Note: This is the second installment of an ongoing series of pieces. If you haven’t already, please begin with Part I – The Climb.
Part II – The Birth
I begin to think of the incredible sequence of events that brought me to this very precarious point in time and space. I remember getting off the phone with Kate, a tall and freckled beauty with closely shaven copper-red hair and a long, slender, graceful body that belied her clumsy mannerisms. A newly un-closeted (and highly enthusiastic) lesbian, she was one of my very closest friends, and I had the terrible misfortune of being completely and hopelessly in love with her.
Exhilarated by our decision to abandon all we had known and move somewhere else, somewhere new, somewhere we had never been. When I got off the phone with Kate, I was anxious to immediately call someone else and share my excitement. So I called my roommate Allison, a bulimic chef who I happened to be living with at the time in Boston—which itself was ridiculous, since she lived in the room directly next to mine and I could have just walked over or yelled through the wall if I wanted. But I called her anyway, and I told her everything. I told her how we made a drastic life decision to leave school, to do something new. We didn’t know what, and we didn’t know where—but it would really be something, and we were going to do it together! I told her all this, and she expressed her happiness, how wonderful this would be for us, how much we will grow because of this, how….
She suddenly interrupted herself.
“Oh my God! Corey! Come over here, right now!!!”
I had no idea what was going on. I put down the phone and walked to her room. She had this enormously goofy grin, pointing into her closet. “Look!” I peered my head in, and watched to my absolute astonishment as Brandy, the house cat, was giving birth to a litter of kittens.
I felt as though lightning bolts were surging through my fingertips, as though every atom, every molecule, every cell, every bone, organ, and tissue were singing in unison—the music of my organism melting into the music of the universe.
I freaked out; I didn’t know what to do. Was I supposed to boil water or something? And what the hell would I do with it anyway?! I was clearly out of my element. I ran back into my room to call my mother to ask her what I should do. Before I did, I called Kate.
“Um, hi Kate. I know that we just talked but there’s something I really think you should know…”
“Huh? What’s going on?”
“Well, you know how like just a couple minutes ago we made this huge life decision to pick up and leave?”
“Um, well, yeah of course.”
“To go someplace new….”
“To start fresh….”
“Corey what’s going on?”
“Well, um, I went to tell Allison, and, uh, my cat is giving birth right now.”
Ten endless seconds of silence.
“Oh my fucking God,” she says.
“Yeah,” I say.
“Yeah. Well, you can interpret this however you want, I just thought you should know…”
In the end, Kate did not end up coming with me. She broke my heart. But Aphex, one of the kittens born that precise moment, did.
Note: This piece was originally written almost ten years ago. Though my voice, my style, and my realization were still fairly immature (compared with the ever-so slightly less immature voice, style, and realization i now possess), this piece is a celebration of one of the most sacred experiences of my life, and wanted to share with you all.
The full piece is rather long, so i have decided to serialize it into six consecutive installments, which will be published here throughout the week.
Part I – The Climb
“One day I will leave this world and dream myself to Reality…” Crazy Horse, 1874
We are surrounded. On all sides, a horde of mechanical dinosaurs roar their thunderous roars, ricocheting chaotically off the rubble. The stone wall of the mountain reflects the noise in all directions, flooding our ears with liquid concrete, entombing us in sonic opacity. It is a symphony of white noise that shifts and undulates with each movement of the head. There is no way of telling where the industrial growl is coming from; it sounds like they are everywhere. As our paranoia approaches a boil, so does the intensity of our aspiration—we had come this far; there is no turning back now.
Where am I? I am somewhere in between dreams, surfing the turning page in between chapters. What am I doing? I am fleeing a former me, reaching for a deeper I, struggling to create myself anew, molding my self into something meaningful, something real. In a flash I had seen my own Face, and I yearned to chisel out some vague likeness within myself.
We can’t tell how many of them there are. We can’t tell where they are. We know there is one on the far right base of the mountain, behind a small crop of trees about a thousand feet away, its eyes shifting back and forth against the black of night. So far we’ve climbed on the far side of the rubble heap, safely hidden from view of the mechanical monster on the other side.
