Perspectives, perspectives everywhere! (in 2011)

“The more perspectives you can take, the more love you can give.” – James Blacker

Dear Friends,

I hope you’ve had a Merry Christmas, or whatever choice you enjoy.

A couple of weeks ago I sent out a wisdom quote, quoting myself as saying that; “the more perspectives you can take, the more love you can give”.

I guess I ought to give an explanation to this, rather than to just leave it hanging out there as an arbitrary claim.

So the notion is; the more perspectives you can take, the more love you are capable of giving, and sharing.

Dr Stephen Covey recounts an experience of his when he was on a train at a time when a father was allowing his two children, two boys, to run up and down boisterously, without attempting to stop them.

Annoyed, Covey watched, as other passengers did, as the two continued.

So he went up to talk to the man about it, suggesting that he might want to do something, and that it wasn’t really on. The man agreed that Covey was probably right, that he should probably do something.

The man then explained that they had just come from the hospital, where his wife, their mother, had just died, after being hit by a car.

He continued that he knew he probably ought to do something, but didn’t really know what to say to them, as he didn’t really know what to think himself either.

Okay, hands up who’s now taking the perspective of the man?

That’s a very instant example of how quickly our perspectives can shift. In this example, we are all instantly able to take the perspective of the other man, and anger and disapproval turns to sorrow and compassion.

There is also an opportunity, though, to take this perspective before we know anything about another person. Indeed, philosophy will tell us that there is always a reason for something, that any state of being always has a cause.

Since I heard this example a few years ago, I have always been more mindful of what might be going on in another person’s life, what might be going on in their head or heart, before I allow myself to speak with a solely self-based, selfish perspective. This is also a key to forgiveness.

Culture War

On to more complex perspectives, then. Let’s look at perspectives and war.

In both the profession and movement I am involved in, as as ‘integral evolutionary’, shared by philosophers, spiritual teachers, thinkers, leaders and simply people who care about the state of the world, encouraging the taking of deeper perspectives both individually and collectively, the focus of activity surrounding what is being called ‘Culture War’ is a large part.

Culture War is the taking of a perspective to such an extreme degree that one is unable to take the perspective of the other’s culture to the consequence that there is at the very least, friction. This may be religious. It may be social. It may even be domestic. It can be to do with anything in which one way of many possible ways is seen as the only way that is right, or true.

The philosopher, Ken Wilber, points out in a recent video of his that if we don’t stop Culture War we’re not going to stop physical war. And that can pretty much be taken as having a similar effect on the environment, the global economy, and all kinds of other things.

Can you take the perspective of someone with the opposite religious beliefs as you? Can you take the perspective of someone with the opposite social grouping as you? Can you take the perspective of the person you’re currently in an argument with? It might even save you a divorce! …or the sack. Not that those things are inherently the wrong path or outcome for a person in an unknown context (see, perspectives again!).

Of all the worldviews defined by the Don Beck Spiral Dynamics model, or the Ken Wilber ‘AQAL’ Integral model, the first five or six levels or stages respectively are all ‘absolutist’. That is, that they all have as a characteristic, the notion that their way is the only way. This is true even up to a largely Pluralistic worldview, or Orange and even Green on the Spiral Dynamics model, as my colleague, Jon Freeman, so graciously explains in our audio on the topic.

Eventually, even the Pluralistic worldview, if it states that everyone must be pluralistic, gives way to the Integral view, as it’s realised that actually there’s a quirky self-contradiction to that pluralistic view if we want to force people to embrace it – and so the first Integral levels begin to come into view, embracing and including a place for ALL that have gone before them, as Wilber defines them; Archaic, Magic, Mythic, Rational, and Pluralistic. …and on to Integral, and then onto Super Integral.

(Spiral Dynamics has eight stages, identified by colour names, and assumes the existence of a ninth stage. Wilber uses the following seven terms in sequence; Archaic, Magic, Mythic, Rational, Pluralistic, ‘Integral’, and ‘Super Integral’.)

So a perspective that can hold all views can transcend the more rigid, absolutist views and can transcend the need for conflict. Instead of ‘this’ versus ‘that’ Culture Wars, you have a deeper perspective that can hold BOTH of those views anyway.

So yes, put an end to Culture Wars and we may see an end to actual wars, and perhaps more.

You can see now why we (the integral evolutionary community) encourage the practice of going beyond ego.

But perspectives don’t end there just with going beyond ego. Opportunities for myriad perspectives of all kinds are all over the place.

You can be beyond ego and still stick rigidly to your own quadrant-based view, not allowing respect for anyone who identifies the value of their own ‘favourite’ quadrant. What the heck am I talking about? Let’s say in a health context…

If you want to complete a jigsaw puzzle, don’t start with only half the pieces!

One person holds rigidly to a scientific, physical body approach. Another wants to look solely at the psychology, and the emotions, distaining the first person’s scientific knowledge. The first has no time for the psychology of the mind viewpoint, thinking it a waste of time and not ‘real’. In an integral perspective we take ALL the truth-based views available. If you want to complete a jigsaw puzzle, don’t start with only half the pieces!

You can even take a perspective with regard to your Shadow! Maybe your boss isn’t being the croc you think he or she is. Maybe you are just seeing them through the lense of your own projected Shadow, your own subjective expectations, a form of self-fulfilling prophecy.

I’m going to leave it there for now. I hope I have given you enough of an introduction to perspective taking to pique your interest, and I hope I have shown you at least something to be getting on with in terms of applying deeper, wider, subtler and more noble perspectives in your own life and happiness.

Best wishes for the remainder of the holidays, if and however you celebrate them, and may 2011 be the Year of the Perspective!

James Blacker

James Blacker is the Founder of Whole Life Whole World and author of the home study life course Wisdom The Course: The Way of True Success, available from the Whole Life/Papillon Store.

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