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Integrity Grows From A Humbling Realization

--by Mark Gerzon (Aug 08, 2006)


"The purpose of life is ... to know oneself. We cannot do so unless we learn to identify ourselves with all that lives." -- Mohandas K. Gandhi.

I have never seen a conflict in which everyone could see the whole. On the contrary, I have only experienced conflicts in which some, and usually all, of the "part-ies" were identified with the "part." They were, literally, "partisan."

This is the basic human condition, the natural worldview of organisms that are born, live and die as seemingly separate entities. When our bodies shout "Me first!" -- we listen. We are wired to survive, and to put our survival before others (an instinct which can be trumped by only one other: protecting our offspring). As a natural extension of our survival instinct, we tend to care more about the welfare of those near and dear to us than those who are, by whatever definition, far away. Our language provides convenient words for each: the first we call "us;" the latter, "them."

The challenge of integrity -- or integral vision, which literally means "seeing" or "holding" the whole -- is to balance this very natural allegiance to the part ("partisan") with an allegiance to what it is but a part of. [...]

This intention toward integrity -- from the Latin integer, meaning "undivided, untouched whole -- is our first, critical step toward transforming conflict. Because of our commitment to "hold" or to "see" the whole conflict, we can become part of the solution to the conflict rather than just adding our energy to it. [...]

Integrity grows out of the humbling realization that there are many ways of seeing the world, and that we cannot take our worldviews for granted. Doing so blinds us to the possibility that our worldviews may be incomplete, skewed or -- to oversimplify -- "wrong." If this is so, then no matter how noble our intentions may be ("freeing the people," "creating jobs," "protecting human rights," etc.), everything we do will backfire.

--Mark Gerzon


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On Sep 9, 2006 David Otim wrote:
Mark was on spot. In Uganda where I hail from, a friend one day remarked; "Integrity is like virginity, you lose it once..."
If you must preserve anything about you, then preserve your integrity! For me integrity is equivalent to your actions in private not contradicting with your personality in public. Thanks.

On Aug 16, 2006 Pavi wrote:

Notes from Wednesday's circle of sharing: integral vision reminded me of ken wilber, who talks about holons and holarchy: everything in nature is whole in and of itself, but they create other things, which are whole unto themselves, going to infinity. so the holarchy is the hierarchy building onto each other. This reminds me of a trap I've found myself getting into, which is that everything is equal. And this may be a reaction to a dominant paradigm that is off, but it's still not true. Also, the quote started with knowing yourself, and that reminds me of another ken wilber thought: everything has three layers -- first person, second person, and third person. and integral purpose is to develop along all of these lines. i don't know what integrity is, but when i do something with integrity, i know it. But i do have a sense of it: in general, it used to be that my sense of feeling it was dependent on external representations of myself, like always being on time. But now, i don't de  See full.

Notes from Wednesday's circle of sharing:

integral vision reminded me of ken wilber, who talks about holons and holarchy: everything in nature is whole in and of itself, but they create other things, which are whole unto themselves, going to infinity. so the holarchy is the hierarchy building onto each other. This reminds me of a trap I've found myself getting into, which is that everything is equal. And this may be a reaction to a dominant paradigm that is off, but it's still not true. Also, the quote started with knowing yourself, and that reminds me of another ken wilber thought: everything has three layers -- first person, second person, and third person. and integral purpose is to develop along all of these lines.

i don't know what integrity is, but when i do something with integrity, i know it. But i do have a sense of it: in general, it used to be that my sense of feeling it was dependent on external representations of myself, like always being on time. But now, i don't define my integrity in that way, and it's much more internally driven. If i feel something is right, and know that I've considered everybody involved, then there's much more of a sense of integrity. So waiting for the right thing to arise is more of mu definition of integrity right now.

I just ordained as a buddhist monk two months ago, and in a monastery, everyone really helps keep each other in the space of integrity. And when i walk on the streets, i realize that i am representing something way bigger than me, a bigger whole that i'm an integral part of and i don't want to mess up on. And so even jaywalking is something i don't feel like doing anymore.

