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Out of the Labyrinth: Who We Are, How We Go Wrong and What We Can Do About It Paperback – January 1, 2004
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"Frankel tells a compelling story in a compelling way. His is a voice that must be heard and, thankfully, it's a lyrical voice that is sheer pleasure to read."
From the Author
For close to two decades, I have been writing about sustainable development -- the attempt to create what Buckminster Fuller called "a world that works for all." During that time, I have increasingly been plagued by the sense that something important was missing in the conversation about the problem. Self and society, one's inner life and the external world -- these were viewed, for the most part, as entirely separate matters. This split struck me, instinctively, as wrong.
And then, on March 11, 1999, I had a passing thought about the nature of personal identity that turned into a framework, or model, that proved to have enormous explanatory power for me not only in matters personal, but also in matters organizational, political, and cultural. This framework was the synthesizing perspective and "insight engine" I had been looking for. We live in a fragmented world, and we do so as fragmented individuals. Many of us, perhaps all of us, long to tie things together, to make things somehow cohere. Writing this book -- wrestling with the material in its pages -- did that for me. My hope is that it can do the same for you.
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All of the people that I know who struggle with the tensions between Wilber's holons; called the objective (science), the social, and the depth (seeker) dimensions by Frankel, struggle to put their efforts at resolving these tensions into a context that works for them and translates into a universal enabling metaphor. For Frankel, this book is a documentation of his personal journey, embracing and integrating the values in all possible approaches, hopefully resulting in a more sustainable world.
I cannot say that Carl Frankel has plowed new ground here, but what he has accomplished is very important. His personal story and his frameworks produce a sensitivity to current social disfunctions. These disfunctions must be fully realized by as many people as possbile to create the tensions that will produce a new, "Integral" reality. Frankel is clear that solutions must be new and will arise from managing these tensions. This book will help others to observe and then cross this gap.
Personally, I feel that Frankel's journey is worth the read. Everyone will develop their own set of realities defining a more sustainable society. It is a transformation that is critical as our population nears 9 billion. Can we begin to see humanity as something other than consumers? Frankel has a good set of experiences and metaphors that will help others along the way. If you have read Hawken, Anderson, Wilber, and Capra, Carl Frankel's book is another brick in your sustainable wall.
According to Frankel, we find ourselves in a "contemporary cultural labyrinth" which is "an especially dizzying place." He outlines three causes for this:
1) Distraction and denial. "Collectively they create a black-magic spell that is like an occupying army of the spirit. Under the thrall of this `dark enchantment' we lose sight of our highest potential, hunker down inside our anxiety and try to buy our way to happiness - all false turns in the labyrinth."
2) Rates of change. "It is difficult, if not impossible, for our animal natures to adapt to this rate of change" which has us "constantly battling, often below conscious awareness, to maintain our equilibrium."
3) Globalized postmodern culture. "If the rate of change is dizzying, our range of choices is too." The complexity can overwhelm us.
These factors "help us understand why so many people feel that things are spiraling out of control."
Frankel is an advocate of Integral Psychology, a la Ken Wilber, but takes a more easily-grasped view of Wilber's approach. Instead of "I, We and It", he talks about three sub-personalities or sets of values that must be balanced: 1) "a strategically oriented self," (the "strategist" which controls the "objective domain"), 2) "a socially oriented self (the `citizen')" and 3) a "meaning-oriented self (the `seeker')" which controls the "depth dimension." The depth dimension "contains values commonly associated with `progressives'" and is the province of people sociologist Paul Ray calls "cultural creatives."
Frankel feels that "we experience our connection to nature in the depth dimension" and that our culture's suppression of the depth dimension is one of the causes of our environmental problems and the dysfunctional human-nature relationship.
"We are biased towards the objective (dimension), and this teaches us to separate the observer from the observed, the self from physical nature. This distinction is illusory. We participate in nature deeply. In fact, we are nature. And the awareness that this is so - more precisely, the experience of this being so - inhabits the depth dimension."
Frankel personalizes the conflict between the dimensions by describing his rocky relationship with his late father, an eminent "strategist" who never understood his "seeker" son.
He explains the benefits of including all three dimensions as we grapple with today's daunting challenges. In order to survive as a species, we must stop our "either/or" approach which merely divides us from each other and the planet. We can become "yes/and" people, incorporating the best of each realm.
"We need radical solutions because nothing less will do. Yet our solutions must also be conservative and inclusive, because only by taking that approach can they muster the broad buy-in that is required if there is to be any hope of achieving meaningful, rapid change."