Tag Archives: inter-subjectivity

A Mature Culture: Daily Living? (Part 5)

Glitzy and exciting, but major disadvantages.
Glitzy and exciting, but major disadvantages.

Daily life in a mature culture — more musings. In the last few posts, I have suggested that “therapy groups” would be the norm for personal development. I now want to chunk up to what would cities be like, possibly shifting back and forth between daily life and city life for the next few posts.

First of all, village life has been part of human existence for thousands of years — it is what we were designed for in hunter-gatherer communities. The disadvantage of separate villages, of hunter-gatherer life, was starvation (Rupert Ross makes this very clear in his book Dancing With A Ghost.) The advance (?) into civilization, especially that of industrialization, then required that people move to cities so as to optimize resources, human and otherwise. And although there are major advantages to city life, the downsides are massive: concrete jungles, a lot of marginalization, et cetera. In a mature culture, we must find a balance between these forces, optimizing the advantages of each — the issue is that of a polarity difficulty, not an either/or situation.

In my explorations, I have encountered two examples that I really like (although each has significant disadvantages compared to my current individualistic lifestyle). The first is the greening of current day cities, such as the retrofitting of Manchester, with green streets, walls, and buildings; rooftop food production; and extensive photovoltaic energy production. Obviously, only a little different from our current world; technologically possible, but what about our emotional needs? From my perspective, very feasible if we truly step into a wisdom culture. The disadvantage would be the footprint of cities, precluding small group face-to-face discussion on most issues; this can be minimized with efficient technology, but I suggest that technology is not perfect, and does not replace the need for direct human contact. The greening of current cities could be a temporary measure, but I suggest some kind of village milieu is still needed.

Contrasting cities, with interesting options.
Contrasting cities, with interesting options.

I therefore favor the Victory City, the semi-utopian concept of Orville Simpson II, cities of approximately 200-300K people, self-contained and self-sufficient based on a land footprint of 3 square miles (compared to a modern city of similar size occupying over 200 square miles). I suggest the design[1] is very feasible if we truly step into a wisdom culture.

With the Victory City model, assuming it was widely copied, there would be approximately 6,000 cities across the world. Although I was initially reluctant to envision living in such a high-rise complex (102 floors) as Victory City, I am now more convinced of its design structure. Its small footprint means extensive wilderness areas. Local transportation would be by extensive high volume, high-speed elevators, both between floors and between buildings. Living units would predominantly be bedroom areas and privacy areas, rather than the extensive private living quarters of present day modern life. All food production is on-site, with only a small amount obtained from other centers. Most food service would be within large high-volume cafeterias. Its small size would allow easy access of work locations and of outdoor recreational facilities.

High-rise living, with many possible features.
High-rise living, with many possible features.

The change that I would make in a Victory City would be that the high-rises would consist of village-like sandwiches, every three floors being two floors of private living space with an intervening village-like common between. Such an arrangement would maximize face-to-face discussion of important issues (intersubjectivity), shared decision making in trusted groups (direct democracy). I would also want to maximize efficient electronic communication so as to allow people to truly live and work within their village-like environments.

Next posting, I will explore how daily living conditions would function in a Victory City.

Your thoughts?

To be continued.

[1] After his death, Simpson donated his work on Victory Cities to the University of Cincinnati; I have not found easy access to his work from this source. However, when I was doing my PhD, I was verbally granted me access for usage in my dissertation, although I never received written permission.

A Mature Culture: Daily Living? (Part 4)

Adults learn best in cooperation.
Adults learn best in cooperation.

Daily life in a mature culture — more musings. In the last post, I suggested that “therapy groups” would be the norm for personal development. What would this be like?

These would be gatherings in small group for honest dialogue, likely weekly or twice a week. Adults learn best by having significant emotional experiences, and then reflecting on them in the presence of trusted adults. This would be a place of honesty, emotional expression, and compassionate reflection — one of the best examples I have of something like this is the aboriginal justice circles (Rupert Ross, Indigenous Healing: Exploring Traditional Paths), where there is no sense of guilt or shame evoked. Another example would be the work of Roy Madron on Gaian Democracies — an excellent example of cultural maturity, ranging from individual group process to world governance.

In-depth personal work requires a facilitator — as human beings, we are past masters at avoiding our own issues, and a good facilitator can point out to us that we are avoiding an issue, or alternatively, can point out to us something that we are missing, even if it seems obvious. Such facilitators will be part of the ongoing village community, and in many circumstances can arise spontaneously through recognition of their maturity by others within the community.

One of my mentors suggested that a good facilitator-therapist has three characteristics, in reverse order of importance:

  1. they have a theoretical framework within which they work. This framework is seldom of use in the moment, but provides a way to talk about what was done, after the fact.
  2. they have practical experience working with people, usually with ongoing supervision by other therapists, either their peers or more mature therapists.
  3. they do their own personal work; they have struggled with their own demons, and know the value of compassion. This is the most important characteristic.