i really like this thought. but i wanted to share some experiences this weekend. I had the great privilege of visiting the Seva cafe in long beach. The idea is that everyday of the week, this cafe is a normal restaurant where people come in, eat and pay and leave. But on saturdays, they come in, and they are served by volunteers, food that is made by volunteers. and at the end of the night, the bill comes and says zero dollars, because someone else paid for their meal. and at the end of the night, they are given an envelope if they wish to pay it forward. and i had the privilege to make the food, and i don't know what it is, but i just love to give someone the food i made. something about providing someone nourishment. the people coming in were all over the place. one of the people was the 8th grade teacher of a volunteer. there was a young boy who usually worked at the cafe, who brought his whole family. it was a really incredible environment, and i just feel so blessed to receive all these acts of kindness all around me, here and everywhere. the last thought i wanted to share: one of the guys who started seva cafe was very adamant about how the seva cafe didn't start there, but it started the first time someone invited a guest to there home, and every week we get this here. thank you.

i was struck by the part where it says that wherever there is conflict, there is a limited view. and even physically, we are limited by our view, and our vocabulary reflects that ("do you see?"). but it's really hard to realize this when there is strong emotion. Quote I like: "No one knows what spirits are fighting where the bone meets the flesh." and no one can see the whole picture, but we can give it the space to see a wholer picture. the other aspect is that no matter where we look, we are looking only in one direction. and today i visited a children's hospice, and i started the day with my own conflicts, but this reminded me of the bigger whole.

namaste is an interesting word that means that the divinity within me recognizes the divinity within me. and someone recently was telling me that this is a hindu concept and that hindus should get the credit for it. and this thought recognizes that when we try to categorize, we alienate those who don't identify with it in the same way, which is much like the academic world i come from. i was recently reading a book called ishmael, and there's a passage where they talk about man's story and man's story on earth. and the myth is that man is here to conquer the world. and ishmael says that if that's true, we have essentially killed ourselves. it's like the quote: "if you've come here to save me then go away. but if you've come because your liberation is tied up with mine, then let's work together."

i got introduced to this wholeness concept in the foundation series by asimov. and in it, there's a character who refers to herself as i-we-gaia (where gaia is all of life). and i've been coming across this in hindu shastras, ken wilber, bucky fuller. but what i was thinking now is that all of us have a huge amount of experience in being i, but not many with being we or being gaia. and so the more i allow the experience of we, and hopefully some day the gaia, until i experience that feeling that i am more than the i, this body. but until then, i won't ever realize these concepts. so i need to experience the we more often, and only then there's hope for wholeness.

integrity to me is about the golden rule: do unto others what you would have them do unto you. to realize that even our worldviews are not complete.

i was just brainstorming about things that are divisive, and some things are group identity and relativism. often we are slaves to emotions instead using them for something bigger.

this last weekend, i went to see a friend who was having a baby. and her husband was talking about how his wife needed to separate herself from her family in order to be fully with him, which i found a very strange feeling, because the feeling of belonging is missing.

it's interesting, because i actually dread serving food that i prepare, and that's actually a time that i try to say we we we. loved this quote, and it was interesting, because i didn't associate the word integral with integrity. and it so happens that this week i happened to be dumbfounded by lack of integrity in certain places. and the system breaks down. we talk about really hi-fi concepts and think that will connect us to humanity. but we don't follow our basic humanity. and sometimes all we have to do is simple acts of kindness. anyway, this isn't resolved still.

whenever i have found myself being in situation with a lack of integrity, and in those times i look to unconventional sources of wisdom. i was thinking back to a time when i did something very inappropriate, and i shared it with someone i respect, and he said, "sometimes we need to understand wrong in order to understand what is right." and that really touched me. apart from this, about holistic-ness: a wise man once asked, what if everything he talked about was wrong? he pauses and says so be it.

i tried reading the quote 3 or 4 times and didn't understand it. one problem was the difference between integrity and integral. and as people talk about it, i'm understanding it more. and i'm associating my own life with people's reflections. and the thought about i-we-gaia, for most of my life has been about i. and i've tried to work on the we, and it's been very hard. when i started grad school. i was considered very arrogant. i used to try so hard to get my point across, until i realized that there's a personality associated with my name. and it's taken a lot of time to get away from that. and luckily i've been around a lot of people who have guided me: one professor said that the most important thing when you talk to people is the pause. and that pause has a huge effect. when somebody is speaking, it lets you digest what you're saying. and when you're speaking, it gives you a chance to become more coherent. i'm far from integriy, but i think in going toward that, a pause if very helpful. two is listening to people. and three is a blank mind. a blank mind is very helpful because you can just forget about what happened in the near past and in the next moment you don't associate things with the past. these are some little things that i have come across and i wanted to share it.

