Year end

Note: Serial approach. Introductory post (June 30). First in series (July 1).


loading 2019


You’ve nearly made it through this yearyou know, the one designated 2018.

I wish for you purpose and peace in the coming year.

I pray Divine Presence finds a warm welcome in your daily, ordinary participation in this wonder we call life.


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This blog’s journey thus far…

Thank you for coming along this past six months! The intuitive, Life Conditions [LCs] (e.g., current events) sensitive method I’ve engaged to structure my presentation of a developmental anthropology drawn from Spiral Dynamics [SD] has assured we would meander a good bit on our way to a basic, shared understanding. We did. I’ll remind you of a quote I used in the introductory post:

“Here goes, and bear with me if at first I seem irrelevant.” ~ Ernest Everhard

My efforts to writeand, even more importantly, your efforts to readhere each week have finally paid off. This, in the sense that the shared language we’ve already managed to establish, is sufficient to allow taking up very polarized issues without (necessarily) getting caught immediately in the tribalism attending nearly every issue. By treating issues in terms of values, rather than buzz-words or talking-points, we open possibilities for new solutions and alternative pathways forward.


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This journey continues…

So, beginning with Change Conditions 5 & 6; Five Stages/Phases in Change; Seven Change Variations; more on the vMEMEs; and many other jewels of SD wisdom, I believe there is still a good bit more to share from the wisdom of Graves and SD and I plan to continue writing here weekly on that and hopefully in relation to aspects of current events.

My hope is that my musings here have already sparked your interest and action to read the Spiral Dynamics book. Short of that, below I have placed links to all my posts in this #ReturnToDecency series and I would recommend reading all the entries published here  from the past six months (all five-minute-reads). I have mostly written in a serial format, although my hope has always been that each piece could stand alone sans the SD language and inputs. Sometimes I’ve been successful at that, sometimes a major fail on all counts. In any case, reading them in any order is OK, the SD information/language is cumulative. 


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I’m headed to Atlanta…

I’ll be traveling to Georgia this week. First, an afternoon and evening in Atlanta with a dear old friend from high school that I have not seen in many years. It will be real good to catch up a bit! The following day my daughter ‘E’ and her partner ‘H’ will pick me up to begin our exciting adventure. I can hardly wait to see them! Top priority is a visit to Atlanta’s High Museum to experience a major exhibit making its final stop on its North American tour. Seeing this exhibit was the original inspiration for the trip as this is my daughter’s favorite artist. The artist is world renowned, Yayoi Kusama, from Japan. 


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“Dots and Pumpkins Infinity Mirror” Yayoi Kusama ||CC0

Very excited as Kusuma’s latest exhibition, Infinity Mirrors, spans her prolific, seven-decade career and is currently finishing a tour of six North American cities. Sold-out tickets have reportedly been very hard to acquire. Kusama has been likened to a rock star of the art universeprops and gratitude to my old friend in Atlanta for getting us tickets as the exhibit sold out in a matter of hours…Thanks J! The exhibition includes installations, sculptures and a series of paintings that have never been shown before in the U.S.


High Exhibit
The High Museum: Exhibitions <–click

After we experience the exhibitand anything else my daughter or H wants me to see/do in Atlantawe’ll head to their place down Valdosta-way to hang out for a few days. Early next Sunday we’ll head over to Jacksonville, Florida to experience the ocean, other sights, and so forth over there for the day, and then I fly back home out of JAX that evening.

Next time…

Next time we’ll finish our look at the Six Change Conditions with conditions 5 & 6, and, if space allows, we’ll take a brief look at the five stages/phases of deep change. In the meantime I do encourage you to read through the series (links below) to fill-in any holes or missing language you may have in the Spiral Dynamics narrative space that we are creating.

Hopes and New Year wishes…


Your thoughts?

I never know what I’ve said till I hear the response. What did you hear me say?



“Leadership and Self-Deception: Getting Out of the Box” by the Arbinger Institute

“Anatomy of Peace” by the Arbinger Institute

“Spiral Dynamics” by Donald Edward Beck and Christopher C. Cowan


‘Decency/Spiral Dynamics’ series:

Link: Introduction: The Journey Begins #ReturnToDecency for June 30, 2018

Link: Perennial Leading Edge Failure #ReturnToDecency for July 1, 2018

Link: Empathy Window Opens #ReturnToDecency for July 8, 2018

Link: Being “Naïve” Green (et al.) #ReturnToDecency for July 15, 2018

Link: Flatland #ReturnToDecency for July 22, 2018

Link: There is no Truth!  #ReturnToDecency for July 29, 2018

Link: Shadows and self awareness  #ReturnToDecency for August 5, 2018

Link: Who’s higher than whom?  #ReturnToDecency for August 12, 2018

Link: Like a rainbow  #ReturnToDecency for August 19, 2018

Link: Greed and naïve Orange [ER]  #ReturnToDecency for August 26, 2018

Link: Seeing above and below  #ReturnToDecency for September 2, 2018

Link: Visibility #ReturnToDecency for September 9, 2018

Link: Humility: prudent and helpful #ReturnToDecency for September 16, 2018

Link: A double helix  #ReturnToDecency for September 23, 2018

Link: Dystopian fulfillment? #ReturnToDecency for September 30, 2018

Link: a (values/politics) mashup #ReturnToDecency for October 7, 2018

Link: Following Jesus is political #ReturnToDecency for October 14, 2018

Link: Facts are facts, right?  #ReturnToDecency for October 21, 2018

Link: Beauty and protest #ReturnToDecency for October 28, 2018

Link: He took a knee #ReturnToDecency for November 4, 2018

Link: Will Blue hold? #ReturnToDecency for November 11, 2018

Link: Who’s Blue? Whose Blue? #ReturnToDecency for November 18, 2018

Link: Change seems impossible? #ReturnToDecency for November 25, 2018

Link: Greeting change gladly? #ReturnToDecency for December 2, 2018

Link: Spiral synergy? #ReturnToDecency for December 9, 2018

Link: Solutions || Dissonance #ReturnToDecency for December 16, 2018

Link: Change Condition 4: INSIGHT #ReturnToDecency for December 23, 2018

Year end #ReturnToDecency for December 30, 2018


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Change Condition 4: INSIGHT

Note: Serial approach. Introductory post (June 30). First in series (July 1).




