Monthly Archives: May 2007


Looking for Ronnie @Diggeracity.

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James Howard Kuntsler: “I’m fond of saying that if America could harness the power it wastes blowing smoke up its own ass, we could magically escape our energy-and-climate-change predicament.”

Usually I’d place this on Diggeracity, but Kuntsler’s sentiment is so widely applicable to so much of smokin’ America, what the heck. (Kuntsler, Richard Grossinger, Lewis Lapham, and Frank Rich constitute my A Team, with Kuntsler playing Mencken to Grossinger’s more Swiftian disposition. Whereas Lapham and Rich are simply tireless searchlights of the obvious.

Kuntsler is especially razor-like in pointing out how compromised eco-advocates are given that profligate consumption is self-destructive regardless of whether it is high-minded or not.

Kuntsler. The eco-advocate community is still hooked into the Faustian bargain of technology with little consciousness of its diminishing returns, and to some extent have made themselves unwitting tools of the truly clueless and wicked who run business and politics in our land. With this particular group in Telluride, which was composed heavily of Boomer eco-adventurers (mountain climbers, trekkers, kayakers), the infatuation with ever-cooler adventuring techno-gear extended naturally, it seemed, to their uncritical view of magical techno-fixes aimed at “solving” the climate / oil mess.

It’s a tragic irony that we got so good at the advertising game the past half-century, because in doing so we rigged a sub-system dedicated to reinforcing all our false entitlements. So when the dreadful moment of recognition comes that we can’t possibly continue being a nation of happy motorists shuttling between the strip malls and subdivisions, the bewilderment will be monumental. Nobody will believe that it is happening, or have a clue how we got ourselves into such a fix.

Doug Noland over at Prudent is right: we’ve entered a euphoric phase of financial arbitrage capitalism with extreme Ponzi overtones, a pyramid scheme of revolving credit rackets and percentage spread plays completely abstracted from any reality of fruitful activity. The reason we don’t even call “money” by its former name anymore is precisely because we realize at some semi-conscious level that “liquidity” is not really money. Liquidity is a flow of hallucinated surplus wealth. As long as it flows in one direction, into financial markets, valve-keepers along the pipeline, like Goldman Sachs, Citibank, or the hedge funds, can siphon off billions of buckets of liquidity. The trouble will come when the flow stops — or reverses! That will be the point where we will rediscover that liquidity really is different from money, and if we are really unlucky we’ll discover that our money (the US dollar) is actually different from real wealth.

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Lakewood Ohio’s Visionary Alignment often finds its grip on the Observation Deck of the Lakewood Observer, the city’s all volunteer community newspaper. A thread there, unfolding since May 12, Race, Courage and the Future of Lakewood exemplifies the spirit of deep inquiry that is one of the core facets of this project.

The Visionary Alignment is about marshalling citizen-centric inquisitive resources for the sake of developing community understanding. When I was a part of the project close to its inception in 2005, I suggested that if a community implemented enough informal anthropological capability, its energetics would be transformed and, over time, the deep processes of relationship between and among residents, institutions would also change. A second supposition is: this would also alter the ecology of the city’s socio-cultural and economic and political economies.

This long discussion is extremely important and worth close attention. It is possible that Lakewood is among the very few communities in the US with the chutzpah and commitment and devotion to proceed to dialog openly and with a certain genius about some of the most difficult issues post-industrial suburbs are faced with today.

Back in 2005, we dreamed about how processes of inquiry could be designed and implemented by non-professional investigators. At the time, it seemed such a folk anthropology would require training investigators in how to make inquiries, document them, and interpret data without infecting any part of the process with too much pre-conceived prejudice, cognitive biases, and impulsive agendas. One thing we put on the table was the possibility that high school students could lead the effort.

This remains an excellent idea and I’m reminded how valuable a little bit of training in anthropological method and in social cognitive psychology could be.

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Filed under social psychology, organizational development


For the past two years I have been researching with a colleague the following mouthful: informal, self-managed problem solving in dyadic interpersonal contexts. Okay? The research is informal and is driven by loosely coupled folk psychological theorizing about potentially productive heuristics. This means the theorizing is pragmatic but not formally disciplined. Although it could elaborate formal theorizing based in rational-emotive psychology, this isn’t its focus. Self-managed refers to intentional self-regulation. Obviously problem solving in a dyadic context simply means between two people. However, the experimental implementation is that of one of the pair of persons.

The foundational premise takes the form of a question: what kinds of intentional acts can be utilized to interrupt reactive cascades which normally result in a habitual response, and, due to this possible outcome, can be utilized to generate more, rather than fewer, options for problem navigation, negotiation, and, resolution.

Here are two schematic representations that integrate the pragmatic results of experiential experimentation on several vectors of self-management. One result is that the heuristics we’ve employed are apparently productive in the right circumstances.

control panel

A typical ‘high velocity’ cascade might lead to: heightened anxiety/heightened reactivity/habituated, non-productive response.

MDFI Matrix

Note that the (so-called) MDFI Matrix cannot schematize habitual flexibility.

