Nov 19th I will be hosting the first of a multi-part discussion on Integral Ethics. My invite is below. For more details and to join us look here: http://www.meetup.com/kenwilber-58
Integral Ethics Series
Integral Theory helps us hold multiple perspective; still, decisions must be made and actions taken. In that regard, one question remains largely unanswered, “does an integral worldview impose any moral imperatives?” Postmodernity, taken to the extreme, makes all perspectives equal. Integral includes honoring the relative truth of all perspectives but also reintroduces ranking. An integral perspective does not pretend that all actions are equally loving and good for the kosmos. No matter how many perspectives we honor in theory, we end up embodying the ones that we find ethical and act accordingly. The question is whether or not integral consciousness will tend to foster certain behaviors over others. Does integral have normative potential?
This Months Topic
An integral approach to the ethics of eating means considering everything from personal well being to tribal connectivity to planetary ecology to economic feasibility when making food choices. Food is one area where we do not have a clear scientific consensus on best practices. Facts will continue to be presented in an endless process of discovery. It is the values we place upon this objective data that determines our ethics. We each hold cultural and social norms which vary wildly depending on tradition, region, religion, class, education, generation and socioeconomic means. Personal preferences change with the seasons and with the years.
In days past religious laws from Judaism, Christianity, Hinduism and Buddhism all imposed dietary restrictions that were passed down from above and largely accepted. Contemporary eaters consider food being local vs. imported, organic vs. conventional vs. GMO, vegan, vegetarian, dairy or gluten-free and on and on. We each make our own decision based on tradition, law, reason, instinct and intuition.
You have likely been asked many times whether or not you feel a moral imperative to limit your consumption of meat. Have you had dog on your plate this year? How about cow? Do you support your local farmer? How about when dining out, at holidays or as a guest at someone else’s home? We each have ideals. We also have practical limits and exceptions to these ideals. Have you taken a hard stance dietarily? Did it stick? Have you recanted?
We all talk about the gap between theory and embodiment. The decisions we make and the ethics by which we make them are our personal statements, our theory embodied. While we vote for the president once every four years, we wield great power daily when we make food choices. This discussion will not be about judging one another. It will be about letting ourselves be a little bit vulnerable so that we can learn from and share with one another. Integral theory does not judge people as ‘right’ or ‘wrong’, but can it help us to assess actions and ideas as more or less loving? Does this not have have normative potential?
All of these questions and many more will be ‘on the table’ as we attempt to come up with an Integral Ethics of Eating.
(For a bit of background on how nutritional science plays into my ethics and coaching read my post here. https://lifestyleintegrity.com/nutritional-science-sucks/ – Devin)
Recently my friend Gilles and I took over responsibility for organizing the NYC Ken Wilber Meetup group. This is a group of people that have been getting together once or twice a month for the past 5-6 years to discuss an incredibly wide array of topics using Integral Theory as a lens. For the past 3-4 years this group has been run by Barbara Larisch. It was decided that she needed a break to focus on other things, so Gilles and I took the reins.
This is an amazing group of incredibly diverse people who are all surprisingly intellectually, emotionally and spiritually awake. The conversations are all over the map ranging from books written by Ken to politics, psychology, religion; I led a meetup recently on drugs and one a while back on money. We had one a few weeks ago on pathology. The next topic we will be tackling is circumcision. Read Gilles writeup below:
For our next Integral conversation, we choose to tackle a delicate topic—the survival of surgical ritualistic practices that involve cutting a piece of an infant’s or child’s body, such as the circumcision of (baby) boys and girls. Let’s see where the Integral approach leads us. From an Integral standpoint, circumcision is a fascinating study case. For different reasons, all symbolic (e.g., rites of passage to adulthood, reinforc…ement of gender differences, display of ethno-religious identity, and various combinations of the above), cultures as distant as the Egyptians and the Aborigines enforced practices which entailed ablation of the foreskin, sub-incision into the urethra, bleeding and/or tooth pulling for boys, clitoridectomy and/or labial reduction for girls, just to name a few. While these practices emerged in Purple and Red societies, some survived, if not flourished in some Blue cultures. This is typically the case of male circumcision among Jews and Muslims, and female circumcision in parts of the Islamic world. Surprisingly, both male and female circumcision reappeared in Victorian England, with a unconcealed goal: to hinder masturbation among youths and prevent the many disorders that allegedly ensued from it. While female circumcision was quickly abandoned, the practice of male circumcision spread in English speaking countries, particularly in the United States (with the help of the famous Dr. Kellogg). Throughout the 19th and 20th centuries, studies in the US confirmed the numerous health advantages of circumcision on newborn males. Overall, medical studies are contradictory, and male circumcision is not recommended anywhere outside the US (in fact, since 1999, the American Medical Association and the American Academy of Pediatrics have stopped advocating this procedure). Today, male circumcision for medical and/or aesthetic reasons appears to be a distinctive feature of American society, apart from religious circumcision in Jewish and Muslim cultures.
Wikipedia lists male circumcision as “circumcision” but female circumcision as “female genital cutting/mutilation.” Western countries are unanimously outraged by the practices of female genital mutilation still enacted in some parts of the Muslim world. On the other hand, newborn male circumcision, despite an increasingly vocal anti-circumcision movement, remains widely accepted. Why? Interestingly, male circumcision—a medical routine or ritual practiced by integrally informed rabbis—has not yet been openly discussed by Integral thinkers.