There are a number of fundamental skills that a therapist requires, independent of the theoretical framework, skills that are only learned by one’s own personal work. For me, most important amongst these skills are:

  • the value of powerlessness.
    • The most succinct way I have of describing this is the statement of Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane: “If it is possible, Oh Lord, let this cup be taken from me. If not, Thy Will be done!” It is the process of acceptance of what is, or what must be based on one’s values.
  • the willingness to risk.
    • Personal growth is high risk. The individual will certainly risk feeling powerless, and potentially fall into pain as he or she confronts issues wherein he or she is not acting according to values that are important to this individual. (Such values may not be important to the group, or may actually be opposed by the group; this may actually be important for the growth of the group.)
    • There are many times where a good therapist must risk just as much as the client; it is frequently the place where the therapist grows, both personally and professionally.
  • the willingness to meet the client in their own world (the process of rapport).
    • Sometimes this means reflection with the client in their pain; sometimes it means getting in their face so as to demonstrate the impact of something such as self-righteousness. Again, it may entail risk.
  • the use of silence.
    • Silence is a very powerful tool, and used well, can be very therapeutic. It may be part of rapport; it may be part of risk.

We are not born knowing all we need to know; that is what the human journey is — the opportunity to grow in maturity. And our current culture is abysmal in this process. I have said many times that, as individuals we are capable of incredible greatness, but as a species we are psychotic — we tolerate numerous inequalities, of people, of education, of food availability, of basic necessities.

If we actually resolved these inequalities, we would still need living in small village-like environments, exposed to the processes I am exploring at the moment. But it would be so much easier to achieve and maintain maturity!

Your thoughts?

To be continued.

A Mature Culture: Daily Living? (Part 3)

What sustains your life?
What sustains your life?

Daily life in a mature culture — my musings continue (I will continue with acedia in a few weeks when I finish with my thoughts regarding a mature culture). In the last posts, I suggested at least two three-hour sessions a week for in-depth personal work. What would this be like?

For most of my career as a physician, I was a psychotherapist. I hate the term (therapy, that is) — it is so misunderstood in our culture, and still today, people who go to therapists are regarded as less than competent. For me, therapy is the only place in modern life where the skills of being a mature human being are explored. And hence, for me, “therapy” will be the norm in a mature culture. It will just be called growth.

Also, for most of my career, I did group psychotherapy, as opposed to individual psychotherapy. I did this for two reasons:

  • I was a physician, and hence almost all of my work was covered by the provincial health plan. On the occasions when I moved from one town to another, I would have a waiting list within three weeks — and within six months, the waiting list would be two years long. When I was doing group work, I had no waiting list; I simply added clients to existing groups, or I added another group to the week. It was simply more efficient to practice group psychotherapy.
    • On occasion, I would still see clients for the occasional individual sessions, especially when there was the need to explore issues of privacy or trust before bringing the difficulties back into a group setting. Eventually, when people learn to trust each other, such individual sessions were no longer needed.
  • I considered group therapy to be more effective. Clients learned that other people had similar problems, and they also learned from each other. My goal was to take the client to a level where they could do their own therapy — they learned this faster when they saw other clients struggling with their own issues.

I had three basic rules when working with people, rules I told clients when the need arose:

  1. I was willing to do up to 50% of the work; on occasion more, but not routinely. Even the best of people avoid issues, and it was not my job as therapist to make them work.
  2. If at all possible, we (the client and myself) would have fun! People learn more effectively when they are having fun.
  3. If anyone was going to be frustrated (in the therapy session), it was not going to be me. Now guess who will be!

I assume these three rules would still be necessary in a mature culture, but less so.

Your thoughts?

To be continued.

A Mature Culture: Daily Living? (Part 2)

LivingWell

To continue my musings concerning daily life in a mature culture — I am suggesting that human beings would essentially live within small village-like environments, nested within larger communities which would provide more sophisticated resources.

If we were to do away with most of the consumerism of our current society and live such that much of what was needed was provided in modular fashion, I imagine that work life would be greatly simplified with fewer daily hours of toil, and much greater opportunity for creative endeavors. I am going to assume that the work week would be five days of five hours each, with shift work as necessary for some tasks (perhaps many tasks). With good technology, many tasks could be accomplished electronically, and many meetings attended electronically. So I will assume that the average person leaves the local village environment three days a week, and remains in the local environment for the other two (see future posts for some exceptions).