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I hope you are ready. Especially since it’s only two days until Christmas. For those who stand in the mystical stream of Christian traditions, Christmas is a feast/celebration of the high holy One/high holy day of the annual Christian calendar. So, as we are on the cusp of Christmas once more, the time seems right to share something that might strike you as a misprint. It’s no misprint. It is, in fact, my favorite Christmas story from the Bibleand I do seriously doubt that you’ve ever heard  this verse identified as a Christmas story. So, I mean it to be something of a koan for you. A Christmas riddle if you will: 

My favorite Christmas story is Mark 10.46. <– click

Granted, it’s an obscure Christmas riddle. Everyone knows the Christmas stories are found in Matthew and Luke, so what is up with this? Leonard Sweet has recently introduced a new term that really applies here. He’s made a mash-up of two terms, Christ and Mystery: ‘Chrystery.’ Herefrom (an extracanonical text) The Gospel of Thomasis a strong hint as to why I find Mark 10.46 to be a Christmas story:


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Gospel of Thomas – Saying 77 || Image CC0


Potential for R.o.I. finally accrues …

Last week’s blog post in this space marked the beginning of the potential for a return on investment for my writing, and your reading, of these five-minute-posts here weekly this past six months. Finally, enough shared Spiral Dynamics [SD] language has been established in the blog to allow us to take both sides of a polarized issue to task within the same paragraph. In the 12/16 blog, “Solutions || Dissonance,” I challenged both sides of the immigration argument. I’m working on doing this because binary discourse is going nowhere. I hope in doing so that I was able to allude to how the same values are at work in many of today’s polarized, broken divisionse.g.,conflicts between different values stages, or vMEMEs.


Change Condition 4… INSIGHT


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“World Peace” by Gaia Orion ||

The fourth necessary condition for deep change is:

“INSIGHT … into probable causes and viable alternatives. By ‘insight’ we mean there is an understanding of (1) what went wrong with the previous system and why, as well as (2) what resources are now available to handle the problems better. Unless people have a rationale for understanding why the prior system was embraced initially and why it was eventually undermined, lasting change into the next order is fitful. Insight keeps the old problems in focus and clarifies the new ones. 

Different patterns and models, as well as step-by-step processes for implementing them, are essential to moving into a new system. These alternative scenarios must be active in the collective consciousness before they can be considered. Too often, they are guarded in the minds of an elite few ‘planners’ or ‘decision makers.’ People need mental pictures of what things might be like for them in their own real Life Conditions, …” ~ SD, Beck and Cowan, page 83


Beck and Cowan continue: “Some ways to initiate change in patterns and models include:

  • Greater insight into how systems form, decline, and reformparticularly one’s own. People must accept the possibility of change as well as the means.
  • Put a stop to wasteful regressive searches into out-modded answers from the past which simply cannot address greater complexity of the present.
  • Consider optional scenarios, fresh models, and experiences from applicable sources. Scout the competition and demonstrate concretely what alternatives look like.
  • Quickly recognize the appearance of new Life Conditions and the vMEMEs required to shift into congruence. Custom tailor for best fit.” (page 83)


current events

Current events…

OK, from a decency standpoint, it’s difficult to know where to begin when it comes to the many events of this past week. Given all our discussion of Blue [DQ] ‘ordervalues and the rule of law in the past few posts, let’s take a troubling news item of the week. The Trump travel ban was in the news again this week. The mother of a dying toddlera U.S. citizen receiving medical care in San Franciscowho had been blocked to travel from Yemen to visit her child, was finally granted a waiver. From a CNN story (here):

Shaima Swileh, whose 2-year-old is on life support in an Oakland hospital, had been restricted from traveling to the United States under the White House travel ban until the US State Department granted her a travel waiver earlier this week.

Swileh spent over a year trying to get a waiver that would let her join Hassan and their son, Abdullah, as they sought medical care in the US, the family’s attorneys said.

Attorney Banan Al-Akhras, with the Nimer Law firm that represents the family, said Swileh was told she would be considered for a waiver over a year ago.

Since then, the family reached out to the US Embassy in Cairo 28 times but only received automated responses, Al-Akhras said.


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We recall: Blue [DQ] is conventional…

A major benefit of law is that it creates clarity of authority. If Red [CP] ‘power‘ values occupy leading-edge ascendancy, then every relational situation is an opportunity to rehearse a power struggle to determine authority and direction. Even Kindergartners are experientially building an intuitive sense that rules free us from an endless power struggle and create ordinary order. We learn to acquiesce our personal power to the common good [e.g., the Blue conventions] and ascent/submit to the order of rules. Not having to work out all the Red power issues every time we make a move among others is helpful, and, as we discover and learn by experience, rules beneficially aid in getting us to recess and lunch more promptly and efficiently. While we must grant rules/laws are very short on agility and have little to no flexibility, we also must recognize that ordinary order is not possible without them.




