"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

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Plato, Climate Change, and the Cathedral at Chartres

In a last minute stroke of genius, Ron persuaded Jim Turner of the Transpartisan Center to give opening remarks prior to last night's compelling manifesto on Plato, climate change, and the Cathedral at Chartres by Jim Garrison.
[note: this is my personal report of the March 1 meeting of the Ken Wilber Meetup of Washington DC.]

About 40 of us crowded congenially into the somewhat awkwardly long and narrow second floor of the old townhouse that is Bistro Tabac on U Street. (Those of us who stayed for dinner afterward ascended the castle stairs to gasp in delight at the romantic, glass-walled, rooftop with soft candlelight setting off a glittering view of the monuments.) Along with a dozen or more guests in town for Wisdom University (where meditation and art classes are required alongside academic analysis) we also had several newcomers to our Meetup who we are eager to see again.

Both speakers started by acknowledging their debts and close relationships with Ken Wilber: Jim T consulted with him recently and found him in good health; Jim G said history will compare him to Plato, after whom all philosophy since has been only footnotes.

Jim Turner's remarks practically had me leaping to my feet from my little red mushroom stool as he described politics as lurching from walking solely on one's left foot, becoming exhausted, and then walking solely on the right foot until exhausted again. He called for a recognition that each of us has politics as individual as our fingerprints, but under-girding our views are the same competing poles: particularly of freedom vs order. And we're not going to get anywhere until we can address the concerns of both poles in a way that frees them to recognize their own need for the opposite pole. This is very much a theme of my own work in dialoguing with fundamentalists and thus resonated strongly. Where do I sign up?!!

Jim Garrison, board member of Wisdom University and founder of the State of the World Forum, called us to wake up to the fact that 90% of humanity will be wiped out within 40 years if we don't act immediately to cut carbon emissions by 80%. When a questioner challenged the doability of that, Jim compared hesitation to hanging one's head in despair as a fire is breaking out in the kitchen. STOP EVERYTHING and fight it, he said. He also told us that corporations can reach the targets with cuts in their profits of only one third, and that he is finding foreign corporations more receptive than American, with Brazilian firms replanting the rain forest and Chinese firms leaping out front in developing green technology. He also did the anti-corporate greed thing, warning us that all information contrary to this dire view is paid for by corporate interests just as was the campaign that cigarette smoking is safe. He called for counterweighing the American tendency to colonial avarice with a re-integration of the divine feminine principles portrayed in the movie Avatar and in the "Taj Mahal of France," the Cathedral at Chartres with its origins in a vanished mystery school and its stained windows portraying the zodiac and universal oneness. (My family's native village of Belleme is an hour south of Chartres. Road trip anyone?)

At the end I felt an overwhelming desire to integrate the passions of our two speakers. As Ron asked at dinner afterward, how can Jim G's message be communicated with Jim T's insight about what is needed to reach people with a very different worldview? I was also confused by the followup remarks of Jim Garrison's colleague that sustainability will create prosperity. While that is clearly true in the long run, how does it square with Garrison's call for a one third cut in corporate profits? Doesn't that mean a one third cut in my retirement fund, setting my thermostat to 40 degrees, and walking the ten miles to work? I am willing to do that if that will save the earth. But I suspect (and here I am editorializing) that much of the resistance to believing in climate change is really fear that the cure is almost as bad as disease. How do we speak to that?

Big thanks to Ron for putting together this provocative and inspiring evening and to the Meetup core group whose teamwork made everything work smoothly.