"Transcend and include... this is the self-transcending drive of the Kosmos—to go beyond what went before and yet include what went before... to open into the very heart of Spirit-in-action." Ken Wilber, A Brief History of Everything

"Wouldn't it be wonderful if a group of people somewhere were for something and against nothing?" Ernest Holmes

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Why I love "The Goode Family"

At first glance, this new animated show The Goode Family is an over-the-top caricature of green cultural values, which unfortunately earned it some scathing reviews.  But look closer and see a subtle examination of goodness that transcends both traditional values and postmodern political correctness.

The show is the latest offering from Mike Judge, creator of  "Beavis and Buthead" and my beloved "King of the Hill."  Gerald and Helen Goode strive to be good by recycling, befriending minorities,  and feeding their dog a vegan diet. Moderate daughter Bliss rebels by exploring evangelism while their not-too-bright adopted son Ubuntu just wants to be liked and play Bingo. The family gets caught in contradictions at every turn and must decide where the good really lies.

A great review of the Goode Family at Enlighten Next captures my favorite moment in the first episode. Helen is creeped out that her daughter shows interest in a chastity event at an evangelical church. Her husband Gerald’s response
presents her with one of the hilarious contradictions faced on the path to perfect political correctness: “Maybe we shouldn’t be so judgmental,” he says. “Don’t we always try to celebrate people’s differences and learn from them?” To which Helen responds, “Sure, if they’re like Native Americans or backwards rainforest tribes. But not these people!”
This attempt to be nonjugmental brings much of the show's conflict.  In one episode, Ubuntu wants to play football. Despite the parent's dismay, Gerald goes along with Ubuntu for a pep rally and tries to get in the spirit. But a line is crossed when the other fathers want to slay a pig representing the opposing team. The moral fog lifts and Gerald leaps to stop the slaughter, even though it means fighting off a much bigger guy in full bloodlust.

A similar theme of moral clarity arises in another eposode in which the Goodes accidently offend a chic lesbian couple who hold the key to Helen's coveted place in the Art League. To make amends, they seek to prove they are not homophobic by seeking out another lesbian couple to befriend. To their initial dismay, the couple they find are barrel-chested, beer guzzling, truck drivers. But these lesbians have a sweet affection for each other and a genuineness that is lacking at the snarkey parties of the Art League who ridicule the low class couple. When forced to choose, Helen sides with the truck drivers--for a night of bingo.

Neil Pedley captures this balanced counterpointing in a UReview of the Goode Family:
Careful to showcase first and foremost the humanity of such reactionary figures as Hank Hill he not only enables those who are different to laugh at his antics, but those who are most similar to comfortably laugh along too. This lack of disdain on his part is his secret weapon and the reason he was able to transform the likes of Beavis and Butthead into an icon for the MTV generation despite them being a mocking, unflattering, distorted manifestation of the very people who were watching.
For its rich exploration of moral dilemmas, The Goode Family warms my heart and tickles my mind. 

Monday, June 15, 2009

"Three Faces of God" & Integral Practice

Re-integrating the Beloved Other

Do you find it easier to do devotional chants in Hindu than in English?

That's one of the questions posed yesterday at the high energy workshop on Ken Wilber's "Three Faces of God" held at the Celebration Center of Spiritual Living in Falls Church, VA
Speaking mostly to members of the New Thought community, Rev. Sophia Ducey told 22 of us that Science of Mind does a world class job of knowing God as the "I Am" presence but can be conflicted about the comforting presence of the "Beloved Other." Through meditation, chanting, and dialog, she invited us to look again at how our image of God had changed over our life: was it an enlargement or a pendulum swing AWAY from something we rejected which might then call us back to center? If we were still reacting against something, she recommended shadow work to fully include any babies thrown out with bathwater. She got down on her knees to demonstrate her own quest to re-integrate surrender and devotion to the Beloved Other, which then, she said, reinforced her sense of the God inside.

Integral Practice
Rev. Sophia also said that the work of Ken Wilber alerted her to the
need for practice to develop each aspect of our selves. Again, Science
of Mind is a leader in promoting the interior practices of prayer and
meditation, but puts less emphasis on body awareness, right action in
each moment, and right relationship with fellow members of our spiritual
community. She and her partners in Canada are developing Integral
Practice Groups--a container for small groups to support each other in
this full array of practices.
How this came together
When Rev. Sophia left the Religious Science church she was
ministering to in Vancouver to focus on this work, she asked a Christian
church to rent her space. It turned out that pastor, Bruce Sanguin of Canadian Memorial, had authored a book on integral congregations, so they are now working as a team along with a Buddhist and an Anglican. Now THAT'S integral! Of course, one of the pioneers in how to run an integral practice group is our own James Jones of Personal Awareness Institute and our DC Ken Wilber Meetup.
We asked Rev. Sophia for more. She is in transition and doesn't know when she'll be back in DC, so I may explore with Rev. Trish, senior minister of the Celebration Center, whether there are other ways we can keep the conversation going in the meantime. Also, Sophia tells me that her group in Vancouver has an upcoming visit scheduled with Integral Coaching Canada. So lots of good things happening in Canada these days. We may have to get used to being referred to as "south of the border."