We recall: Blue [DQ] is a blunt force instrument

A major downside of law is that it creates clarity of authority. We see here one of the often underappreciated limitations of Blue [DQ] ‘order‘ values, e.g., DQ‘s lack of agility (and, thus, lack of mercy). A mother barred from visiting her dying toddleryes, that’s our government Blue in its present iteration at work on our behalfstrikes us as horrifying. Very few people, upon learning about this story, fail to immediately object to this situation, and most find it completely unacceptable, full stop. And yet, the obvious problem is that the rule of law creates very limited authority to deviate from the letter of the law for those who are responsible to administer them. We have judges who have authority to interpret available discretion in the law, but, obviously, we cannot station a judge in every local instance of the law being applied to people and situations. DQ application can often be obviously inappropriate and yet it regularly requires a cumbersome if not impossible process to rectify. Creative solutions to this problematic dimension of Blue are needed. 


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I’m wishing you a very Cool Yule, and a double dose of Hope in 2019!!!

Your thoughts?

I never know what I’ve said till I hear the response. What did you hear me say?


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Solutions || Dissonance

Note: Serial approach. Introductory post (June 30). First in series (July 1).


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Not so fast…

Sometimes it’s actually a monkey wrench that we need to help us create change. We’ll look at the third condition for change in just a minute. First, development in human beings is seen in two forms. In terms of growth, we often discount or overlook the hard work we do to improve and fine-tune existing features of ourselves, and our organizations. The tendency to overlook or downplay growth as improvement of what-is likely comes from the dominant system in the U.S.A., Orange [ER], and its proclivity to seeing in bottom-line terms and growth primarily as an upward increase. We do well to remember that change can be both horizontal [healing, improving, scaling, refining what is] and vertical [developmental movement up Spiralthat is, greater complexity and inclusion]. 


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Growth from one vMEME to the next vMEME.

The illustration above depicts growth as movement into a more expansive spacesignifying greater complexity/inclusion. We’ve been talking, of late, about the possibility of change in our values systems. We have seen that first of all change demands the ‘POTENTIAL’ (capacities) for change, e.g., it requires an ‘OPEN State’ of readiness [here].


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The second Change Condition, SOLUTIONS, can be a time-release drag on change. Our present Life Conditions [LCs] reflect precisely this because of a long-term failure of Green [FS] to provide agreeable, viable, sustainable solutions to many Blue [DQ] and Orange [ER] generated problems. Naïve Green [FS] has been excellent at deconstructing unjust social systems/institutions. As to re-constructing just, sustainable social systems, not so much. While examples are plentiful we’ll consider an issue central in today’s current events. We need look no further than the immigration/refugee issue to find a clear example of SOLUTIONS failure by the Green [FS], leading edge values systems’ efforts to effect social justice and change.


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Spiral Dynamics practitioners agree that leading edge growth is possible for those within a step and a half of the changelike, Green [FS] is able to reach Orange/green [ER/fs], half step; Orange [ER], one step; and blue/Orange [dq/ER], a step and a half. Beyond a step and a half above is largely invisible to any particular vMEME system. Here is where Graves’ insight about the relationship between our values systems and Life Conditions [LCs] deserves great credit for its elegant explanatory power and its currency in just discernment. Understanding vMEME dynamics is a distinct advantage in thinking about the problem of migrating populations. Beige [AN] survival values/needs are largely instinctual and mostly uninfluenced by Blue [DQ] lawsBlue is pragmatically invisible from Beige as survival values are not a discretionary matter.

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Those who are privileged to have never experienced life and death circumstances beyond their control bearing down on the lives of their children and families may have difficulty relating to/understanding the dynamics and values driving these perilous pilgrimages we see on our parlor screens. To the privileged American “the law is the law.” In that parochialism one might even be tempted to blame the victims for risking the perilous journey toward asylum, as if it were a discretionary matter. As Saint Paul alluded, the law, while necessary, is a rather blunt instrument. So, Blue [DQ] is a necessary, yet far less than agile, instrument that U.S. society is expecting to manage the intersection of our Southern border and the global movement of populations. Blue is clumsy, Beige is necessarily determined (it’s survival), and this creates great difficulty for the status quo arrangements. President Trump’s strategy to make dealing with our Blue [DQ] more and more miserable so as to more adequately speak in Beige [AN] terms directly to Beige driven people is beyond cynical. It’s totally heartless.


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U.S. constitutional Blue rule of law has failed the asylum/immigration problem for its lack of agility and compassion. Worldwide Green [FS] has failed the asylum/immigration problem for its lack of solutions. Green is quick and fierce to shout outrage at the injustice it sees resulting from present law and policy. Quick with shame and condemnation for Blue‘s efforts to engage it’s responsibility, yet Green is without any real solutions to the problem of how to more compassionately cope with present LCs and global population movements. Green [FS] is quite sure it values compassion and justice from it’s perspective, but may miss how that works from Blue‘s more pragmatic one. So we see Green‘s failure to meet Change Condition 2 and provide adequate SOLUTIONS for healthy changee.g.compassionate border control. 


“He Awakens” by Gaia Orion ||

Institutions are being ghosted by U.S. society…

Last week I raised a situation in which there was a disconnect between troubling facts and people to care about it. Let’s take that another step. In his book, The Fifth Risk, Michael Lewis makes a fascinating observation about government service work. First, Lewis introduces the reader to Max Stier and describes him as something of a genius, talent-developing, organizational turn-around agent for the federal governmenthis organization, “Partnership for Public Service.” After Lewis recounts several of Max’s heart-warming, hopeful, success stories of government workers doing amazing, phenomenal workand lamenting the sad fact that these success stories are seldom if ever told to the nationhe writes:

He’d [Max] detected a pattern: a surprising number of the people responsible for them [the successes] were first-generation Americans who had come from places without well functioning governments. People who had lived without government were more likely to find meaning in it. On the other hand, people who had never experienced a collapsed state were slow to appreciate a state that had not yet collapsed. That was maybe Max’s biggest challenge: explaining the value of this enterprise at the center of a democratic society to people who either took it for granted or imagined it as a pernicious force in their lives over which they had no control. (pages .24-25)



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Beck and Cowan write regarding Change Condition 3: DISSONANCE (pg. 83):

  • “Awareness of the growing gap between Life Conditions and current means for handling those problems.
  • Enough turbulence to create a sense that ‘something is wrong’ without so much chaos that the whole world seems to be coming apart.
  • Abject failure of old solutions to solve the problems of new Life Conditions may stimulate fresh thinking, release energy, and liberate the next vMEME(s) along the Spiral.” 