i didn't look up the dictionary, but this is a new application of the word integrity. the way i understood is that integrity is being true and honest and concept. this passage seems to be talking more about selflessness and the enlightened view. so i'm wondering how these actually connect to the word integrity. regardless, it's always good to consider other people's views, but there's a big gap between theory and practice. you do still have to keep centered on yourself. to think that the rights of the mosquito are the same as mine -- i have trouble with that.

i started working for the first time this summer, and in middle school and high school, people cheat all the time. it seems that that doesn't happen in the workplace. and i don't think people are smarter or anything, but i think it becomes harder to lie because you are working with a small group of people. and if you spoil a relationship, then it could have ramifications. i guess if you don't lie you don't have to keep track of things.

my understanding of the interpretation of the word was also different, but thinking about it now, people who feel wholeness within express it in their lives, and that's their definition of integrity.

for me, the biggest judge is myself. i know it when i have integrity. when i was young, i found myself always wanting things to be just: everyone should be represented. and now, things are fuzzier, and i feel like there was a deeper knowing back then. when that integrity is in place, i know it, and i can't fake it to myself. regarding different viewpoints, i was talking with a friend who's a philosophy professor. and we were talking about how people tend to be around those who reinforce their own views. and so thinking about it now, one of our biggest fears is not knowing. the same is true of views. for me these days it's really rare to be in the space where you can truly listen to all views.

knowing yourself is a full time occupation. that's what i like about reincarnation: you get to come back again.

integrity is being true to yourself and it's an ongoing process.

it's been kind of a rich day. integrity has played a huge role, because separateness, which is the opposite of integrity, has been a big part of myself. reminds me of a job interview and at the end of it, they said "you're really arrogant. we like you," and they gave me a great offer. a year later, when i was miserable, i realized it was because that place and that profession, was based on separateness. and these types of experiences really took me to humility. and a friend told me that humility comes from the latin humus, which is about the earth. and i really felt in my heart that integrity, humility and gratitude are the mainstay of life. and when i'm there, life is easy. and i'm not in that place right now. i recently heard my teacher say that many people come to spirituality because of suffering. and another funny thing happened today. i came across a guy who has been doing a peace walk. and i'd like to share a passage from his website. [ ... ] this is really an inside job.

i like the concept of we because i've heard it a lot but i don't think about it. wednesdays make you actually think about it. jealousy is one of those things where you wonder how you can get rid of it. and in jealousy, both people are trying to get to the same thing. and this we concept is useful there because at least when both of you are trying to do the same thing, the we would make sense to implement. and i'm going to try it.

integrity feels like me being true to truth itself. the truth that surrounds us and we are part of and we live in. and so the practice is to come back to that place within us. and when we're there: "we're little windows through which god shines light" -- merton. and only then can we have a complete view that's whole. so when the window is dirty the view is blurred. and we have to have this integrity in every moment.

integrity has to be in every moment -- you just can't separate is as one moment full of integrity and the other moment not. if you are the eldest child, you're told that you have more responsibility, you will be given more, but you will share with others. so if there's one piece of candy, then you will enjoy it more if you share it with others. and this is true even now. when you have more, you have the privilege to accept more responsibility.

it's been nice listening to everyone. i was looking in the room and i realize that there's so much richness.

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On Aug 8, 2006 DD wrote:
My friend Sri Sridharan (http://www.infinisri.com) just passed away last week.

While in last several years Sri had devoted himself to "seva" and working on projects that make difference to those who are ignored, I will always remember him as my Guru in "architecture thinking".

More than a decade ago, when I worked for him he introduced me to the concept of "Power of Ten". (An animated version is online: (see link)).

He emphasized that as we change the scale of things (i.e., by a factor of 10), the reality we perceive changes. And our old models, ways of understanding and dealing with things have to change to make sense of this new world we see.

In AI lingo he would say, as the scale changes the representation language itself has to change. Models do not easily scale across the power of ten.


On Aug 8, 2006 Hitesh wrote:
Thanks: For sharing this wonderful thought. A great way to start the day.

So true - Most of the world's problems today are because of "I", "My", "Our", "Us". They look for "local maxima" and that is what they get with narrow focus. The humbling realization of looking at things as a whole provides the "global maxima".

The theory of Five Elements signifies the same thing. We all come from and end up getting disintigrated to the Five Elements and become a part of this "whole". How does it matter who owns what piece of the land in the interim?

Om,

Hitesh.

On Aug 8, 2006 sue wrote:
wow, how true............can someone points this out to the 'partisans' of the current Middle East conflict????