The Colour Spiral

All of these memes [colours] has something to contribute.

But what none of the first-tier [from beige through to green] memes can do, on their own, is fully appreciate the existence of the other memes. Each of the first-tier memes thinks that its worldview is the correct or best perspective. It reacts negatively if challenged; it lashes out, using its own tools, whenever it is threatened.

Blue order is very uncomfortable with both red impulsiveness and orange individualism. Orange individualism thinks blue order is for suckers and green egalitarianism is weak and woo-woo. Green egalitarianism cannot easily abide excellence and value-rankings, big pictures, hierarchies, or anything that appears authoritarian, and thus green reacts strongly to blue, orange, and anything post-green.

All of that begins to change with second-tier thinking. Because second-tier consciousness is fully aware of the interior stages of development - even if it cannot articulate them in a technical fashion - it steps back and grasps the big picture, and thus second-tier thinking appreciates the necessary role that all of the various memes play. Second tier awareness thinks in terms of the overall spiral of existence, and not merely in terms of any one level.

[Upon reaching second-tier thinking one can] vividly grasp the entire spectrum of interior development, and thus see that each level, each meme, each wave is crucially important for the health of the overall Spiral.

[...] without second-tier thinking [...] humanity is destined to remain victims of a global "autoimmune disease," where various memes turn on each other in an attempt to establish supremacy.

This is why many arguments are not really a matter of the better objective evidence, but of the subjective level of those arguing. No amount of orange scientific evidence will convince blue mythic believers; no amount of green bonding will impress orange aggressiveness; no amount of turquoise holism will dislodge green pluralism - unless the individual is ready to develop forward through the dynamic spiral of consciousness unfolding.

[Ken Wilber]
A Theory of Everything, p. 11-14

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The Colour Wheel

Analogous colors are any three colors which are side by side on a 12 part color wheel, such as yellow-green, yellow, and yellow-orange. Usually one of the three colors predominates.

Complementary colors are pairs of colors which, when combined, cancel each other out. This means that when combined, they produce black, or if colored light (rather than pigment) is used, they produce white. When placed next to each other, they create the strongest contrast for those particular two colors.

Due to this striking color clash, the term opposite colors is often considered more appropriate than "complementary colors".


The colour wheel reminds us that opposing viewpoints can be held within the same structure. 

We can apply this analogy to ourselves as individuals, or to the larger collection of individuals that we call a society. Indeed, the wheel even suggests that not only can these pairs be seen as opposites but they can also be seen as complementary. Both descriptions offer us something useful.

How can two opposing views of something both be true?

Imagine you have two pairs of sunglasses, one with red lenses, the other with green lenses. You give these sunglasses to two people; one wears the red, the other wears the green. Both stand in the same room. You ask each to describe the colour of the room. One says 'red.' The other says 'green.'

If the room is red, then it cannot be green. If it is green, then it cannot be red. One truth appears to negate the other. Which colour is it then - red or green?

This is a trap we often find ourselves walking into on a daily basis. The Truth of the situation is that both views are 'correct.' But correct is a misleading word. It may be better to say that both offer us a truthful view. It is through the combination of these views that we get nearer to Truth with a capital 'T.'

The Truth of the colour spectrum is in the combination of all colours: white light. The same can be said about the spectrum of people. We each offer a view, one that is characterised by the various lenses that we wear. Our lenses arise from our individual biases; which, depending on what you believe, arise from our various experiences and/or our basic personality type. Whatever you attribute the cause of our lenses to be, it is undeniable that we all wear them: that each of us offers a unique view of things.

In the same way that the colour wheel contains an infinite variety of colours, each one merging into the next, the people-wheel comprises an infinite variety of views. Whilst one colour may be indistinguishable from its neighbour, each is also unique.

And whilst a certain situation may call for red rather than green, this does not mean that red is any more truthful than green. It simply shows us that each colour has its strengths and weaknesses, and that in one context a certain colour may be more appropriate, and in another it may not.

So whilst each colour holds an equal - and often opposing - truth, it is context that defines a colour's value in any given moment.

In referring to our opposite as complementary we acknowledge that together - as a pair of opposites - we form a balance. In a larger sense, we need them, and they need us. Remove any of the colours from the spectrum and we lose the ability to create white light - in other words, we lose our path towards Truth.

It is all too easy to fall into the trap of believing our own view - our own colour - to be 'the right one.' In times like these we would do well to remember the wheel. In remembering that all colours are needed to form the balanced spectrum, we are able to put our own little contribution into perspective.