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Filed under adult learning, folk psychology


After borrowing Ken Wilber’s latest book,Integral Spirituality from the library, I was moved to purchase it because I had dipped into it and read the following on page 176:

The myth of the given or monological consciousness is essentially another name for phenomenology and mere empiricism in any of a hundred guises–whether regular empiricism, radical empiricism, interior empiricism, transpersonal empiricism, empirical phenomenology, transcendental phenomenology, radical phenomenology, and so forth. As important as they might be, what they all have in common is the myth of the given, which includes:

the belief that reality is simply given to me, [etc.].

My jaw dropped. If all those empiricisms and phenomenologies are equivalent, (ummm, ‘guised,’?) are they really a matter of the subject’s belief? Belief hangs over Wilber’s argument like a piano suspended from a crane over a tent. One supposes the tent is full of academic phenomenologists and empiricists!

Belief is an odd psychologizing turn. Why does Wilber choose belief to be the critical verb? Do we believe in givenness of reality? Leave aside the strange and flattening conflation of, for example, James and Husserl around the construct ‘monological’ consciousness, and consider why Wilber is unwilling to state that for these cases reality itself is given to the subjective consciousness regardless of intentionality of any kind. This includes belief.

Some of the many problems of his theory are here in this excerpt.

This is aside from the controversies which have to do with the institutionalisation of the Integral and Wilber’s own stature as king of his own hermetic kingdom. There’s a connection however. Wilber wants very much to privilege his own consciousness and build a system from it. (This is why Integral Theory hasn’t found rigorous  analytic and scritical venue outside of its originator’s own opus and his groups.) Wilber doesn’t seem to grok the givenness of his reality is no less a worthy subject for his own criticism, criticism waged against all those old school philosophical phenomenologists. Wilber’s theory has yet to obtain a privileged “meta-frame” for simple technical reasons.

Wilber, is not a convincing conceptual, propositional, and operational thinker. He manages to conflate, for example, the empiricism of James with the phenomenology of, for example, Merleau-Ponty. In his flattening move, he implies they are equivalent because they are oriented around around the belief that reality is given. Then, disregarding the longstanding alternative view, (one view among many,) that reality is a suchness, and, completely turning this on its head, he reduces all the ways various phenomenological viewpoints are, in fact, different from one another to a singular, (weakly) psychologized posit with intentional belief at the center of his implicit criticism. (Is belief necessary to a radical empiricism?) In the prototypical Wilberian turn, he develops his argument as if his idiosyncratic interpretation is per force authoritative, correct, and, even, in a purportedly better ‘Wilberian’ future, normative.

Belief can’t be the catch-all for phenomenological reflexivity unless one implements a monological meta-perspective with a definitive (ie. well defined) version of belief at its core! There exist alternatives different than this possibility, and different than another whipping boy of Wilber’s, pluralistic relativism. Even so, this monological view would be not much more than a notion of Wilber’s. There are lots of alternatives, among them are: mysterium, incompleteness, various monisms and realisms, and idealisms. etc. We might admit too ways in which these and other facets of experience are entangled, and are entangled at different orders, and within dynamic arrays of psychological contingencies. We might, too, entertain belief as a problematic of subjectivity, psychologize it as a problematic of reflexivity, or even play with novel views, one such being that belief is a measure of suspicion of that which isn’t seemingly (to the subject) true.

By virtue of my own prejudices, I suspect a truly integral psychology would invert Wilber’s concerns. Rather than psychologize philosophical dispositions, it would philosophize psychological dispositions. This would require Wilber to investigate cognitive psychology and also research folk psychology because commonsense theories of mind, (alternately: everyday practical phenomenology,) are not constructed out of experience and knowledge of august philosophers!

Then there are the folk theories of mind in their infinite subjective varieties. Those count for a great deal since the flux of subjective perspectives is incredibly diverse. (Keep in mind most people don’t construct their perspectives because they’ve evaluated the options given by the ‘history of ideas’. Wilber’s foundational quasi-constructivist supposition strikes me as a strawman with respect to the extant plurality of actual instantiated intentionalities, including those classifiable under the rubric, ‘belief.’ Those possibilities aren’t required to lend themselves to reduction. Wilber’s never groked this although it remains a commonsense objection to his weird integral flatland where the disparate get mixed to grey like finger paints do when subject to overactive artistry!

Is Wilber arguing against belief in givenness (in his own terms,) because he’d like his Integral perspective to supplant the flattened ‘phenomenological’ he decries? Taken specifically, there’s no reason a phenomenology can’t also take as a given experience while making no appeal to intentionality. (It would be paradoxical like Strawson is paradoxical.)

Anyway, he has yet to develop any warrants for this turn he makes. I’m left to ponder why his own subjectivism has become so limited and incapable of self-criticism. Taken generally the phenomenological is hardly monological. As a catch-all, and taken as a term for the richness of subjectivity, it seems strikingly to be the antithesis of monological. Yet, clearly to argue against this, Wilber requires it to be reified. Thus, once again, Wilber’s orienting of generalities concretizes a map about only his own interpretation. Moreover, this map, evidently, is of a territory surrounded by a big protective wall!