How do integral thinkers hold circumcision in the grand scheme of the Integral framework? What is the sacred meaning, role, and value of this ritual at a Turquoise level of cultural development? At the same time, why is male circumcision accepted, if not praised, in Integral circles, while all other rituals of a similar nature (be they imposed on boys or girls) are deemed cruel and immoral? Why are some practices acceptable and others not? And most importantly, what are the cultural assumptions that determine our moral choices, be we for it or against it?
Why has cutting an infant’s body (without the infant’s consent obviously) for symbolic or (disputed) health reasons not been investigated Integrally? We think it’s about time. Let’s open up into a multi-textured, many flavored discourse. All points of view welcome. All perspectives honored. Discernment, authenticity, and tact are encouraged. Let us remember also that, from an Integral standpoint, problems (and solutions!) emerge from all four corners of the AQAL map, and that “transcend and include” is the only acceptable resolution. We invite you to join us in this discussion, which, without a doubt, promises to be passionate, heated at times, fascinating, and testing the very edge of our Integral consciousness.
The meetups are open to all. Head over to the site, sign-up, and come check one out.
I will be leading a discussion on drugs at the next NYC Ken Wilber Meetup. We will be exploring drugs and drug use through the lens of Integral Philosophy. My writeup for the event is below. More details can be found here:
What is a drug? Why do we break laws to obtain some, are medically prescribed others, minimally aware of yet others and in ways a bit scared of them all? From heavy handed states of overwhelm to routine daily doses that are meant to make us feel normal, we use drugs in more ways than we often acknowledge. Societal norms, social circle expectations, our own internal chemistry, physiology, mood swings, shadow, spirit; all of these things and many more must be addressed in order to look at drugs and drug use from an integral perspective. Join us as we explore our relationships with and ideas about drugs in an attempt to come to a more holistic embrace of drugs and the roles that they play in our lives, religions, evolution, relationships, jobs, morals and general sense of well being.
The truth is that drug use has been a part of human life for as long as we have information. The likelihood of this changing is very slim. Yet, like other constants such as sex, there exists both an intense draw and deep dark shadows. Many claim to have had great awakenings, insights and inspiration through drug use. Others seem to be attempting an escape from reality or to just subtly dull the experience. Some of our greatest art was created with drugs. Some of these artists died at the hands of the same drugs. For some drug use is a medical necessity that their body or society demands. Many drugs blend into the baseline of our days in an almost symbiotic relationship, filling gaps as they arise, supplementing the basic systems of our body/mind in a way that both enables and cripples us, at times without our conscious recognition of their presence.
What is an Integralite to do? Try everything? Avoid them at all costs? Begin drawing lines in the sand? How do we navigate the sea of choices and what are the potential costs and benefits of doing so? Join us for a guided conversational exploration of the many faces of drugs. Sobriety optional.
Last night I attended Green Spaces Green Business Competition awards at Borough Hall in Brooklyn. This competition looked to promote emerging green businesses in New York that have the ability to revolutionize their industry by working with our ecological resources while creating economic opportunities. 70 companies with revenue under $10 million entered this years competition. 5 were chosen to present their business to the panel of judges (and the audience) last night. 3 winners were then selected.
1st place: Gotham Greens
Bringing New Yorkers local, sustainable produce grown in the heart of NYC
Gotham Greens’ premium quality, pesticide-free vegetables and herbs will be grown in sterile rooftop greenhouses using clean, renewable energy and captured rainwater.
This company is now building their first 12,000 sq ft rooftop hydroponic garden in NYC. This facility will grow over 30 tons of premium quality, pesticide free vegetables each year for the NYC retail and restaurant market. They will be delivering extremely high quality vegetables the same day that they are picked. We’re not talking about genetically modified week old food shipped halfway around the world. We’re talking about something picked in your ‘back yard’ and potentially eaten the same day. They have been running a test site floating out in the river for the past three years and the response has apparently been incredibly enthusiastic, due largely to taste.
The environmental impact is also not to be ignored. Hydroponic farming consumes far less water than traditional dirt farming, as the water is recirculated continuously. They will also be capturing and utilizing rain water. The facility also uses solar panels for most or all of the energy requirements. Any excess energy generated will be fed back into the grid. Nutritionally, these crops have the potential to be far more nutrient dense than traditional crops, the vast majority of which are being grown in soil that is severely depleted, lacking many of the minerals necessary for a truly healthful crop to be grown.
So we’re talking local, organic high quality vegetables all year round. Their presentation was very impressive and everything from their business plan to logistical operations to distribution all intensely researched and ready for production.
2nd place: Environmentally Conscious Organization Inc.
Environmentally friendly pizza boxes! This company has designed, patented and significantly marketed an environmentally friendly pizza box alternative sourced entirely from recycled cardboard. With over 3 billion pizza’s being consumed in this country each year and 70% of those requiring a box that is usually made from 60% recycled material we’re talking about a great deal of avoided waste. The utility designed into the box also enables it to easily fit into a recycling bin 8” in diameter or greater, eliminates the need for serving plates and aluminum foil or plastic wrap for storage. Check out the video here:
3rd place: DBA
DBA is a New York based product development company focused on aesthetics, technical innovations and ecologically effective principals. Their first product is an ‘eco-pen’. This pen is made from 98% industrially compostable materials. They’re basically made out of potatos. We use an astronomical number of disposable pens each year. Their pen is a beautiful option that utilizes a unique ink which, unlike other pens on the market, is not petrochemical based. It is an almost food grade alternative that represents the majority of the innovation in their design.
I was at this event thanks to Sarah Pace of The Rabbit Mafia who catered the event with all locally sourced kickass hors d’œuvres. Good stuff.