I am equal parts exhausted and exhilarated, my breath struggling to keep pace with my heart. The climb is pretty intense at first, the lower rubble composed mostly of tremendous boulders, some the size of Volkswagen busses, from the earlier and more dramatic days of blasting. These we climb with our entire bodies, searching strategically for stable routes up and through the massive monoliths. The debris becomes finer as we ascended, since the later blasts were much more calculated and refined than the earlier ones. Eventually we reach such an incline that our steps are triggering avalanches of detritus beneath our soles. We are getting pretty high, having climbed the nearly two hundred foot tall pile of rubble that encircles the base of the mountain. But it is as far as we can go. We have been able to conceal ourselves so far, but now we need to scale the far right side of the monument. We have come to the point where the rubble reaches its highest slope and begins to curve around the mountain, leaving us exposed to the only metal beast we know for sure was there, awash in its guttural growl. We have no choice but run, and pray we can somehow traverse the mountain without being detected.
I slowly peer over the ridge of stone and dirt, observing with cautious eyes the movement of the massive Caterpillar. Its path seems predictable, moving back and forth like a video game sentry, taking about forty-five seconds for each trip. We study the situation for about five minutes, assuring the regularity of its motion, and quickly determine our strategy. We would watch it come toward us until it was just about to turn around, and then we would just run for it, as fast as our legs would take us.
This is absurd. None of us know if we will be able to make it before the beast turns back around again. Absurd, yes, but it is about all we can do. So we go with it.
The time had come. The machine makes its turn and is now coming toward us. We brace ourselves, watching the white lights approach behind the trees, until it is about to make another turn.
“Okay,” I say over the ubiquitous rumble of industrial machinery. “This is it—get ready! Five, four, three, two…”
At some decimal point between 2 and 1, the world stops. The air, indescribably thick and heavy with the invisible mass of the bulldozer’s sonic aura, suddenly vanishes. There is now only a sudden stillness, an impossibly massive silence laced with sounds of wind ripping across the mountain face. The engine had suddenly cut off, leaving only the howling emptiness of the South Dakota night. We are paralyzed, petrified with anticipation.
We don’t know what is happening. We don’t know whether the guy had seen us and is coming after us, or if he’s just taking a break to piss. We have no clue whatsoever what’s going on. There is only stillness, paranoia, and panic. In my head I run through a multitude of scenarios, realizing the three of us may have to split up and run off in different directions if indeed they are on their way up to get us.
The air is crisp and clean, once opaque with a barrage of white noise, now massively vacant. The wind carries the subtlest of sounds—we can hear the leaves swaying hundreds of yards away, the footsteps of the bulldozer operator as he dismounts his machine, the pounding of our own hearts. We know that if we can hear him he can certainly hear us, and so we remain as still as we can. My leg begins to fall asleep, but I am far too scared of being heard to shift it. The slightest twitch would send a stone tumbling down the slope, knocking five more loose as it went. I wonder how I would be able to run on a dead leg if we hear someone climbing the rubble trying to come after us. All we can do is wait patiently in these extremely awkward positions, biting through the burning discomfort of our limbs; just waiting to see what happens.
Every now and again, pop culture is forced to reinvent itself. Like an epic drama among Hindu deities, our collective tastes are born, destroyed, and reborn again, swinging like a massive pendulum from one aesthetic extreme to the other. As a new cultural niche becomes more and more popularized, what typically begins as fierce artistic independence eventually devolves into reckless overindulgence, and creative novelty slowly bleeds away until all that is left is a formulaic husk used to manufacture tomorrow’s next fads. It is usually at this point, when a particular scene becomes so over-saturated that it can no longer support the weight of its own excess, that the entire scene will die an often-humiliating death, bloated and alone on an unflushed toilet.
In the 1980’s, the music scene in America was dominated by the glut and theatrics of “glam metal.” For nearly 10 years, most of popular music was defined by sex, drugs, and machismo-in-drag, and an entire generation of youth nearly lost themselves within a cloud of hairspray. There was a void in the cultural heart of the musical mainstream that was dying to be filled—an utter lack of artistic interiority, emotional depth, and authenticity. Untold millions were craving artistic substance, and were only offered artificial decadence.
Then along came grunge, taking the entire world by storm in the early 90’s. From the rain-soaked streets of Seattle emerged a new voice for American youth. In much the same way that punk music arrived just in time to offer salvation for our Disco-era sins, grunge music promised to completely cleanse our cultural palette, placing an aesthetic imperative upon more simplicity, more spontaneity, and more sincerity. And so bands like Nirvana, Soundgarden, Alice in Chains, The Smashing Pumpkins, and Pearl Jam came into the mainstream, forever changing the landscape of American music. From behind a tsunami of massively distorted guitars, hallowed vocals, and countless acres of flannel, appeared an unmistakable return to introspection and idealism—even while cloaked by themes of angst and despair, the natural result of our collective interiors being ignored for almost a decade.
