Something that’s been on the minds of just about everyone recently, is just how did the world become so polarised in recent years like almost exactly 50/50? And how do we attempt to integrate it? If it’s a cosmic joke it’s surely a really good one because it’s really gripping our attention. Firstly, we have to see it not simply as a moral failure on our part, though there is some of that of course, but more like the inevitable result of thousands of years of unfolding complexity, which is now resulting in deep system irresilience. And that is a subject for those with far more systems expertise than me.
It’s so easy to look on polarisation as a kind of breakdown but what if we were to look on it, instead, as an opportunity, an invitation to breakthrough? What if we look at it as a call to something better, a more heart-centred, undefended, more expansive way of living?
I’m not saying it’s easy. I don’t believe that you can just think yourself into this new stage of operating. You’ve got to live yourself into it. That means taking some action to improve daily, no matter how insignificant it might appear. Transformation more often happens not when something new begins but when something old falls apart. I don’t know about you but you get the feeling that most of us have to dragged there. We have to get to the point where we’ve just had enough of the binary, black and white argy-bargy that in stalemate and just let it go, throw up our hands and finally admit that enough is enough. it’s an unsustainable way to live and we have got to do better.
The central thing, according to latest research, for meaningful conversation and generative dialogue, is to put yourself in a place of psychological safety. To be able to sit down with someone face to face and listen and also to try to take the conversation to new territory if possible. To do that you simply orient your conversation to curiosity and interest. It’s the quickest way to become open and undefended because you cant be both curious and defensive at the same time. Your physiology wont allow it. Breathe deeply and soften your gaze. Chill out. Be genuinely curious about why someone holds a position. Try to walk in their shoes for a moment.
DOWNS CAN BECOME BREAKTHROUGHS………BREAK DOWNS CAN BECOME BREAKTHROUGHS…….BREAK DOWNS CAN BECOME BREAKTHROUGHS….BREAK DOWNS CAN BECOME BREAKTHROUGHS….
On the subject of worldview and walking in someone else’s shoes, it’s ‘s been a salutary lesson for me to learn that not everybody has the same meta view. I mean, on some level I have always known it, but with the level of polarisation we now witness, there are obviously much deeper divides than we have previously thought. From quite a young age I seem to have had integral instincts. I seem to have a mind which automatically connects, so I have been thinking about unity consciousness as a natural instinct for mankind about 12 years of age. This, for me was, and still is the central message of the Gospels. The inner work of the Christian has always been to ‘put on the mind of Christ’…..that we all may be one.’ It’s a bit of a shock to me to realise that not everybody seems to see things this way. This is not Pollyanna thinking. I’m not trying to make it sound easy or to make light of the many challenges society faces, from the ever widening wealth gaps between rich and poor, the economic deprivation which deepens political disaffection, the many different cultural values out there etc, but we are not managing to address any of those problems by seeing the world in terms of ‘them and us’ and making shadowy projections on social media or behind our own closed doors. It’s surely time to at least try to bridge communication gaps with those with a different worldview from a place of wisdom and compassion.
Trouble is, in the recent past at least, online, and not face-to-face is where most heated exchanges occur. And when you’re not centred, you’re in a stuck state. You’re not actually listening. If you’re a frequent visitor to Facebook or Twitter and you care about the way the world is going, you’re much more likely to be in a permanent state of arousal, constantly on -guard and on the lookout for triggering behaviour by perceived opponents. It’s a horrible space to occupy. In the absence of body language which is the better part of conversation, the world loses its subtle shades of grey. The nuance we normally pick up from body language and tone are lost. We can’t read expressions on peoples faces. our heart which is transmitted by our voice in absent. Doubt, irony, humour, emphasis, curiosity, subtlety -the finer conversation skills are out of the window. In, with a vengeance, is inference, judgmentalism, offence-taking, aggressiveness and opinions expressed as indisputable facts. Of course it doesn’t help that we operate in a medium that reduces how we express ourselves to a number of characters, or newsfeeds that skew whose opinions we see so that we end up in echo chambers. Talk about a recipe for division.
For me, then, and it might have been something to do with the quiet of lockdown, the fastest way to regain my centre and come back to a state of relative calm was to come off social media altogether. It was like emerging form the warren of rabbit holes into which I had descended for too long. I had temporarily forgotten that there was always a better way. It’s like I was being called to update my operating system with some urgency.
How do my integral politics show up in every day life? it’s about seeing a more nuanced picture than left versus right. It’s about seeing that everyone, no matter who they are, has a set of biases towards the ever present polarity between conservation and progression. For example, in any given instant, I might give way to a conservative instinct to preserve something that has worked well in the past, or at another time I might want to push the boundaries of what is available to society as a whole if I believe it to be in the interests of the good the true and the beautiful. I don’t do it by taking a left or right stance and then trying to make my inner knowing fit that picture, but by making the inner journey the starting point and then seeing how I can participate in the transforming power of God’s love.
The contemplative, integral mind sees the whole, not the parts. And if I am assailed by something troubling I take it into a contemplative space of ‘unknowing’. we’ve forgotten on our world which demands quick, easy answers, that it’s ok not to know! We’ve forgotten that it’s perfectly ok to rest in that unknowing till greater wisdom surfaces. We’ve forgotten to trust the still, small voice within. As Richard Rohr says, “It’s a holding operation, a waiting game to see where the weight of glory arises.” A sacred space where we connect with the Divine and be receptive to what needs to change in our own hearts and minds that they might be open to constant growth and love.