Good bad news?

On Friday a federal judge in Texas ruled the ACA unconstitutional. Many are very disappointed, and while I share concern, I tend to see this as the monkey wrench [DISSONANCE] that is needed to finally push ‘Medicare for all’ legislation through congress. In the midterms Republicans went all-out on record about being the ones who want to protect pre-existing conditions. Medicare for all is one of the few (and perhaps best) solutions to the pre-existing conditions problem. Everyone is at least close to someone who has pre-existing conditions, so the political will is very widespread. We’ll see.

Some healthy Purple [BO] to go…

I saw this video recently and I enjoyed it so much that I thought I’d end up this post with an example of very healthy expressions of Purple [BO] ‘human bond‘ values, as in family, family singing here; and in community singinge.g., religious hymns, and community anthems (sung at soccer games, etc.) are fine expressions of Purple. Willie and two of his sons play and sing Willie’s “Healing Hands of Time.”



Your thoughts?

I never know what I’ve said till I hear the response. What did you hear me say?



Spiral synergy?

Note: Serial approach. Introductory post (June 30). First in series (July 1).


Why is change often so hard? Well, for one, everyone wants change, that is, for everyone but themself. 

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I am feeling ambitious this week on the blog and hoping to help us imagine a human situation that, for many reasons, demands change. The trouble is, the problem needing remedy is one that, by and large, most people local to the situation simply do not care aboutthey are in a “CLOSED State” in relation to the issue. Their ‘CLOSED State’ is witnessed by the fact that the concern is one they do not share: “The more CLOSED…the stronger the denial that anything significant is even going on. [SD, pg. 78]” So, how does one solve a problem shared by a community that very few people in the community even know, much less care about? We’ll see in just a moment. 

Six Conditions needed for Change…

Last week we explored the first condition (of six) needed for a vertical change in values development (here). “POTENTIAL” for change is the first condition that is required for change and that makes really good, yet often overlooked, common sense. We’ll build on the “OPEN State condition” as we gothe first fruit of which is animating the second condition needed to make vMEME change possible, “Solutions.”


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Solutions are demanded…

The second condition required for vertical developmental change in our values (vMEME stage) is “SOLUTIONS.” A wake-up as the second condition needed for change provides a quick reckoning of the difficulty in effecting leading-edge change. More than a mere recognition of the need for new solutions to the existential problems created by the present and previous vMEME stages, real solutions need to be well in hand. If the present leading-edge has failed to provide adequate solutions, then any sustainable changethat is, Spiral ascentbeyond the present leading-edge is unlikely. It is foolhardy to expect healthy ascent to a new level when serious problems remain extant in the present Life Conditions [LCs]

In their (1996) book, Spiral Dynamics [SD], Beck and Cowan write:

Sensible people put first things first by concentrating on issues appropriate to their current level of existence. If you raise the threat of ‘Huns at the gates’ with the expectation that more complex thinking will emerge, do not be surprised if the walls go up instead and the person or group retreats into a psychological fortress of denial. If you resurrect even older Life Conditions and reawaken the vMEMEs calibrated to resolve those archaic problems, growth up the Spiral is unlikely and a regression may be the result. 

Instead of threats, satiate the vMEMEs that are active. Read the problems and solve them at the present level. If stability is the key issue, bring order. If Black Market corruption is rampant, flood the market with merchandise. If fear is draining productivity, deliver the bad news quickly and then make things safe. 

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Lighting the Spiral…

In this series we are only partially through unpacking the various vMEMEs, and only beginning to compare and contrast the values stages. Then, too, my ‘orienting generality’ grounding the blog is focused on identifying dysfunctions and pathologies. Nonetheless, I think the time has come that we see how these different levels of values development (an individual’s, or organization’s vMEME constellation) are able to work in concert, collaborate in healthy ways, and functionally enhance the health and vitality of the whole. So, what would it look like for all the colors of the Spiral to cooperate on something, on anything? Each level, or stage of values systems operating in the individual/organization must be honored and included in healthy collaboration. When vMEMEs that regularly compete for getting a corner on reality somehow align to work together, a truly amazing and powerful synergy often enables new solutions

Thought experiment… 

For a moment I’d like for you to imagine a situation in which a problem exists. The problem may or may not be immediately visible to everyone, but it is not hidden, and is certainly subject to being identified. To that I’d like you to add the fact that the community immediately proximate to the situation does not care about the problem. Individuals in the community may or may not know about the problem, however, even if they know, or even if one points out and demonstrates the existence of the concern, most people in the community simply do not care about the problem. 

OPEN and inclusive…

So, have you been able to imagine such a situation? I’m going to try and help out with an illustration in just a moment, first let’s reflect a bit. So, I’ve asked you to imagine a situation in which you have identified a problem that needs to be addressed. That simply means that whatever it is that you have identified violates your values in some way. If the problem did not touch on your values, you would be just like the people we’ve described in our imaginary community, you would not care about the problem. So, the question quickly becomes obvious: How do you, or does anyone, create a solution to a community problem that few individuals in the community even recognize as a problem, and don’t care about it if they do?

‘Superordinate Goal’ (Blue [DQ])…

Let’s watch this brief video story and then we’ll unpack how each level/color of the Spiral is recognized, honored, and integrated into the solution this community found to their shared problem.

