Mamas, don’t let your babies grow up to be cowboys…

by | Jun 26, 2006

Copied from a post to the Integral Community Forums, which was copied from an email conversation I had with some integrally oriented friends about recent reactions to posts on Ken Wilber’s blog. Identifying details have been removed or changed.
Dear etc. etc. etc.,
I particularly like your use of the term “agnostic” in “agnostic as to how to interpret such ‘in your face’ displays of one’s full spiral makeup.” That feels right. My first response to both the abuse issues with Gafni and the fuss about Wyatt Earp was, “So?” Not in the sense of “So what?” but in the sense of, “So, what planet do you think we live on anyway?” In the instance of Gafni, I can’t help but notice that sexual abuse by a spiritual leader is not headline news. Why would the Integral community be free of any number of human failings, whether expressed from red or (my favorite) “trans-lime.” (I made up “trans-lime” while at Kofman’s wonderful seminar in Boulder in response to the unremitting and humorless competition to be more integral than thou.)
In the instance of Wyatt Earp, I felt both sympathy and impatience with the bald one, and frankly I was a lot more interested in what my responses had to say about me and what I imagine Ken is or should be and what sort of authority I invest in him. Sure, shadow is part of that, and (I think) there is something more, something about how the collective holds Ken (perhaps a collective shadow that includes not only projecting our less stellar attributes but — sometimes to greater harm — our strengths and talents.) My gut feeling was that yes, there is Red underbelly in that post, and why not? Last time I looked, Red was still part of the spiral. How conscious is Ken of his Red choices? Beats me. I really don’t know. I am more interested in examining my expectations of him. I don’t have to agree with Ken’s choice to find that he was skillful as usual, and finding that he was skillful doesn’t mean I think he is “right.”
These days I am grateful for even a moment’s respite from my lifelong preoccupation with the rightness and wrongness of things and people and myself. Over and over again in recent months I have found that this polarity confuses rather than distinguishes — who knew? I challenge myself to sound off as a means of getting my arms around my thoughts and opinions rather than as an expression of rightness. One reason I love blogging is that it is an opportunity to do that, to write a-responsibly so that I might discover to what I am responding unawares. And also, do I have the courage to externalize my inner workings just the way they are, without first checking to see if I like the colors I’m showing? (Sure, there are circumstances in which it seems very important to watch what I say and how I say it for the sake of its effect of others and the whole, but I’m talking about a different kind of engagement.) If I won’t sound off in that way, Integral gets sucked into the vortex of all my first tier conversations, and rather than integrating anything of substance, I am simply declining to experience myself as different from the people I admire.
Maybe Harold, this is resonant with your observation and query,

“Harold has certain enduring characteristics that are better understood as opportunities to expand the sane and mitigate the neurotic aspects of. How about you?”

I’m not willing to hold Ken to a standard that I see as regressive: the standard of appearing to be what people think you are. How can I mitigate the neurotic aspects of my marvelous self if I never let them see the light of day? How can I separate the wheat from the chaff (a task made more challenging, I think, when we are at developmental inflection points, not to mention when we may be entering developmental worlds for which we lack models and in which our species has scant experience) if I don’t get it all out of the darkness of the barn?
So for me, the challenge of Ken’s blog has been to allow all my responses without restriction while not investing any of them with the burden of truth. Can I tolerate seeing that my reaction shifts from moment to moment? Can I stay in inquiry about what that may indicate in terms of my desire to agree or disagree with certain other voices without collapsing into an easy indictment (Molly is a suck up) or tortured justification?
If right and wrong are not adequate distinctions in this world view, by what means are we to determine how to act? What does it mean to be awake and care for each other, for the community, for whatever Integral may have to bring to the Whole Thing? What does it mean to approve or disapprove? These are wide open questions for me, and personally I am grateful to the Wyatt Earpy thing for giving me another opportunity to fall into the huge space of not-knowing without just going to sleep.
I love also this bit:

So I am ambi-valent; I know that some things are beyond my comprehension. I do know that over time I see broader and broader perspectives expanding out from my original AQAL address in the ‘river of life.’ And I know that simultaneously, non-local awareness (alright, here comes Spirit) seeps into, shoots through, and plays with my anchor point. And this Spirit is not Other… Humans reify each other into Harold, Maude, Grampa, and Molly (aliases except for the last)…. But my consciousness increasingly disperses from a tight camera angle on (address deleted to protect the not-so-innocent).

May you experience and embody many valences; and may your experience and embodiment not be limited to what you can comprehend. If this “Spirit that is not other” is going to play with our anchor points, let’s stay awake for the ride.

An old question (“Who am I?”) arises in a new form. I find myself oscillating between experiencing the question I used to repeat in meditation as a present concern / conundrum and as a companion / compass.