Few bands of the era embody this move toward introspection and idealism as strongly as Pearl Jam. As the grunge scene continued to explode, it was becoming apparent that the inherent iconoclasm of the scene was ill-suited to handle the immense pressures of fame, and many artists found themselves circling the drain of inevitable self-destruction—for many, Kurt Cobain’s suicide was a morbid reminder of what can happen when artistic ideals are reduced to mere currency for the status-sphere. One by one the originators of grunge began to fall away, and an impossibly huge body of talent was forever lost to suicide and drug addiction.
Few bands survived as the industry began churning out the newest grunge-inspired fads, marketed (ironically) as “alternative rock.” Pearl Jam was one of the few who did make it through this period of intense commodification. Unlike most others from the Seattle era, they were able to prevent themselves from being crushed by the enormous pressure that their celebrity brought to their personal and professional lives. While they did in a sense try to distance themselves from their own fame, they were also simultaneously using their celebrity as a platform for their idealism, soon finding themselves fighting “on all fronts” for initiating real change in the world. From their famed battle with the corruption of the Ticketmaster venue monopoly, to publicly berating the policies of George W. Bush, to expressing pro-choice sentiments in concert, to promoting awareness around Crohn’s disease—Pearl Jam was helping to return rock and roll to its roots, in terms of both the profoundly personal and the deeply political. And they continue to do it to this day, over 18 years since the band first formed.
In this dialogue Stone Gossard leads us through the story of Pearl Jam’s iconic rise, as well as his own experiences in the early grunge scene, long before any of us had ever known what “Teen Spirit” actually smelled like. Stone and Ken also discuss the current state of the music industry, some of the key problems it needs to come to terms with, and the role of record labels in the future of music. Stone’s story is one that is truly aligned with the essence of Integral Art, which attempts to restore Beauty to it’s rightful place within the human condition—emphasizing creativity instead of deconstruction, idealism instead of apathy, depth instead of sensationalism, authenticity instead of irony—and always reflecting the fullest expressions of both artist and audience alike. We hope you can join us in this fascinating exploration of artistic idealism and creative reverie….
To listen to a free interview between Stone Gossard and Ken Wilber, click here.
Originally published on Integral Life: Pearl Jam: Restoring Idealism to Rock and Roll. Part 1: From the Birth of Grunge to the Death of an Industry (w/ Stone Gossard and Ken Wilber)
As a way to commemorate this sad and tragic day in world history, i thought i would take a moment to compile some of the more provocative and politically-oriented audio, video, and written materials from Integral Life. It is my hope that the knowledge and insight gleaned from this content can help each of us hold the impossible heartbreak of the world’s pain in our open and tender hearts, offering our most compassionate blessings to every man, woman, and child who continues to struggle under the weight of our brutally fragmented world.
Note: I’ve decided to make many of these pieces available for free for the very first time, so that you can feel free to share and circulate them however you wish.
Corey W. deVos & Clint Fuhs
A Tale of Four Americas takes a look at the political dynamics and cultural perspectives that influence every part of the Republican and Democratic parties. It explores the ideological divides that exist within each party, and offers a simple map to help make sense of these seemingly conflicting beliefs.
Ken Wilber, written by Corey W. deVos
Ken Wilber discusses the many problems facing the emergence of a genuinely Integral “Third-Way” political party, most notably the issue of developmental elitism, and offers a remarkably simple-but-effective definition of the political Left and Right.
In this fascinating footnote to the book Boomeritis, written in 2002, Ken discussions the many sorts of reactions people had to the tragedy of 9/11, while also presenting a theoretical framework within which a genuinely Integral approach to politics and governance might emerge.
Jim Garrison & Ken Wilber, written by Corey W. deVos
In this fascinating 3-part dialogue between Ken Wilber and chairman and president of the State of the World Forum Jim Garrison, the topics range from the increasingly dangerous crises happening around the globe to America’s transition from republic to empire to the ability for Integral consciousness to face the precarious challenges of the 21st century head on.
Here Ken discusses the work that is being done by Integral Institute, Integral Life, and Jim Garrison’s State of the World Forum to help move toward a genuine integral “World Federation” government—one capable of meeting the complex and tightly-interconnected nature of our 21st-century problems with the clarity, compassion, and decisiveness they require.
