “at” Systemic-Mind and they cannot devote themselves to solving problems that they do not see or believe in, simply on faith. And some integralists are “at” levels beyond Systemic-Mind where, for instance, they may say with Steve McIntosh, that perhaps our greatest activism is to build the Integral worldview itself. Without grooves cut in the kosmic consciousness that allow a critical mass of people to perceive systemic, meta-systemic, and trans-systemic issues with clarity, we are all lost.

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