This is all unfortunate. If I may suggest: a meta-sociology of knowledge, perspectivism, and consciousness is a worthwhile project. But, in buffering out dialectical, cooperative research with authoritative, likeminded thinkers across the spectrum of interdisciplinarity, Wilber has implemented a hierarchical defense against just about any and all contestation of his work. That this defense rotates around a fallacious appeal to his own authority, and has, over the past decade or so, caused Wilber to rationalize his superiority in the most self-serving, loony terms, has polluted the otherwise worthwhile integral project.

In fact he’s polluted the Integral with his own consciousness cum personality. (Integral Spirituality is full of snippy asides and reflexive dodges.) This is ironic. Nowadays one notes the project includes an admission fee if the polloi want to get close to the pandit; has popped up a consulting cottage industry, and suckered insiders to obtain, well, mere belief. When the lack of warrants and intersubjective contests are pointed out, Wilber lashes out, effecting a refuge of scoundrels: that his critics misunderstand him because they haven’t read his work. Loony.

I have no idea why he can’t step outside himself and his hermetic prejudices enough to see how odd this all is. At the end of this day, Wilber can’t carry much integral water simply because he’s not very integral himself. (Pro-certainty; anti-critical inquiry.) He’s, strangely enough, a warped kind of traditionalist, kind of a post post-modern (Fritjof) Schuon for our times, at the head of a spiritual food chain he’s constructed for himself, with all roads leading to nis own mind. He wrote it and he understands it best. (Incidentally, once you unbolt all the jargon and junk away, and cut wilber a bunch of slack for his being at least a king of category errors, the whole edifice of the Integral isn’t difficult or hard to understand.

His appeal to (his conjured) injunctive verification and its fallacious appeal to authority and non-falsifiability; overlays the mere assertion that “he knows because he knows,” and underpins the necessary master mentality asserted to defend against criticism, says more about Wilber than it can possibly say about how a renegade intelligence might forge an important new outlook–meta-perspective–on the entanglement of subjective and objective and hybrid perspectives.

Or: he knows because his consciousness is so vaunted and valorized. Not only does he read his own clippings but he certifies many of his own reviewers! This harkens back to a psychology about self-inflation. Pathos comes to mind too.

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I went to my 35th high school reunion this weekend. I graduated in 1972 from Hawken School, having entered as a 10th grader. At the time Hawken,a private ‘prep school,’ was an all-male academy. Two years after my class graduated, women were admitted. Everything, apparently, changed!

1972 was a year in a storied era: Nixon, Nam, psychedelia, hippiedom, and callow questioning of authority are just a few of the features of its context. Over the years, my own questioning has become rigorous rather than callow, but, as I mentioned to my balding classmates, the traces of the olden experience have been sustained and etched.

We get together every five years and, for me, the reunion always provides an intriguing moment of socio-anthropological research into the developmental flow of male life. Way back when: I entered a school full of tribes with the core tribe being the sons of Cleveland’s east side professional and legacy elites. Still, the flux was such that the sorting process landed me among the artistic and long haired!

35 years later, the sorting comes undone as we’re all well into the common vicissitudes visited upon late middle agers be they burdens of health, relationships, family, career, or finances. Those ancient tribes unravel and the loosening and retying makes reunion time uniquely interesting and, dare I suggest, honest and reparative.

Somebody asked me whether I thought people actually change much over the years. As we recollect and recover together memories of misty high school days, it’s a natural question to ask. Are we conversing together as slightly altered versions of our teenage selves, or, doing so without bothering to reconcile great changes, or something else?

It is more than my prejudice to suggest the factors of nature and nurture aren’t easily separated, then to be held apart. But all I said when asked was, “I think life changes us alot.”

Of course, it’s a fascinating question for we know that the oak of personality does grow from the acorn of personality. However, it is also understood that a 5 year old’s self-report and somewhat unmediated self-presentation are categorically different than what they will be decades down the pike of life. Also, just to differentiate factors in a 5 year old is problem enough. Nature? Nurture? It’s a bit of both; but the homo sapiens sapiens is the beast able to recall and reflect and review and rehearse and. . .adapt. Learn. Change.


Jamie aka Dynamo Man, Hambone, and David “Hillsee;” two of my closest friends for over 36 years sitting on the couch in my abode. My soul brothers…

I suggested to my classmates that they consider the opportunity for relationship between us–nowadays–as being predicated on deeper processes of knowing and learning. And these are about what each of us has come to, is about, is.

Whether people basically are developing some given-by-biology template, or are growing from not much more than early developmental blueprints, or are engaged in personal evolution of a more complex and entangled, and even mysterious nature, it seems patently obvious that how one goes about knowing is subject to great enhancing movements and enrichments and maturation.

We come together every five years and sort of work on that kind of knowing. We’re no longer very inexperienced in many respects. Men tend to deprecate their relationship skills, yet there is no better test ground, for men, for the foray into interpersonal knowing than the extention of charitable intimacy to another male friend.

Tis very special.

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Filed under adult learning, experiential learning, personal

Teaching Cartoon: Wine Time

Mullah Nasruddin Wine Time

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Filed under experiential learning