Breaking it down…

A fine example of Blue [DQ] ‘order‘ values working effectively; e.g., creating clean waterways in an Indonesian community through a superordinate goal aligning all the first six values systems to work collaboratively for the common goodin a community that, going in, did not even care about the problem. 

  • Beige [AN] survival values ~ clean water = life. This most basic, non-verbal stage of values development is always poised in the background of our consciousness and will not be ignored should LCs demand. Beige is as simple and complex as fight or flight.
  • Purple [BO] human bond values ~ includes ‘family sections.’ This ‘fish farming’ solution included making families key stake-holders. Villages are made of families and no solution to a community problem will be sustainable without the support of families.
  • Red [CP] power values ~ champion, heroic savior. Causes and movements are built one individual at a time and so the Red values system is key. Spiral synergy seeks to enlist ‘champions’ for the cause and best accomplishes this through alignment of all values systems creating many common affinitiesany solution must show ‘what’s in it for me?’ So, Red provides any action the animating energy that is then somehow channeled for adaptation and change.
  • Blue [DQ] order values ~ superordinate goal. If Red provides animating energy, then good, healthy Blue harnesses and directs that energy toward an overarching goal that integrates all the values systems into the ‘mission,’ e.g., healthy fish farms –> creating clean waterways.  
  • Orange [ER] freedom values ~ entrepreneur, the benefits of fish farmingfresh meat for the family and income from selling some of the fish. The freedom to participate and innovate a better way to make the household economy serve the family, neighbors, and village/region.
  • Green [FS] justice/ecology values ~ individual/communal/ecological good. The leader in this case cared and became a Red champion for the clean waterways movement initially because of this values system.

So, transformation from ‘I/we don’t care‘ to ‘I’m/we’re helping solve‘ is a movement that we need to understand and master as soon as we are able. I’m suggesting that Spiral Dynamics can be a very practical tool in helping create Spiral synergy. Whether by intentional strategy or intuition, some churches are beginning to tap into the power of Spiral awareness/sensitivity. Witness Los Angeles 1st UMC:



Your thoughts?

I never know what I’ve said till I hear the response. What did you hear me say?


goldfish jumping out of the water

Greeting change gladly?

Note: Serial approach. Introductory post (June 30). First in series (July 1).



Change Condition 1: Potential [continued] 

“Change” is in the subtitle of the Spiral Dynamics [SD] bookin fact, it is the last, the final word.  In my view, SD‘s take on change is a crowning achievement of the research, the model, and the book. I think that responsible ways to think about change are on offer here and we do well to be mindful of spirally-aware and values-focused change.

A note to readers: this will be the most technical blog post in the series to date as I want to be especially faithful to the SD model and language with respect to this readiness for change issue. So, limited current events this week as my intention for this piece is not to think through how Change Condition 1 applies for you, or us; rather to provide you the relevant SD tools for your use in considering your given change situationwhether personal or organizational.

Now, if you are already determined how the outcome must/will go regarding the change dynamic that you are facing [e.g., you have some kind of an absolutist position on it], then it’s unlikely these tools will provide a great deal of help. However, if your mind is still somewhat ‘open’ to the possibilities intrinsic to the situation, and attending change dynamic before you, then these tools may just provide some grist for the mill of your thinking. The latter would be my hope as it seems pretty pointless writing to try to influence the formerI’ll leave that to the intentional nudges and good work of the Holy Spirit. Please consider Gaia Orion’s ‘Sacred Change’ image. It offers an excellent cover illustration for this post. 


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Sacred Change by Gaia Orion ||


Readiness spectrum…

Picking up right from where we left off last week (here), we’re looking at a spectrum of potential for successfully meeting change that reflects a range running from OPEN to CLOSED with various degrees of ARRESTED between (OAC).

Development/growth/adaptability are natural processes. When these natural processes are not evident, some kind of dysfunction is at work. A trauma, a lack in some kind of capacity, or an obstacle/blockage of any kind are only a few of the many ways that growth and change are disrupted and prevented. In Spiral Dynamics [SD] the CLOSED State is the category that holds a place for those who, for any reason, seem caught outside the natural process of healthy growth, development, adaptability, and change. If the reason underlying the CLOSED State in an individual is physicalor structural in the case of an organization, then, unless the condition is somehow alterable, growth and adaptation becomes impossible. This is as straight forward as the fact that, presently, it would be impossible for a human to somehow train/grow into the capacity of running a mile at 75 mphphysical limitation is the simple, practical reason for this. So, let’s move on to examine some more SD orthodoxy concerning the OAC spectrum. In the remainder of this post I’ll rely chiefly on the words of Beck and Cowan, from their 1996 book, Spiral Dynamics, pages 76-82.


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CLOSED State system [continued]

Beck and Cowan [continue], Signs of CLOSED thinking are:

  • INSATIABILITY ~ There is never enough. The person’s urges are never satisfied.
  • EXCLUSIVITY ~ There is no other position, no other way to be. Any other view is rejected out of hand. Only a few people are in the inner circle, everybody else, even those slightly removed, are in the ‘them’ group.
  • UNDUE RESPONSE TO FRUSTRATION ~ Reactions to barriers or being blocked are extreme, far beyond what is called for in the situation. When stressed, the CLOSED person becomes irritable quickly.
  • FULFILLS TASKS TO EXTREMES ~ A perfectionist; compulsive. A person who constantly checks and rechecks to be certain it is ‘right,’ ‘in line with,’ or ‘true to form.’
  • BUILDS A SHELL ~ Avoids exposure to other positions or views. Hides or destroys information that runs counter to one’s own position. Demands censorship or thought control. ‘Don’t confuse me with the facts, my mind is made up.’


