One of the most important changes in my world view has come in the last few months as I’ve digested a lot of the writings of Ken Wilber. Now, keep in mind, that I am very much a “pick and choose” kind of guy, so I have yet to find a personality/thinker with whom I wholeheartedly agree on all topics. Wilber is no different. Nevertheless, his efforts at Integrating disparate and seemingly unrelated bodies of knowledge (and experience) are nothing short of brilliant. And best of all, what he has come up with – a true feat of integral thinking – is amazingly useful when it comes to analyzing and communicating about most anything, including the enlightened caveman concept.
What follows is mostly groundwork, to set the foundation for interpreting the content of my book in Integral terms. I’ll start to connect the dots at a high level toward the end. A subsequent post (or posts) will dive deeper – taking the book chapter by chapter. (This is a serious case of, “If I knew then what I know now.”)
Moving on…The core of Wilber’s Integral framework is the notion of quadrants. I internalize this as perspectives – there are four that you can (and should) take when viewing a serious topic. (Non-serious topics do not require such rigor, and failing to recognize this usually results in missing forests for trees.) Anyhow, here’s a look at the four quadrants, lifted shamelessly from Wilber’s Wikipedia entry.
The upper left quadrant (UL) deals with the internal side of things for an individual entity. In other words, it addresses the subjective interior of an individual mind. Upper Right (UR), on the other hand, deals with the objective exterior of the same individual entity. So, borrowing some insight from Smokey Robinson, “People say I’m the life of the party (UR), but deep inside I’m blue (UL).”
Similarly, the lower left (LL) quadrant focuses on the subjective side of things for a collective of individual entities – this is the culture view. The lower right (LR) deals with the external collective – the social side of things. For example, consider the difference between say a chess club and a religious sect. In LR terms, they’re pretty similar – a free-formed gathering of people. But in LL terms, they’re vastly different. One is a group of people who share a common interest – pretty tame as far as culture is concerned. The other, however, has much more going on from a shared subjective experience perspective.
Another way to look at the quadrants is in terms of I, We, It, and Its. The “I” is represented in the UL quadrant, and the “We” is LL. The “It” and “Its” are UR and LR, respectively. Or, if you prefer Plato, you can think of the UL as the beautiful (as in “beauty is in the eye of the beholder”), LL is the good (as in, morality is a “we” thing), and the right quadrants (UR and LR) are the true (as in, the objective truths of our world).
Right away, you can probably see how useful this quadrant thing can be. It provides an additional bit of context for whatever we happen to be interested in. And when it comes to the enlightened caveman concept, it gives me a serious leg up.
In the most simplistic terms, my book is a method of improving one’s UL experiences by understanding more of the UR and LR reality of the human species. It is about improving the experience of “I” by really understanding the “it” of myself. It’s similar to how wild-life experts, such as Jeff Corwin, have to learn a great deal of objective information about animal behavior – as in, what kinds of circumstances cause what kinds of responses – in order to successfully navigate their trips into the bush.
For us, we have to learn objective information about how our brains are organized, what kinds of capabilities they have, how our emotions work, and when they come into play. Most importantly, we have to learn how much of the “out-of-the-box” human mind can be changed (read: improved), and we have to learn how to change it. When we absorb all this, we can discern how to better navigate the modern world we live in – in interior subjective terms.
Happiness is a subjective thing, no? So is unhappiness. There’s a lot of truth to the notion that choosing to be happy and to look at things in a positive way are the keys to happiness. Unfortunately, that’s a little vague. And it’s bringing a knife to a gunfight. The objective reality (UR) of the human mind includes a battery of emotionally-mediated modules that were designed to facilitate man’s survival in a world that no longer exists. Those modules are working against us all the time, until, that is, we become aware of them and we learn how to tame them. So there are two parts to Healing The Unhappy Caveman – the first provides the UR information; the second provides the method for integrating that knowledge into our daily UL experiences. (Incidentally, Part 2 also calls upon LL and LR perspectives to elaborate on the method.)
My next task is to place each chapter in its integral quadrant context. Stay tuned…