The problem of the world are problems of perception. Everything proceeds from perception. Perception leads to action. Therefore, ‘changing the world’ must always begin with ‘changing the way we see the world’. As Einstein said, ‘You cannot solve problems with the same level of thinking that created them’.
Humans are complex creatures with a wide and varied array of capacities and functions. We think, we feel, we imagine, intuit, love etc. There is always a lot of talk within education and human development circles about holistic development. But what does this actually mean? As Ken Wilbur notes ‘Have you ever noticed how virtually all of us are unevenly developed?’
The golden mean that the Greeks spoke about referred to the fact that there was a middle round in which things operate best. The over-development or over-use of a good quality or virtue lead to it turning into a vice. The under-use, equally, of a strength was a weakness. So, courage taken to an extreme is rashness or recklessness, while under-developed it is cowardice.
The course of our development is, of course, heavily dependant on the culture into which we are born. No culture will value and nurture all qualities and capacities equally. What is ‘brought out’ or cultivated in us will therefore depend on what the society we live in values. What are the aspects of our human nature that are valued most in modern western culture? Perhaps at the top of this list might be the ability to think – reason, logic etc. to be independent, self-assertive; individualism and all that goes with it in terms of ideas about success, ambition, status, prestige, power, achievement. This, of course, is bound up with a particular worldview – the beliefs, assumptions and values we hold about how life is or the way the world works.
What, then, are the aspects of our humanity that are neglected in terms of their development? While reason and logic are prized, intuition and imagination, which are different ways of knowing, are looked upon with suspicion – not as accurate or a bit nebulous, fuzzy.
The feeling function – the capacity to know and feel and have insight into our emotional lives is by and large completely suppressed (as in there is little effort to develop it); with that equally social intelligence, the capacity to relate, to empathise, to know the mind of others.
In so far as explicit knowledge is desired, implicit knowing is ignored. The whole realm of the body – bodily knowing, the senses (including the internal sensations of the body) are neglected to the point that most of us find it hard to connect with the aliveness within our bodies. Overall, we might say, the concrete, the immediate, embodiment, the presence of a thing, this primary knowing of the world is suppressed (neglected?) in favour of abstraction, detachment, re-presenting, and intellectualising with the result that we are less in touch with reality and experience. We ‘experience’ the world through the prism of our own constructions of ‘knowledge’.
With loss of connection with the body, equally, there is loss of the ability to be expressive and spontaneous with the result that there is diminished joy and aliveness. Also, the capacity for spirituality – the ability to feel connected to a large whole, to find ultimate meaning, to feel love, awe, wonder, to experience mystery, gratitude, astonishment etc. is in many ways a taboo – denigrated and denied as being incompatible with the scientific materialist worldview.