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ARRESTED State system…

An ARRESTED State is the most common among us unless present conditions in our life are somehow testing our ability to cope/change, or we make intentional efforts to remain OPEN. The ARRESTED State is well summed: ‘going along to get along,’ or, ‘don’t rock the boat.’ Beck and Cowan write regarding the ARRESTED State:

  • ARRESTED thinking leads to attempts to live within life’s barriers and adjusts to them the best way possible.
  • ARRESTED thinking is evidenced in undue stress, gastro-intestinal disorders, passive-aggressive behaviors, and other forms of personal and social frustration. When ARRESTED, we may sense difficulties but believe there is nothing for it since ‘that’s just the way the cookie crumbles’ and ‘you can’t fight city hall.’ That inability to adapt and change things leads to frustration, denial, anger, resentment and a leading malady of our age – ‘stress.’
  • ARRESTED thinkers reject transformational models of change focusing instead on fixer-uppers within the tried-and-true. The barriers may be adjusted a bit, but basic assumptions remain unaltered. Change efforts are directed to refine, polish, and work harder-and-smarter.


Arrested State graphic sized


OPEN State system…



Beck and Cowan write regarding the OPEN State:

  • OPEN thinking strives to remove barriers to allow for the expression of individual differences without getting locked into habitual patterns or unexamined assumptions.
  • OPEN thinking anticipates that change is inevitable and shows considerable elasticity without always jumping on bandwagons.
  • OPEN thinking acknowledges the role external conditions play in making change easy or difficult for people.
  • OPEN thinking is often displayed in the ability of a person to engage a number of Spiral sub-systems ~ from celebrating Purple [BO] in ethnic festivals to contemplating Turquoise [HU] on Earth Day.
  • OPEN thinking is usually displayed in good listening skills, a non-judgmental approach to life, tolerance of differences, and a lack of closed-mindedness.


Open State graphic sized


Beck and Cowan’s take-aways…



Don Beck and Christopher Cowan write:

To summarize Condition 1, the mind/brain must have potential for further development and expansion of conceptual space. That includes OPENness (or at least alterable ARRESTEDness) and the necessary intelligences to handle the new LC‘s. No matter how often you attempt to jump-start change along the Spiral, it cannot happen unless the necessary raw material is present. For example, Stalin’s purges made free-market ‘democracy’ difficult for generations of Russians who still waffle between hard nosed controls and entrepreneurism. Significant corporate change usually requires new minds at the top, not just training and development interventions. And most human beings do seem blessed with ‘talents’ — latent capacities that can be stimulated, but we do not have the same ones.  

So, the stipulations for meeting Condition 1 are:

The thinking is not CLOSED, but is OPEN or at least ARRESTED. The person or group has not reached the limit of available capacities, whatever the reasons for that ceiling may be.

The requisite intelligences are present to deal in the more complex milieu. These may be within the individual or the cumulative knowledge/skill base of the social system. 

The person, organization, or society is free from restrictive pathologies, unresolved ‘sink-holes,’ and historical baggage. [pages 81-2]


Current events…

One current events application before we go. It is easy enough to see how Orange [ER] (e.g., freedom, competition, merit) values can become pathological in expression when corporate, capitalistic interests play into, and exacerbate our CLOSED State pathologies, e.g., “Builds a Shell,” and the resulting polarization and partisan politics. This is easily seen in the cable news business model [Fox and MSNBC, for instance], designed to capitalize on the tribalization of a fracturing and fragmenting society. The AI driving social media’s advertising industry is another example of ER (unintentionally) aggravating our CLOSED State vulnerabilities.

Your thoughts?

I never know what I’ve said till I hear the response. What did you hear me say?



Change seems impossible?

Note: Serial approach. Introductory post (June 30). First in series (July 1).

Blue digs in
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Blue digs in…

Last week, as we began unpacking Blue [DQ], we noted that naïve DQ tends to be absolutist. Actually, in fairness each stage of values development usually displays some degree of absolutism, especially in the entry [naïve] phase. It’s simply a characteristic of developmental/human nature to think very highly of our latest epiphanyperhaps even investing it with ‘ultimate’ status in our scheme. Along with our most profound “Ah ha’s” comes the oft paired, “I’ve finally found THE answer!” right behind. This is especially so when the transition is one of assent to a meta-narrative as is the leap from Red [CP] to Blue. Agreement is required to coalesce conventional community around any specific ‘answer.’



So, Blue frames reality with a mythic narrative that becomes the agreed-upon convention of the members who share that frame. Convention is accepted by assent, in other words, on faith and in trust. Not coincidentally, our conventional commitments are, encouraged, reinforced, and strengthened when others voluntarily join inour own trust in our narrative is strengthened when others assent to the same convention, it forms a feedback loop of support. Here, it’s good to note that this feedback-loop-support-process does not necessarily prove our scheme to be right. However, it is likely to make us feel a lot more confident in our choice of convention. Strength in numbers isn’t it?

Feedback loop illustrated…

The video below demonstrates the feedback loop needed to help generate communal ground. In this instance, one bold, courageous person begins with a vision/commitment powerful enough to move him to action [to dance]. He acts. It then takes nearly twenty seconds to get that prized, first early-adopter. Building quickly from that initial ‘follower,’ just sixty seconds later in the video, ‘one’ has become a crowd, and thirty seconds later a crowd has become a mass movement.



Note: Recall a vMEME is a collection of values (aligning on a theme) and potentialities that are activated by particular life conditions. As a vMEME is a response to specific life conditions [LC’s] (context), this dance [vMEME] was a response to a specific song [LC]. The fact that the song is of finite length drives the urgency of the ‘dance movement’and it also makes a nice metaphor for a key impetus needed in any change. Also note, the dance example is analog [real life in real time], think how the digital realm factors into our feedback loopsthink social media “Likes” to the content we share.