James S. Turner & Ken Wilber, written by Corey W. deVos
In this three-part series, James Turner, a founding pioneer in Integral forms of law, politics, and federal regulation talks with Ken about his days with Ralph Nader, 18th-century American political history, the essential ingredients of an Integral approach to politics, and the meaning of “trans-partisan” politics.
Here Ken discusses the dangers of “one person, one vote” approaches to democracy. If we consider the fact that people grow through three major stages of development—ego-centric, ethno-centric, and world-centric—and then try to get a sense of where the majority of the people current exists, we find that nearly 70% of the world’s population remains at an ethno-centric stage or lower. Democracy is inherently a world-centric system of governance, and “one person, one vote” an ideal way to enact the democratic process. But if the majority of the voters have not themselves achieved a world-centric level of consciousness, it begins to fall apart pretty quickly, with effects as broad as Kansas banning the teaching of evolution to the democratic election of Hamas in Palestine—even the National Socialist German Workers’ Party (aka the Nazis) came into power through a plurality election in 1933. Although one does not garner a tremendous amount of popularity criticizing the “one person, one vote” ethic, without a sophisticated understanding of how this system of governance actually plays itself out in the real world, and without finding some way to limit the influence of pre-rational beliefs and mob-rule, democracy can actually become the last best hope for fascism in the 21st century.
Don Beck & Jeff Salzman
Here Don offers an intimate glimpse into his own life and career. He discusses the current phase of his work: traveling the world and applying Spiral Dynamics to various geo-political “hotspots” all over the planet. He offers his own ideas about healthy models of society, the crucial distinction between stages of consciousness and the contents of those stages, and the importance of preserving many of the early stages of development that are so often seen as primitive and obsolete. He then goes into considerable depth around the specifics of the Palestine-Israel conflict, describing the needs and problems on both sides of the divide, his hands-on involvement with both nations, and the remarkable receptivity with which his work has been met. At a time when tensions in the Middle East can seem so hopelessly combustible, it is encouraging to see Integral seeds being planted in such surprisingly fertile soil, offering us all a much-needed exhale as we wait to see how evolution will continue playing itself out in this difficult region of the world.
In this video, Ken is asked about one of the most difficult and pressing issues of our time: the violence in the Middle East. How can the West help influence the overall growth of the Middle East, from renegade states to civil societies? Do democratic solutions have any chance of helping a region which, to quote Winston Churchill, “continues to produce more history than it can possibly digest”?
“Is everything spinning out of control?” asked an Associated Press article in Summer 2008. Between rising flood waters in the Midwest, drowning polar bears in the far North, skyrocketing gas prices, plummeting home values, and endless wars on multiple fronts, the future does not seem to be living up to its promise—a promise envisioned since the détente of the Cold War and the proclamation of George H.W. Bush’s “New World Order.” From an Integral altitude, what can we make of the future?
At this very moment, there is something of a revolution occurring around the world, sweeping through almost every facet of the human condition–psychological, spiritual, cultural, political, technological, ecological, etc. All the old and partial approaches to reality are being questioned, and new and more integral responses are being explored, laying the foundation for an entirely new era in human civilization.
It is not the first revolution the world has ever seen, and it will certainly not be the last. But it is the first that does not insist that everyone adopt a new philosophy, a new worldview, or a new monolithic way of being—even while new philosophies, new worldviews, and new ways of being are constantly laid down as we speak. It is a revolution that fully embraces us wherever we may be in our own development and allows us to be who we already are—even while it points out all those aspects of our lives where we still need to grow.
Welcome to the Integral Revolution, history’s response to the observation that “problems cannot be solved from the same level of thinking that created them.” We’ve been handed an entirely new set of problems and complexities that would have been unimaginable just fifty years ago, bringing us ever closer to fulfilling our limitless potential as conscious and compassionate human beings, slowly bootstrapping our way to infinity.
When contemplating the possible shapes and sounds of our newly emerging revolution, it is useful to track the similarities and differences it may have with other cultural and spiritual transformations in our past—most notably the postmodern revolution of the 1960’s. The sixties, of course, were the inevitable result of a perfect storm of social and cultural currents. Our hearts and minds were being expanded in two directions at once: we were growing as a culture vertically into an entirely new stage of consciousness (postmodernism/pluralism), as well as horizontally through states of consciousness (spiritual, altered, etc.).
