Participatory Spirituality for the 21st Century
Hi Group. Much of the discussion here is kinda specialized and difficult for me to "wrap my mind around," but I am a good pattern thinker, so I suspect I might pick up on some interesting relevant patterns and themes—good enough, hopefully that other participants can let me know if my impressions are on point (or at least in the ballpark). I'll do my best to "play within my game," so I don't clutter up the discussion too much. Those of you who have extensively studied the oft-mentioned thinkers and authors who I have never even heard of (much less read), please translate some of the basic ideas for me. I'll pledge to "stay out of the way," if you would be so kind as to "help me play."
While I was away (I used to participate at Gaia, before the move to New Gaia), I published a book. It is called Allsville Emerging (http://sbpra.com/DarrellMoneyhon). The book is a basic blueprint and fictional account of a model community that aspires to be a positive example to the world.
As a social transformation tool, here are some of Allsville's distintive characteristics:
• using model communities as socio-political experiments, from which we gradually
learn to do government, or "us," better
• enacting a democratic and deliberative process to collectively engineer a healthy
• maintaining a priority of developing human virtues in general
• forming and using systems which maximize the development and utilization of
human gifts (each person's unique aptitudes and dispositions) in particular
• consenting upon, and practicing, spiritual principles in common with all faith
traditions and secular expressions of spirituality
• creating and using an integrated system (utilizing pooled resources and organized
into an "indigenous corporation") for developing an optimal lifestyle service
• placing our lifestyle service (as provided in our intentional communities) on the
Hi, Darrell, thank you for the introduction to your book (and your ongoing experiment, as I know you plan to take this proposal 'live' in the real world at some point). Are you familiar with Alasdair MacIntyre? He's a 'classicist,' in some respects, but he's revising a classical 'virtue ethics' understanding in light of modern and postmodern concerns. One of his proposals, as a way out of what he sees as rather too toxic modern environments, is for people to voluntarily regroup into intentional communities dedicated (as you are) to human flourishing via cultivation of virtues, development of our 'gifts' and 'goods,' etc. I started a thread on his work awhile back, if you're interested to check it out.
Bruce, Here is a copy of the comment I placed at that old discussion/post:
Alder: "In MacIntyre’s view, in other words, if individuals understand and appreciate their mutual indebtedness -- if they grasp the extent to which independence is fostered by interdependence, and their character has been formed in a community of shared practices and common goods – they will have the opportunity to inculcate those virtuous character traits in light of which the provision of help to those in need is perceived as a natural (e.g., unconditional) duty."
Me: That insight seemed to fit somewhat with behavior science's observations of "secondary reinforcement," and "social reinforcement." Somehow or another (probably via generalization), green paper, or "thank you" takes on the ability to reinforce a human being's behavior, even when no direct primary reward is forthcoming.
The money could suffer devaluation from extreme inflation and/or other economic aliments/calamities. Or, as in the case of Confederate currency following the Civil War, be replaced by another currency, rendering the "green paper" obsolete. And "thank you" is never a garantee that the person meant it. An ingratiating manipulator could be saying "thank you" just to use you, with no intent on favorably reciprocating the good deed which supposedly "earned" the thank you.
Yet the human being has somehow learned to "trust" in some sort of cooperative arrangement with others—to the point that delayed actual rewards are quite acceptable. "Thank you" does not put food in one's mouth, but it does somehow create a conditioned expectation that something good will come from the thankful attitude of others. It may be food, it may be a hug. But something good will come of it, sooner or later.
In comes two other behavior modification observations which strengthen the resistance to extinguishing the reward capacity of the secondary and social reinforcers: 1. reinforcement delay (which delay to various degrees the occurrence of the reinforcer, whether it be a primary or a secondary reinforcer), and 2. intermittent reinforcement (not only delayed, but coming at various different, often unpredictable, times following the behavior that is being reinforced).
Under the conditions of some highly variable "reinforcement schedules," such as the reinforcement one gets for playing the slot machines, the resistance to "extinguishing" (discontinuing, because there is no perceived "pay-off") the behavior may be so strong that it takes on the magnitude of a pathological addiction, which could destroy the well-being of the person, or could even result in death.
Alder: "MacIntyre at one point was a Marxist, and has been a powerful critic of the capitalist system, but with the Thomist turn in his thought, he argues that we need to look now for the emergence of a new 'St. Benedict' – a Benedict suitable for our age, who can help us re-envision and create nurturant local communities capable of promoting thriving on a human scale."
me: Can I sign up for the job of "new St. Benedict?" My book Allsville Emerging (http://sbpra.com/DarrellMoneyhon). I think New St. Benedict would be a better title than McIntire's job as Professor of the School of Darkness and Despair!
Bruce, In general, I do see virtue in quite "functional" and even rational terms similar to how McIntire and Rifkin (?) see it. In my blog talk radio interview about "spiritual consensus" (Creating Conscious Consensus with Darr... )I emphasize that spirituality is more a function than anything, and that "God" might be a response we have the capacity to turn on and then be guided by it.
This seems, in essence, a rather post-metaphysical" type of conception of God. I don't see it as replacing the sense (or even reality) of a Presence or Loving Being, but it keeps us from an animal-like dependency of waiting around for (or begging) the big guy in the sky to fix things for us or to invite us into heaven or into spiritual states.
God is in us and we can let that light shine. This view is also consistent with Earnest Holme's Science of Mind (which I found after the fact to fit with many of my concepts in the book) and with Kabbalism (I am just now getting around to reading Yehuda Berg's book, The Seventy Two Names of God. and find it highly consistent with my functional spirituality views. "Functions" generally have a context in "adaptability" and group-survival.
Read also this excerpt from my book, in order to see a fit between what McIntire is saying (or what you said he said!) and my line of thought:
from page 181 of Allsville Emerging:
In a giftocracy, capitalism’s reenactment of “survival of
the fittest” is replaced with “survival of the fitting-est.” By
fitting-est, I mean that the collectives (such as Allsville) that
are able to get the right persons in the right jobs will adapt
much better than groups that fail to do so. The ability to
harness the various natural aptitudes and personality orientations
(or, roughly speaking, “gifts”) is what helps social
groups survive and prosper.
Thus, the test and select method of capitalism will be
replaced with giftocracy’s assess and sort method. “Sort”
would also include sorting the citizen into the best-fitting
specialized education tracks that will develop the assessed
aptitudes, or gifts. After the gift is developed within the educational
system, then Allsville will sort out which job assignment
will best utilize that individul’s gifts. When the
right gifts are placed in the right niches, a kind of workable
egalitarianism is formed.