Readiness for change…

Spiral Dynamics [SD] is an elegant anthropological model that brings much needed insight to the whole area of change, both in persons and organizations. In their book, Spiral Dynamics, Beck and Cowan lay out six conditions necessary for vMEMEtic change.




The authors list the first condition for change as “Potential.” Is the person or organization ready for, or even capable of change? The answer to that question is a function of the relationship the person/organization has with their own values constellationagain, a values constellation is a chord of two or more values stages (vMEMEs) operating in collaboration within a given individual or organization experiencing particular LC‘s.

Of special interest is the subject’s center of gravity[CoG], that is, the subject’s dominant values stage (vMEME) operational in their specific values constellation and LC‘sin a given circumstance. Note: growth is reflected in both increasing the health profile of present vMEMEs, and CoG, and an up-spiral movement in the CoG of a person/organization.

It’s always crucially important to remember that in SD, none of this is independent of LC‘s. For example, sometimes LC‘s demand CoG regression of values expression in order to meet changing LC‘sor to free a frozen system allowing further development in healthy spiral expression. So, it’s possible that even though change is clearly needed, the LC‘s demand change, the impetus and urgency are there, sometimes the capacity is not.


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Three states of Potential

How we relate to our own values will predict how we perceive/engage challenge and growth. What Clare Graves discovered in his research is that people vary in their change potentials falling on a spectrum running from OPEN <– ARRESTED –> CLOSED (OAC). These are not meant to be universal descriptions in some way offering a global take on a person or organization. Better to think of these states in relation to a particular issue or area. In other words, the same person might be in an OPEN State in relation to family, an ARRESTED State in relation to politics, and in a CLOSED State in relation to religion.

Beck and Cowan write:

If you can assess the OAC status of an individual or organisation’s vMEME profile, you can predict the likelihood of movement and what would need to be done to facilitate it. The more OPEN the vMEME system, the more capable the entity will be responding to shifts in the milieu. The more CLOSED, the greater the stress of dealing with change, the higher the resistance, and the stronger the denial that anything significant is even going on. If you push against a CLOSED system, know that you are asking for real trouble because it will push back. [page 78]

One way we might think of the context that candidate Donald Trump inheritedand found a way to exploit for political gainis this: Obama represented eight years of pushing against all the CLOSED aspects of our contemporary society, e.g., Obama seriously aggravated a CLOSED, 18th century system desperately struggling to deal with 21st century LCs.

CLOSED State system…

Whenever a person or organization is stuck, and simply unable to make necessary change, there’s a pretty good chance (for any number of possible reasonsbiological, psychological, or sociological inadequacies, history, trauma, or pathologiesthey are most likely operating as a CLOSED system. The CLOSED State is well summed as, ‘This is all there is.’ Yeah, having a ‘closed mind’ is an everyday way of describing someone operating as a CLOSED system with respect to a specific LC. Beck and Cowan write regarding the CLOSED State:

  • CLOSED thinking is on or off; the thinking lacks the flexibility even to envision alternatives and instead locks-up, hunkers-down, and tries to make the world fit what it can do according to the values and beliefs it defends.

CLOSED state thinkers often exhibit a core vMEME at its peak, shutting the door on both past and future vMEMEs on the rest of the Spiral. Frenzied zealots, political extremists, workaholics, bleeding-heart social workers, and hard core criminals are typically CLOSED. Alternate perspectives are rejected, even cursed and demonized. ‘My way is the only way a rational person could think,’ they believe. Those standing elsewhere on the Spiral are seen as heretics, idiots, renegades, criminals or fools.

If pushed too far on the CLOSED issue, these individuals may have breakdowns, show panic and manic behaviors, fits of rage, violence, suicide, severe depression, or psychotic incidents. [page 80]

Beck and Cowan continue, Signs of CLOSED thinking are:

  • INAPPROPRIATENESS ~ lack of adaptability to a changing milieu; every idea is washed in the same color, regardless. Laughter, anger, controversial topics are out of context. Behavior appears awkward and contrived.
  • [continued next week]


Closed State graphic sized


As we’ll see, a CLOSED State is simply not ready for, or capable of change. Next week we’ll finish unpacking the CLOSED system end of the OAC spectrum. Then we’ll take a look at what’s minimally required for change, e.g., an alterable ARRESTED State or an OPEN State. Finally we’ll summarize Change Condition 1: Potential.


Your thoughts?

I never know what I’ve said till I hear the response. What did you hear me say?


Blue digs in

Who’s Blue? Whose Blue?

Note: Serial approach. Introductory post (June 30). First in series (July 1).

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Mandala for Union by Gaia Orion ||

Protest and shadows…

Last week, we left off with Blue [DQ] content and its diversity. We’ll pick-up from there, but first, let’s extend our exploration of protest a bit. Our own privilege is often hidden (from our consciousness) in our shadow—orblind spot. In her book, Waking Up White: and finding myself in the story of race, Debby Irving writes:

Privilege is a strange thing in that you notice it least when you have it most. [pg. 71]


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Jesus helpfully defines privilege in a familiar parablethe good Samaritan—we find in the Gospel According to Luke [cf. Luke 10.30-37]. The privileged are represented in Jesus’ story by the priest and the Levite. It wasn’t their religious position, per se, that made them privileged in Jesus’ sightalthough their status as ‘priest’ and ‘Levite,’ and how they used it, likely contributed significantly to their blindness. Rather, their privilege was the discretion they were able to take for themselves, to simply ignore their brother’s misfortuneas they both “passed by on the other side.” The privileged are those who have the discretion to overlook injustice because they are not the ones under its cruel heel.