That little feeling we often get, that we alone hold the Truth, is a trustworthy one. What we are sensing is the white light from which our individual colour was refracted. Our only mistake is to confuse our surface truth - our small piece of the spectrum - with the universal Truth of white light. It is when we are able to see beyond our individual viewpoint to the larger balance - the full spectrum - that we are able to to see things in a more balanced and Truthful light.

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Addiction: the Short and the Long of It

Here are two ways in which we can view addiction:

1. As an individual problem
2. As an environmental problem

We must ask ourselves: what is the wisest way to view it?

To answer this question, we must first know our goals. What kind of society do we want? For example, someone who desires an unbalanced society in which the few exploit the many will suggest different solutions to someone who desires a more level playing field. As a collective, our goals must be based on consensus. Our wisdom, and our solutions, then spring from these goals.

This isn't to suggest that the goals we settle on, and the wisdom we let guide us, are always going to be healthy for us; at an individual or collective level. Many of us chase goals that are decidedly unhealthy. Collectively we are currently driven by the wisdom of commerce, which is healthy for corporations, but unhealthy for human beings. Each of us must look in our hearts to decide how it is we want the world to be. It is here that true wisdom resides.

Perhaps how we view addiction depends on our understanding of what it is. One way of looking at it is to place emphasis on the object of the addiction. This approach focuses on 'addicts' and 'addictive substances.' It is what we could call the narrow, or short-sighted, approach. We focus on the immediate problem, the stimulus. Yet if our focus remains here then we risk overlooking the cause of that stimulus. To use a cycling analogy, it is akin to fixing a puncture in your bicycle inner-tube, yet overlooking the thorn that is stuck in your tyre. You have solved the immediate problem (the hole that let out the air has been patched), but have failed to address the cause (the thorn that caused the hole remains in your tyre). Thus, in time, the problem will reoccur.

All things can be approached with either a short or a long view. Which view we tend to take depends on the type of person we are, and whatever biases we may have picked up over the years. Thus, one view is, in itself, no better or worse than the other, in much the same way that a square is no better than a circle. However, in a certain context one view may serve us better than the other; just as a circle makes a better wheel, and a square makes a better brick.

Of course, we can take either view in any given situation. But what type of person we are will determine which mindset we tend towards. Some are naturally biased towards the long view, some towards the short. Clues to this can be found in labels like 'men of action' and 'men of words,' amongst other terms. Taking the long-view is like standing atop a mountain; from such a height we are able to see how all things fit together - how the river winds around the forest; how the city streets form a geometric pattern. But what we cannot see are the details. The cracks in the pavement; the stones on the riverbed; the insects in the grass. The short-view is to be found at the bottom of the mountain. From here we can see all of those details. But we don't see how anything fits together. These views complement each other, and together they provide a full picture.

In taking the short-view we are able to devise short-term solutions. One of the good things about such answers is that they are quick. The short-view is decisive; if your boat is on fire then you jump into the water. It may strike you later that there could be predators around, or that you may freeze. The moment required a decisive decision - weighing up your options could have cost you your life. Thus, in this context, a short view was favourable.

When looking at the issue of addiction, the short-view takes the first things that it gets to along the line of causality - the substance and the addict - and it looks for solutions at this level. It comes up with ideas like the following; prohibiting certain substances; urging restraint and self-control; criminalising addicts; support-groups; and so on. All are short-term solutions, and may have varying degrees of success in the short-term. They are the patch on the inner-tube. Patch the hole and no more air can escape: take the substance away and no-one can get addicted to it. Logical and effective. For a while.

The long-view travels further along the chain of causality. If it works its way back far enough it may begin to realise that an addict is not an isolated individual; and if it goes further it may see that addiction is not an isolated problem. It may see that it shares a root with a lot of other seemingly unrelated problems. And that most of these problems stem from a dysfunctional environment. The problem for the long-view is always where to draw the line; where to stop chasing that endless chain of causes. Wisdom may well dictate this line.

To state it one more time: there are two ways in which we can view addiction:

1. As an individual problem (short-view)
2. As an environmental problem (long-view)

It is natural for a long-view to see the environment and the short-view to see the object within the environment. One sees forest, the other trees. Both are important. But which will offer you the best solution to achieve your goal? And what is your goal?

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The Devil is in the Details (and God is in the Generalities)

"The elders do not see the details, they see the overall picture. If the overall pattern is good, the hardship of the details does not matter."

Malidoma Somé, Of Water and the Spirit, p. 311

Many get annoyed at Russell Brand because he does not provide details. He talks in a general way about things, in a way that may appear wishy-washy. He paints in broad strokes, but does not seem as concerned about the finer details.

