"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, December 20, 2014

Beta testing HyLighter: speed learning by integrating all documents?

What if you could glance at a document and see the  overlaps between your thinking and that of many other readers, including the input of smart machines. Would you learn faster, think bigger, and come up with better solutions to problems?  And might such a process support worldwide dissemination of multiple perspectives? This is the dream of genius entrepreneur David Lebow, founder of the startup HyLighter.

In grad school, Lebow set himself the goal of coming up with a new idea for improving education. But after vast research, he realized he was only regurgitating the ideas of others. So he took scissors to his sources and spread clippings across his living room floor, arranging and rearranging ideas to see connections. The result was an "Aha" moment  that led him to write an award winning paper that is still influencing how we teach twenty years later.*

It became Lebow's passion to automate his thinking process so that others could benefit it from it. His initial impulse was to help instill love of learning among young students. But the system he developed may equally serve to track terrorists, solve corporate problems, get loans to 3rd world farmers, harmonize world religions, and turn academics into gleeful pigs in slop.

All the World's Sacred Texts

I met David while he was in the Washington DC area recently to attend Idea Connect. When he told me he was looking for groups to beta test his system, I knew just who to connect him with: my fellow Integral fans at One Spirit Wisdom Integration Circle (OSWIC) who are plumbing the sacred texts of all world religions to find common themes and Integral memes. Indeed it was pigs in slop all the way down when I introduced him to developmental psychologist Barbara Kinney and Pakistani academic Nomi Naeem who works for Brooklyn Public Library while writing a masters thesis on Integral approaches to education. Excited talk of "social sense making" and "curated conversations" hinted at new possibilities for how we learn and work together.

Meaning, Mormons, and Motorcycle Maintenance

Because I used to teach the document commenting system of Adobe Acrobat, I was eager to get a peek at how Hylighter compares. So Lebow gave me a testing account into which I uploaded some Ken Wilber essays and the Sharma-Cook Greuter paper on Polarities and Ego Development. I test drove HyLighter's ability to cross-link documents in the system and on the Web. And within ten minutes I was having that Internet wormhole experience where one delightful stumble-upon leads to another. A Sharma-Cook Greuter reference to too much meaning-making sparked a thought that led me to a book about mythology in Mormonism, Tinkling Cymbals and Sounding Brass. Then I was off to a forum for fans of Robert Pirsig's Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, where the instructions to new members fascinated me for twenty minutes and  reinforced my belief that Pirsig's work foreshadows Wilber's. I put those links into my comments on the Sharma, Cook Greuter paper. So the question is, will other readers find them to be as titilating as I did?

Possibilities and Work to Do

After numerous readers have placed comments, links, and tags in a document, those items can be assembled into various reports including a "mashup" of comments, links and tags common to many documents. Lebow says HyLighter needs several more months to work out bugs and build a sleeker interface. But it already looks to me like a tool that can greatly enhance how we integrate the vast amounts of data we must swim through to reach the new perspectives we need.

HyLighter screenshot shows on the left  multiple reader comments for each fragment of highlighted text. Comments from many documents can be assembled into a Mashup as illustrated below.

Illustration of a Hylighter Mashup showing reader comments from many documents on selected topics.
Illustrations from Hylighter.com.

Constructivist Values for Instructional Systems Design: Five Principles toward a New Mindset, David Lebow, 1995

Monday, November 3, 2014

Thank God for Michael Dowd: Evidentiary Mystic

Connie Barlow and Michael Dowd
Beyond the "save the planet" message of evolutionary evangelist Michael Dowd, it is his way of being that may role model our best hope for the future. I had the privilege of spending time with Dowd and his wife, science writer Connie Barlow, at an event yesterday. The were in the DC area finishing up a six-month, cross-country march for climate change. Dowd spoke at one of my spiritual communities, Celebration Center for Spiritual Living, Falls Church. on "Coming Home to Reality: The Future is Calling Us to Greatness."

Dowd and Barlow demonstrate a belief-busting bundle of contradictions.

Is Dowd a hyperactive nine-year-old or a highly disciplined samurai for goodness?

Is Barlow a bookish intellectual or a warm passionate activist?

Is their marriage a mission trip or a love match?

The answers are Yes! Yes! and Yes! Polarities reconciled. "Both-And" held in precise, dynamic flow.  Is this what second tier looks like?

In fact, it's polarities as far as the eye can see with these two. "Thank God for Evolution" is the title of Dowd's best-known book. He and Barlow travel the country in a van adorned with an image of the Jesus and Darwin fishes kissing. She is a self-described atheist in alignment with the Unitarian churches where they most often speak, yet she arrived early to our New Thought service expecting mystical music that feeds her, (she got it).

I  am eager for answers in the forthcoming "Evidentiary Mystic," the lead article Dowd has contributed to the latest issue of ONEing,  the journal of Richard Rohr's Center for Action and Contemplation.

Action and contemplation.

That's it. These two people integrate being and doing in a big bang's worth of passionate energy that fills the space around them with a background radiation of love, purpose, and integrity.

Integral Name Dropping
After the event, my Integral Emergence Meetup buddies hosted Dowd and Barlow for a meal at a Vietnamese Buddhist restaurant, aptly named Present. ("Be careful not to over-emphasize the present," Dowd had said. "If you are in love with time, you will equally honor the past and the future.")

Dowd spoke fluently of knowing every big name in the human potential and Integral communities.

He used to teach the Spiral Dynamics developmental model. Now he argues with his good friend Jeff Salzman that human progress is not inevitable.  He feels himself a soul brother with Terry Patten, who also questions the inevitability of progress but passionately advocates holding nature as sacred. He argues with Ken Wilber that a Buddhist metaphysics penetrates Wilber's supposedly metaphysics-free Integral Theory. There is no evidence that consciousness precedes existence, Dowd says.

