"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

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

DIVERGENT: Optimist "Hunger Games," Integralist Dream

"Only those who are divergent can save us"

Integral commentator Jeff Salzman has called for futurist fiction that paints a more constructive picture than your average post-apocalypse. "Divergent," first novel in a trilogy by Veronica Roth, sets the bar, and it does so with concepts that parallel Integral. Millions of young adults are rabid fans of the blockbuster which will be released as a movie in Spring 2014.

Divergent opens in a burned out Chicago where order has been restored by giving each of five factions responsibility for one aspect of the city. Each faction represents one virtue. At age 16, each person chooses whether to stay in the faction of their birth, or transfer to another faction for life.

The factions are remarkably similar to the value levels in Spiral Dynamics. The picture above is from a fan site. I've doctored the colors of each faction to highlight the SD parallels:

  • Red for Dauntless/Warrior
  • Blue for Selfless Abgenation/Mythic 
  • Orange for Candor and Erudite, two factions matching the spiral's Efficient Rationalist level 
  • Green for Amity/Pluralist 
  • Yellow for Divergent/Integral (not shown above)
I've also reordered the factions from the original image. Divergent does not acknowledge any levels among the factions except for this stunner: Only those born in abgenation are likely to become divergent.

Zombie-free "young adult" fiction. But is it Second Tier?

I am only two-thirds through this deeply thoughtful "young adult" thriller. The absence of the purple/magic level so far is noteworthy in an era when so many books targeted to young adults feature sorcerers or zombies.  I'm guessing the book is appealing to a generation whose orange/green parents shielded them from red/blue experiences of power and selfless service to the group. And so it is to these two groups that swarms of fans are declaring allegiance at Divergent's fan site.

The feeling of the book is wholly first tier so far -- except for this: the way Divergent people can be identified by others is by their reaction to simulations of their greatest fears. Divergents hold simultaneous awareness of multiple realities, and thus are more quickly able to regain composure in a simulation.

No religion, but Christ Consciousness
Divergent does not discuss religion explicitly; God is mentioned only casually. But one Christian review of Divergent says this:
Abnegation seems to be the “Christian” group, or at least religious one.  The book notes that almost all the Divergent are raised in Abnegation.  As the story unfolds, the idea seems to be that all the other factions are nothing if they are not selfless; in fact, perhaps all the other factions at their core require the influence of Abnegation.  The Dauntless are supposed to be fearless – for the sake of others.  Amity brings peace –for the sake of others.  The Erudite must learn – for the sake of others.  Candor speaks truth – for the sake of others. As a Divergent, Beatrice has three of the factions “fully” in her; I wonder if at some point we will meet a Divergent with all five – a type of Christ if you will, the Incarnation, fully everything. That would be very cool.
The same reviewer also makes a comparison to Hunger Games:
Authority figures are treated with appropriate realism. Many are worthy of trust and respect; some are not.  They are all trapped in a system doomed for failure, and for that reason are forced to make hard decisions that at times appear to compromise their integrity.  This does not build cynicism in the characters (as it did in the Hunger Games) as much as build desire to see justice and truth prevail.
Empowered to Leap over Culverts
I am loving the book, and it has empowered me both morally and physically. First, the sentence, "Only the divergent can save us," energized me to speak more forthrightly when I am seeing a situation from multiple perspectives. And second, the heroine in Divergent bravely faces a brutal initiation into her new faction with the thought, "This is my reality now." Immediately afterward I was hiking a cornfield in Pennsylvania Dutch country and found myself leaping over culverts I normally would have detoured around.

Take the Divergent Test
Fans at the fan site are clamoring to take a test to identify their natural faction. I'm hoping some of my Integral friends involved with leadership assessment might have just the thing for them.

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Integral Movie Review: Perspectives on Perspectives in "The Stories We Tell"

Canadian director Sarah Polley has a secret in "The Stories We Tell," but I don't think it's the one critics are raving about. Supposedly the movie is a structure-bending, acted documentary about the director's parents. Most critics see it as a rich exploration of memory and the way each of us constructs a different version of events from our perspective. As such, it aligns with Integral's call to take perspectives on perspectives (P on P) as the best way to grow. But I left the movie feeling hollow, confused, manipulated. A friend's comment that we got to know everyone but Sarah herself tipped me off as to why. I think possibly this movie is just a shadow of the real story the director is hiding. But--spoiler alert--I can't explain that without giving away the plot in the next paragraph.