Vertical development is the natural evolutionary response to the rise of new complexities in our lives, pushing the human species through archaic, magic, mythic, rational, pluralistic, and integral waves of consciousness, and onward toward a greater and greater sense of human dignity. In this succession of values and worldviews, the sixties became a staging platform for the newly emerging pluralistic stage of development, as seen in the rise of postmodernism as an intellectual and artistic framework, an explosion of pluralistic values emerging around the world, a rapidly accelerating media industry that seemed to make the world smaller and smaller by the moment, the urgency of civil rights and racial desegregation, a newfound curiosity and empowerment around human sexuality, etc.
At the same time that we were just beginning to explore a whole new vertical stage of consciousness, another major force of transformation began to sweep through culture. The sixties became a test-tube for experimentation with various spiritual and psychedelic states of consciousness, catalyzed by the sudden appearance of two extremely powerful methods of state-change: a massive influx of Eastern spirituality and mystical thought, as well as the introduction of psychedelic drugs—both of which placed major emphasis upon the importance of raw, direct experience of reality.
The confluence of these two powerful currents of human development made for one of the most fascinating and colorful revolutions in recent history, forever changing how we relate to the world, to our culture, and to ourselves.
It is easy to wax quixotic about the sixties, forgetting that it was a period of time littered with its own tragedies, heartbreaks, and casualties—after all, the hippie movement was itself book-ended by a number of devastating assassinations, and one can only wonder what would have become of the counterculture had it not been so crippled when its greatest leaders were murdered in the prime of their influence. On the other hand, it can also be easy to dismiss the psychedelic sixties altogether as naïve, excessive, narcissistic, intellectually effete—and ultimately doomed to collapse under the tremendous weight of pragmatic reality. But regardless of how we relate to the social and cultural zeitgeist of the sixties, entire generations of X’ers and Y’ers have since felt as if they’ve somehow missed the boat entirely. We feel as though we standing in the glorious, gluttonous Technicolor shadow of our parents, wondering to ourselves if the time for our own revolution will ever actually come.
Well make no mistake about it: the time has come. Though it is no longer merely a revolution of the mind (ours is a revolution of the “body, mind, and spirit in self, culture, and nature”) and though it is still in its very early stages of emergence (with a long way to go before it reaches any sort of “tipping point”), its influence is already beginning to sweep across the world. It is happening right now at this very second. The very same currents of growth and development that set the initial stage for the sixties revolution—vertical and horizontal growth through stages and states of consciousness—have begun to flow together once again, creating an upswell of consciousness, care, and creative novelty that has not been seen in decades. Our revolution approaches; all we can do is hope that our soundtrack will be as cool as theirs was.
During the sixites, we were almost entirely subject to these two mighty currents of evolution, unable to differentiate or even discern the forces that were dramatically shaping our minds and our hearts. But now we have a map—one of the most significant differences between the new revolution and the old—that can actually help make sense of the chaotic territory of human potential. And not just any map; it’s a map that shows us where exactly we are at any given point in relation to the full totality of the natural and spiritual world. A map which, for those casualties of addiction who became irrevocably lost in the psychedelic wilderness of their minds, could have been immensely useful fifty years ago.
It might be fair to say that the worldwide transformation promised by the sixties counterculture was largely stillborn, its momentum permanently hamstrung by political assassinations and various forms of cultural fallout. But evolution has continued surging on nonetheless, pumping, pulsing, and pushing humanity into the horizon of tomorrow’s possibilities.
The Integral Revolution is one that is based upon principles of compassion, clarity, and inclusiveness—principles that also defined the sixties revolution in many ways, though they did not have the sophisticated tools and methodologies that we currently have, nor the complexities of today’s world and the capacity for integral thought that arises alongside them. Although we do not yet know what shape our own revolution will take, when it will hit critical mass, and how exactly it will transform our lives and our world, we do know that it is happening only because of pioneers like you, dedicating your lives toward deepening and enriching our humanity and divinity alike.
A willingness to step beyond our personal and cultural points of view while remaining true to our own unique perspective; to sanctify the common ground between different sciences and different spiritual traditions while fully honoring and celebrating the differences between them; to hold all the contradictions and paradoxes of knowledge gently in one hand while cutting through the confusion and fragmentation with the other—these are precisely the sorts of qualities that define Integral Revolution. Shouting William Stern’s slogan from the mountaintop like a 21st-century battle-cry—Unitas Multiplex!—we find unity within the heart of diversity, forged deep in the furnace of purpose.
The Integral Revolution: the result of an unstoppable force meeting an unmovable subject.