I also assume that if I lived in a culture that truly honored personal development and the effective resolution of conflict, much of my work time would actually be pleasurable. If education was not a limitation, most people would devote their time to the creative aspects, leaving the drudgery to robotics, for example. Thus I would not be exhausted at the end of work, whatever the type of work. One of the aspects of being a therapist that I really enjoyed was that essentially I was paid to do my own emotional growth work, exploring with others as they struggled with their own issues, but at the same time providing creative opportunity for me — thus it was seldom that I came away feeling exhausted (almost exclusively this occurred when I was caught in my own issues with the client, wanting them to change so as to fix my own pain).

Effectively living a 25-hour work week, without the hassles imposed by consumerism, leaves a huge amount of time! How might I spend it?

My first question: how many hours do you the reader spend on your own personal development? How many hours would be needed, especially if you were truly committed to the Truth Quest as described by Herman?

I mentioned before that I believe the basis of personal development is that of meditation and journal writing. To this I would also add some form of physical activity, of which my preference is hatha yoga. All three are primary ways in which I access my other-than-conscious mind. For me, personal development depends on an integration of conscious and other-than-conscious mind, my conscious mind providing direction, my other-than-conscious providing life energy.

In the early days of my mid-life transition when I was in my 40s, I was dealing with much of my own personal pain. I found I needed three hours a day for my own personal work — an hour of meditation, journal-writing, and yoga. On top of that I also needed to spend at least another 8-10 hours a week engaged in my own therapy. At a later stage of my life, when I was creatively engaged in my work as therapist, I needed about an hour and a half: half an hour of each discipline. Now, towards the end of my eldership transition, I need about two hours a day. In both of these latter aspects, the creativity replaces the need for therapy.

So, on average, my answer as to how much time is needed for personal development is:

  • about two hours a day, plus
  • two three-hour sessions for in-depth work.

That may seem like a lot of time — but given that human beings are pain avoiders (and hence often avoid both personal development and the seeking of conflict resolution — both of which are often painful), it will be necessary time. As a species, we must do the work of overcoming our propensity to viciousness and self-righteousness; giving lip service to life change, and all the suggestions of what we should do, will not provide the outcomes we need.

Your thoughts?

To be continued.

A Mature Culture: Daily Living? (Part 1)

LivingWell

Daily living: I have mentioned in my last few posts that Louis Herman, in Future Primal, lists four characteristics that satisfy human activity, what he calls the Truth Quest: the seeking of wisdom (individuation), face-to-face discussion of important issues (intersubjectivity), shared decision making in trusted groups (direct democracy) and a narrative of meaning (mythic narrative). All components are in a continual dance with each other, in a never-ending journey of discovery — they are the basis of daily living.

MandalaFP

So –– what would cities or communities be like in these circumstances, where the total population of the world, the global village, is one to two billion people, all of whom were guaranteed adequate attention to education, health, and resources for living? Obviously very different from present-day modern life, which ranges from the affluent West to the poorest countries of the world. There would undoubtedly be much diversity, but the themes suggested by Herman remain important.

I remind the reader that what follows are my musings, based on ideas I have encountered in my personal readings. Given that I have grown up with the individuality of Western civilization in a somewhat affluent fashion, I cannot say that I like all that I am going to suggest, but I do believe that my musings are essential features of sustainable and resilient culture.

I consider the following would be essential features of daily life. Especially, I and every other human being on the planet would be living in similar fashion. I strongly value cultural diversity, but we simply cannot afford (both physically and emotionally) the vast consumerism of our planet — most of what we do would need to done in modular fashion, using shared resources.

A question: If our highest priority was the seeking of wisdom, the seeking of personal growth, would we need private property, other than in token fashion? If everyone had adequate education, health and living conditions, would we need money? If everyone was convinced of the need for sustainability, would we be willing to live effectively into community, sharing childcare, and sustaining each other in many ways to which at present we only give lip service? Utopian perhaps, but how else can we adapt to the massive changes that are needed in our current world?

I suggest that each individual would be committed to living in a village-like environment (up to about 300 people), seeking always to find a balance between personal needs and the improvement of local culture, not growth per se, but sustainable satisfaction.

  • Given advanced communication technology, this village-like environment could provide both work and personal-family milieu, offering excellent resources for cultural enhancement (library resources, theatre, et cetera).
    • Community child care of high quality would be an essential feature, such that children would be welcome to attend all community functions.
  • There would be many community interactions, on a daily and weekly basis, ranging from community sharing of food preparation and eating to local governance, with a commitment to:
    • personal development, especially emotional development (call it therapy by any other name),
    • resolution of conflict (the settling of inter-personal differences), and
    • local governance (the management of community to achieve local desires).
  • There would be some opportunity for travel, both business and personal, but for the most part, travel would be in a virtual domain, not a physical domain.

These village-like environments would be embedded within larger communities, where more sophisticated resources (medical and educational, for example) would be available. There would be strong linkages between governance at this level and that of the village-like level (see later posts for details).

Your thoughts?

To be continued.