And yet, this man who says he has "no belief in anything supernatural," radiates the sacred.

Practice as the secret?
How does he do it? I may have found the answer when I rushed home to read chapter 11 in Dowd's book on practices for building evolutionary integrity. Dowd lives by his practices. In the set-up before the main event and in the lunch afterwards, I saw him practice at least three of the "practices" recommended in his chapter. Whether ordering a meal, managing a conversation,  expressing gratitude to a host, or sharing stories about the management of sex and addictions, the man walks his talk. And that, more than anything he said in his eloquent and passionate presentation, is what sent me away feeling hopeful and inspired.

Monday, September 8, 2014

New Thought meets Integral in Leesburg, Virginia

The opening yesterday of a New Thought church by an integrally informed minister permitted me to finally cross a bridge between two of my beloved philosophies--as I've depicted here.

Ken Wilber meets Ernest Holmes, New Thought meets Integral

Rev. Sunday Coté opened Center for Spiritual Living in Leesburg, Virginia. She is a dear friend and was previously a minister of my Celebration Center congregation in Falls Church. This review and photos of her first service tell the story of her new integrally informed church.

Ken Wilber's beef with the New Age (into which he lumped New Thought) was that the call to "Change your thinking, change your life," was narcissistic when taken to extremes. His wife's cancer was not cured by her thinking healing thoughts. But when the phrase is taken to mean "Take a bigger perspective." it becomes quite congruent with Integral. As to the middle ground -- the definition and limits of the "causal" state of consciousness, I look forward to exploring that with my Integral New Thought buds.

Good luck Rev. Sunday!

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Sacred Minimalist Music: Arvo Pärt vs. "Call the Midwives"

Knowing nothing about the Estonian minimalist composer Arvo Pärt, I was drawn to a recent concert of  his music by this paragraph in a Washington Post Review.
In most of his music, he uses a technique he calls tintinnabulation, which juxtaposes a melody, generally moving from one adjacent note to another without big interval leaps, and its associated triad, the three notes of a chord (do-mi-sol).
“One line is who we are,” the composer said in a 2010 interview with the New York Times, “and the other line is who is holding and takes care of us.”
There’s a trippy inexorability to this technique’s forward motion, which balances a sense of fragility against a sense of purpose, a focus on minutiae against an eye to the whole.
Wow. Not only did I want to experience that, I thought perhaps I already had. I was watching the BBC TV series "Call the Midwives."  In a 1950s London slum, secular nurses serve side-by-side with nuns, living in the nuns' convent.  Each day before the nurses go out to serve poor women in bad conditions, they pass the chapel where the nuns are singing their morning offices, usually just a plainsong version of a psalm. There's a haunting quality and an ambiguity in the nurses reactions: mildly jealous or glad they're spared the ritual?

But theses are no chirpy "Singing Nuns." Babies die, women are beaten, and the music reflects awareness of that suffering. In the stunning Christmas episode of the first season, we hear the plainsong out of the convent. A nun and a nurse are bathing a homeless woman who may not have bathed in years. We begin to hear a psalm, and up behind it comes a continuous tone.  Bubbling up from the continuous tone are three notes. The effect is  increasingly haunting, compelling. Definite "trippy inexorability." The scene becomes a sacrament.

Call the Midwives cast

I thought perhaps Arvo Pärt's music would be like that -- perhaps even that Pärt had written the piece in  "Midwives."  But no, nothing in the concert affected me like the TV scene had.

Taking Low to new Heights
Pärt's work does take the expression of mournful to new heights. Here's a Youtube comment on his requiem for composer Benjamin Britten.
when your heart is blind, deaf, silent, just cold..
because you've lost everything you love
when you think you're dying every second, again&again
but you're not capable of feeling anything at all
when the demons in your head wont stop haunting your dreams
Pärt's rippin' up all your scars, & all the pain you felt 
in your whole life breaks down on you again
every single tear you spilled in your whole life flows again

one last time
but you know 
it's the only cure, your only chance to heal your wounded mind
your only opportunity to find peace 
The totally ironic thing is, I did not realize it was a requiem while it was playing. What I heard in its mellifluous cacophony was the coming destruction of civilization made bearable by the increasingly insistent tolling bell of Grace.

Sister Bernadette played by
Shelagh Turner is lead singer
 in the crystalline chants
of "Midwives"
Pärt, who was once banned in Russia for being too spiritual, is the most performed contemporary composer in the world. Most of the 2,000 audience members at the Kennedy Center concert in DC gave roaring standing ovations. But some did not clap. And I wondered if like me, they had read the review and expected something different. More grace. More hope that acts of goodness can make a difference.

Binaural Beats and New Age Music
In both Pärt and Midwives, the sound made me think of binaural beats: a prominent feature in New Age or meditation music designed to carry us to a transcendent level. (Binaural  beats are apparent sounds generated in consciousness when two tones at slightly different frequencies are presented separately, one to each ear.)

If Pärt didn't write the Midwives music, who did?  Although I was able to buy the piece, Psalm 121, from the Midwives album at Itunes, no information was provided about the background music. I'd like to strip it out and use it in my daily meditation. What is it? Who wrote it? WHERE CAN I GET MORE LIKE IT?  If anyone knows, please contact me.

Psalm 121 from the Midwives album can be purchased at iTunes or heard here.
Samples of Pärt's music with annotated comments can be heard at the Washington Post review.
While researching, I came across this morsel: muppets do plainchant psalms