Many common misunderstandings are the result of clashes between different personality types (Mars and Venus, Aries and Cancer, etc.) Other misunderstandings are the result of clashes of psychological structure, level, or stage. Here’s a quote from Ken Wilber on these latter sorts of misunderstandings (from Excerpt D from the Kosmos trilogy):
Me and my blue interiors belong to the local Lion’s Club; you and your yellow interiors belong to the local Integral Institute. We have already seen that this means that you and I share interior culture up to the level of blue; and thus we can converse within a meaningful “we” up to the blue level of discourse, because the signs and tokens that we exchange will have similar-enough referents up to the blue worldspace (and thus we will share a cultural solidarity up to that point). But greenand yellow symbols, words, and signs will be “all Greek” to me; their referents are literally over my head, and therefore although I can hear their signifiers they have no real meaning for me. I am inside no “we” such that my intersections are internal to the patterns of those phenomenological spaces. I literally cannot see what you are talking about. Your yellow values include a worldcentric or global ecological consciousness; my blue values do not. We live in the same ecosystem, but only one of us has ecological awareness….
Me and my blue interior can read the book Spiral Dynamics, and I can memorize the descriptions and definitions of all the major structures and vMemes. I can memorize the words and signifiers that define beige, purple, red, blue, orange, green, yellow, and turquoise. If you ask me to describe turquoise, I might be able to do so perfectly. Does that mean that I am at the turquoise level or structure of development? Not at all. “Structures,” as we were saying, are third-person descriptions (in “it” language) of first-person realities, and therefore I can memorize the descriptions without actually being acquainted with those realities. I have access to these “its” by description, but I only have access to the corresponding “I” realities if I myself transform to those levels, stages, or structures and thus know those realities by acquaintance.
As I wrote in “I blog, therefore I lie,”I have defined the intended audience of this blog in a way to minimize disruptions from cross-meme misunderstandings.
So when a conservative religionist, say, Danielle, tells me that she thinks I’m going to hell because the Bible says God hates queers, I know better than to attempt a discourse that’s “over her head.” Of course, I’m familiar enough with the rote arguments about the Bible and homosexuality that I could take my time to respond as effectively as possible at her level of sophistication. But I choose not to. Thankfully, there are plenty of other people who can regurgitate the same old arguments with Danielle and perhaps help to stretch or raise her consciousness. Growth is possible for Danielle, but it’s not up to me to get her to grow or set the time-frame for her evolution. Heck, she can stay stuck where she is, projecting her hatred of queers onto God and all that, and that really doesn’t disturb me much, just so she isn’t in a position of social or political influence. Then she needs to be countered, and not just by quoting liberal interpretations of the Bible, but countered by effective arguments and strategies at multiple levels.
Living with a STEAM-based practice in the real world involves doing some rather dicey balancing acts. It means realizing that a full, real, embodied awareness of the existence of sexism, heterosexism, and homophobia does not exist in a stable and enduring fashion in the interiors until an individual has reached a pluralistic level of consciousness or higher. With this insight, it’s possible to grow in forgiveness and tolerance even of the intolerant. It’s harder to forgive an anti-gay tirade when you think you’re talking to another Hitler. But if you see Danielle’s tirades as baby-talk, and see her more like a baby than like Hitler, forgiveness and right understanding are easier. Even if the baby needs to be spanked, it still needs love. Of course, telling Danielle that hers is baby-talk probably won’t win her friendship. Anyone got a problem with that? If you’re timid about losing a friend, keep your thoughts to yourself. I don’t care. I didn’t say you have to tell Danielle any of your assessments of her relative level of consciousness, though if you do, you should try to do so with a loving spirit. How would a fundamentalist put it? “Love the immature person, hate the immaturity?”
I don’t worry about whether I hurt a fundamentalist’s feelings. And if they’re hurt, perhaps it will be a spur to growth, who can say. As I wrote earlier on this blog, religious conservatives are not my target audience. I’m more worried about the message that I send to people in a green worldspace if they hear that integral/STEAM is so “evolved” that now they need to tell anti-gay bigots that “everyone’s right,” and that to fight homophobia they should meditate, do nothing, and let Spirit take care of everything. Such a message, based on misunderstandings, would lead to an immediate dismissal of integral thought and practice among the group that is most likely to appropriate a new and higher way of thinking. And that would be a disaster. To avoid such miscommunications, my rhetorical strategy is aimed at reach my target audience (largely those at the pluralistic and integral levels) which isn’t necessarily the person who I am responding to. I’m not talking merely about tailoring my message to the audience that I’m speaking to; I’m talking about talking on point to my intended audience, and resisting efforts by my actual audience to pull me off the message.
So with Danielle and other fundamentalists, it’s possible to devise more effective strategies for containing the harm when they decide to take up political arms to foist their religion-based heterosexism on the rest of us. And it’s possible to choose to refrain from dialogue with unsuitable debate partners, thus avoiding the inevitable cross-meme misunderstandings and the harm and bad karma that may consequently arise. The most compassionate response to potential debate partners pounding on your door with some sort of fundamentalist tract is not to welcome them in. Shoo them away instead! Some things are better left unsaid.