Through interviews with each member of Sarah's family, we learn how the polarity mismatch between her vibrant mother Diane and cool father Michael--both actors--led Diane to an affair with a producer, opening the possibility that Michael is not Sarah's biological father. The uncovering of this secret impacts the family in ways that would, indeed, make  a great Lifetime made-for-TV movie. And techniques in how the story is told break new ground in that postmodern, twist-it way (leaving me personally feeling first charmed and then manipulated).

But the supposed layering of perspectives that critics are hailing to me amounted only to minor differences in detail--a who-knew-what-when. As such, the story surely provides moving grist for other families touched by affairs. But I see a much more unusual story hidden within. How does Sarah feel about her discovery and its impact on the beloved man who raised her? That is the one intimate detail we never learn, and within it is the key to the story beyond the story.

Sarah Polley goes on a quest to find her biological father. What she discovers will devastate Michael, the  man who raised her. And so, to soften the blow, she brilliantly decides to make a documentary, giving him the role of a lifetime as both writer and star. It is a ploy that succeeds magnificently.  Michael is able to turn the devastating revelation into an homage to his dead wife and a chance to publicly do the right thing in how he responds. Sarah is let off the hook for exposing Michael to pain and  wins Canada's best film of the year.

Now that's a story.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Rod Dreher's Not-so-Little Way

Most of Rod Dreher's new memoir about the death of his sister seems to be about the value of turning back from individualism in the world and returning to the "little way" of small-town family and community. But it is not. It's about something bigger.

This top conservative writer--whose work I admire for its balance--does indeed uproot his family to move home during his sister's terrible struggle with cancer. In "The Little Way of Ruthie Leming," Rod recounts his  awe at the simple acts of love and support that carry his family through. His sister, Ruthie Leming, was a vivacious and loving teacher with a simple faith in God. We see the lives she touched and how the network of community she helped create supports her family through her crisis.  When hearts are breaking over her loss, "the levee holds," he says.

Rod realizes that he has spent his life talking about community while his sister has been creating it. But things get more complicated when he moves his wife and children back to his native St. Francisville, Louisiana, from their cosmopolitan life in Philadelphia. This is actually the second time Rod has moved back home. And as then, he is soon confronted by all the petty, small-mindedness and suppressed feelings that made him bolt from that life as a teenager. Indeed, two terrible secrets are revealed at the book's end which shove his face up against the limitations of this "little way" he has so idealized.

Rod Dreher at Barnes and Nobel
Tysons Corner 
Rod and his wife decide to stay. So how does he integrate the terrible pull between the benefits of community and individuality? I think I sensed the answer when my DC Integral buddy Ron nudged me to attend Dreher's book signing at Tyson's Corner earlier this week.   In that talk, anyone who came for Rod's great theories and critical thinking may have been disappointed. Instead he spoke only of love; he demonstrated the forgiveness and authenticity that are so often missing in traditional community. I realized that this man of ideas has not only become more like his here-and-now sister, he has transcended her way of life. With the help of technology, he can not only share coffee with his parents every morning, but also share his ideas with the world. And more important, he can be a bodhisattva in his small town--showing by quiet example how humble service in community can co-exist with individual expression.

This is not a little way. This is a big way--a way that points toward how to manage so many of the polar values that tear us apart individually and as a society. And it is a way that perhaps is available only to those who choose to circle back in some form. Dreher writes
Because I went away all those years ago, I could come back not out of guilt, but out of love, of my own free choice.
Rod Dreher's story supports me in my own roller coaster ride to integrate the polarity of individuality and community.  Since my adventures recounted in The Bishop and the Seeker, I dance between the individual expression of my New Thought community and the humility and sacrifice honored at the Black church I was dropped into.

Of course, both those choices are about my needs for community and individuality. What about the needs of my family back in my small town in California? I'd like to think that when the time is right, love will point the way.  And then I'll appreciate the nudge from "The Little Way of Ruthie Leming."