Brand is an idealist. To ask an idealist for details is like asking a long distance runner to improve his bench-press. If they are serious about their running then they would ignore such a request. This is because the two things - body-building and long-distance running - are mutually exclusive. They stand at opposite ends of a spectrum; and to head towards one means going away from the other. To build excessive muscle is detrimental to the goals of the endurance runner.

Idealism and realism are likewise mutually exclusive. We are all born somewhere between the two. None of us is entirely one or the other. We each contain a unique mix of both. Some will be more idealist than realist, some more realist than idealist. Those nearer to the middle of the scale will not readily identify themselves as either, and to them such labeling may seem unhelpful or untrue. They may say they are both, and it depends on the situation. This is because, being nearer to the middle, it is harder to discern being nearer to either pole. These people are lukewarm. Sometimes they think they're hot, sometimes cold. It depends. This is natural and normal.

It is those nearer to the extremes - realism on one side, and idealism on the other - that will find truth in these labels. They feel the difference more readily.

Here are some other words that we can associate with the opposite poles of idealism and pragmatism:-

Idealism                   <------------>             Pragmatism
Long-sighted            <------------>            Short-sighted
Imaginative              <------------>             Realistic
What can be             <------------>             What is
Generalities              <------------>             Details
Thought                    <------------>             Action
Inflation                    <------------>             Deflation

For Brand to be more pragmatic - to speak more of details, get down to the nitty gritty - would be to the detriment of his nature. His gift is in thinking in an idealistic way. This is what he brings to us. As a society we need all types; those that think idealistically, and those that think pragmatically. Without either we would be critically imbalanced.

It is unfortunate that we are in a culture that places realism above idealism, and that tends to marginalise the idealist voice to the fringes. In this environment it is unsurprising that a rampant idealist such as Brand should divide people so thoroughly. Our culture also tends to ignore the importance of multiple voices, and instead attempts to fit all shapes into the same hole. The hole that is most in favour at the minute is that of the pragmatist (pragmatism being the mindset-du-jour of capitalism). This combination of factors can lead us to believe that because someone is not pragmatic enough they are in some way defective. In believing this we have accepted the bias of the wider culture.

For a pragmatist to get frustrated at an idealist for their lack of realism, is akin to getting frustrated at light for its lack of dark. Light may be annoying when we are trying to sleep - but it is vital when we trying to grow crops. Both have their place: it is context that defines their value.

In this sense, it is not up to Brand to talk of details. When he says that our current way of doing things is not working, it is not for him to provide a detailed analysis of why and what we can do about it (although, indeed, he may feel compelled to try). His mind is not suited to this kind of activity, and it would be detrimental to us - as a whole - to ask him to go against his nature and get bogged down in the details. Especially so when there are there are other people - those with more pragmatic minds - who excel in details, and who do not get bogged down by them.

It may be that Brand's voice is at its most effective when it is placed amongst a team of other voices. A diverse team that incorporates all manner of types, from idealists through to realists. In this context, where Brand leaves off, another would pick up. Each would play to their strength. It is an archetypal image, and can be seen in stories like Lord of the Rings, where we have a multi-disciplinary team that excels through utilising its diversity. One person cannot be expected to incorporate all approaches, especially when these approaches are mutually exclusive to one another. For a person to play to their strengths means walking in a definite direction, and forsaking another direction. We cannot, after all, walk in two opposite directions at the same time.

We must recognise that we are all different, and have diverse styles of thinking and acting that are all equally important. We must remember that context defines what is important at any given moment. Whilst it is tempting for a realist to characterise an idealist as lazy for their lack of thoroughness, it must be remembered that an idealist could as easily turn this assessment on its head and demand a more expansive and less encumbered line of thought from the realist. To get tempted into this battle is to lose sight of how each type - idealist and realist - actually needs and supports the other.

Sometimes as a collective we need a bit of wishy-washy. Somé's quote reminds us that it can be very important to see the overall picture and to not allow the details to bog us down. As any artist knows, it is helpful to first have a general vision of the work we intend to create. Often those first strokes are broad and loose. As Somé reminds us, if our strokes are good and true, then we need not always worry about the finer details. They will often sort themselves out.

Let's ask ourselves: what things does this person (in this instance, Russell Brand) do well? What gifts do they bring to our collective? Once we recognise a person's shape - that way they are made to be - then we can see the ways in which that shape is to our advantage, collectively. In understanding our nature we can understand that it is not only valid, but vital to the wider scene. If it does not appear so, then we have simply not yet found the right context.

From there, we can work to understand everyone's nature; and see how all fit into and complete a jigsaw.

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