‘White’ privilege

In the ‘race’ discourse, a matter as simple as a shared understanding of the terms for the discussion is often not so simple. For instance, an over-simplistic, personalized definition of ‘racist’ fuels one huge difficulty in reckoning with the aftermath of our nation’s original sin—e.g., slavery, and resulting U.S. economic benefit, growth, and prosperity on the backs of enslaved African Americans. In White Fragility: Why It’s So Hard for White People to Talk About Racism, Robin DiAngelo writes:

In the post-civil rights era, we have been taught that racists are mean people who intentionally dislike others because of their race; racists are immoral. Therefore, if I am saying that my readers are racist, I am saying something deeply offensive; I am questioning my readers’ very moral character. [pg. 13]

Of course, DiAngelo doesn’t use the ‘pop’ (individual-evil) definition of ‘racist’ in her corporate, ethnic-awareness training work. She also understands through experience the amount of effort it takes to help her audience [white people] see nuance in the ideas of what racist meanse.g., socialized, systemic injustice toward a group of people whose identifying characteristic is that they lack ‘whiteness.’ DiAngelo identifies one very problematic consequence of shaming as a growth strategy when she writes:

Racial bias is largely unconscious, and herein lies the deepest challengethe defensiveness that ensues upon any suggestion of racial bias. [pg. 42]

Add the socialization to privilege that white people receive which places them outside ‘race,’ it’s small wonder white folks relegate anything implicating any kind of complicity in racial injustice to the unconscious realm.


Landscape Bridge Mississippi Sunset Evening Travel

Mississippi, for example…

This week Mississippi Senator Cindy Hyde-Smith modeled a sad example of unconscious bias (see story here). That Hyde-Smith emphatically states she did not intend to invoke Mississippi’s dark history of lynching actually makes the point (see here). Her remarks, containing racial innuendo, betray an unconscious projection. Unlikely that Hyde-Smith would double-down on the ‘just kidding’ justification she has offered if she had no need of defending a shadow. [cf. James Cone article here]

Never forget…

In his book, White Awake: An honest look at what it means to be white, Daniel Hill writes:

Another major historical reality that has shaped the fabric of the United States is the seventy-plus years of black lynchings. [page 73]

Why do we not talk about lynchings more? In the United States every year we honor the 2,996 people killed in the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center, as we rightly should. But have you ever heard of an honor ceremony to acknowledge the 3,959 [4,400] lives lost to lynching? [page 73-74]

Why do we reverently remember the casualties of those attacked by terrorists from outside our country (again, as we should) but turn a blind eye to the black lives lost in acts of terror at the hands of those within our own country? [page 74]

The simple answer to Hill’s question is we have repressed our own ugliness into our unconscious. An intrinsic, active ability to confront, disarm, and effectively open the unconscious is why an art exhibit, installation, or performance (or an historic depiction/reenactment/installation) in a museum or contextual environment can sometimes be the most powerful forms of protest.


Greater complexity…

Recall both Spiral Dynamics [SD] and Pierre Teilhard de Chardin predict that evolutionary advance is always marked by increasing complexity and inclusion. As we unpack DQ we see ‘higher’ (or ‘deeper’) levels of the spiral are indeed more complex and inclusive than their preceding levels. Further, while all Blue animating energy is most essentially working on liberating us from the tyranny of the self, e.g., Red [CP], and establishing a [higher/deeper] ‘order,’ we quickly discover that our Blue—whatever flavor it may be—is not the only kind of Blue out there.


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The thin blue line…

As we mentioned last week, Blue [DQ] is the first ‘conventional’ stage of values development—convention, or what we have agreed upon, what we have established. Again, Blue opens the space for conventional identity. So, assent is a necessary but not sufficient aspect of DQ. ‘Necessary’ in order to be a member; ‘not sufficient’ because humans are not robots. In his overall argument for grace and trusting the faith of Jesus Christ, the Apostle Paul acknowledges the inability of the law to produce righteousness [Romans 3.20 ]. Further, Paul confesses his personal inability to absolute compliance [Romans 7.15].

Our Blue [DQ] nationalistic identity in the U.S.A. is born and bound by our founding narratives and documents, and is formed in us every day by the experience of life. Our constitution [and attached Bill of Rights] is the umbrella under which our system of federal, state, and local laws find meaning and authority. Sometimes the order to which all have assented must be restored by imposition. Law enforcement serves as the accountability loop for our nationalistic, ‘American’ identities. Law and order makes Blue an effective check on Purple [BO], Red [CP] excesses. As we’ve noted, Orange [ER] and Green [FS] excesses need to be checked as well, but Blue has traditionally struggled with taming those—e.g., DQ‘s limited agility, etc.


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Common but different…

Religious Blue [DQ] content includes: Judaism is Blue. Islam is DQ. Hinduism is Blue. Buddhism is DQ. Sikhism is Blue. Jainism is DQ. Shintoism is Blue. Confucianism is DQ. Taoism is Blue. And so forth. You’ve probably been waiting for me to say, Christianity is DQ. There’s also nationalistic Blue. Beyond religious and personal freedom and responsibility, other American Blue identity myths include: ‘pioneer spirit,’ ‘revolutionary heroes,’  ‘huddled masses yearning to breath free,’ ‘conquering the wild West,’ ‘land of the free,’ ‘home on the range,’ ‘rags to riches,’ ‘home of the brave,’ just to name a few. There’s much more we can say about Blue content, economic DQ, for instance. We’ll save that.

In all this, Orange [ER] sees many good opportunities; Green [FS] sees many stories, and good diversity. Blue [DQ], however, has an absolutist tendency and sees multiple Blues as troubling. Ironically, atheism is also a form of Blue, often absolutist. People like Richard Dawkins use this ‘absolutist’ feature of naïve Blue as a straw man to knock all religion down. Next week we’ll pick up on this problematic aspect of Blue [DQ] and also begin to look at readiness for change—different postures in relation to change.

Your thoughts?

I never know what I’ve said till I hear the response. What did you hear me say?


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