Cute Chinese Chicks in front of the Olympic Stadium, Beijing. Minnie’s a Dude, in case you were curious… now think about how you can tell just from the photo!
My son, last night, brought home an assignment from his high school literature class, basically asking him to explore the ontological intimations of a given viewpoint on the infinite. The short version of the prior word salad is this: what do we think God is, and how can we understand that?
Fair enough. Because I am, well, who I am – or maybe a function of how weird I am, I took this and applied this to understanding our empathetic development, and social/relational structure. It would stand to reason that the various v-Memes would want a God that lined up with the way that they think. No surprise there. But what’s also fascinating is more how it lines up with our comfort with the unknown. The short version of this is that our own metacognition tells us buckets about how comfortable or uncomfortable we are with giving God definition — or limits.
Naturally, Tribal Gods are going to be present, and likely unpredictable. Authoritarian Gods are likely to be angry (just like your boss!), and Legalistic Gods are going to have lots of rules. Better not break ’em! They might feel sorry for you, but they’re still sending you to Hell. No echoes of place-taking, rational empathy down here!
Moving up into Performance level v-Memes, we’re going to have affiliated, helpful Gods, whom you get to have your own, personal relationship with. It’s no surprise that the Protestant Reformation was so big on coming up with a canonical set of rules of reform of things like indulgences (they didn’t call it the Reformation for nothing!) but also removed authorities between the individual and God. Funny how that happened all around the time of the Enlightenment and such. Can we say ‘Independent Relational Formation’, anyone? And I’m sure from my own Catholic upbringing that Communitarian God plays the guitar. Because the Good Sisters who taught me were a little lacking in musical ability. No surprise that as our empathy increases, God becomes more understanding, and less likely to send us all to Hell. One in the Spirit, One in the Lord and all that! He’d have to go there too.
Talking about religion makes people a little squirmy, regardless who does it. And since I’ve decided that a lot of my stuff already makes people feel like bugs are crawling around on their brain, I think we should segue into business gurus instead.
How can we tell what v-Meme a given business advice book tops out on? Look for where they start talking about magic. Peter Senge, in The Fifth Discipline, gets to spirituality pretty quickly, though I’d argue we’ve got to cut him a little Second Tier, self-awareness slack. For the most part, systems thinking is short for legalistic algorithms with an eye toward performance. Roger Martin puts ‘mystery’ right on top of heuristics, with some Second Tier systemic perspective thrown in as well. And so it should be no surprise that Design Thinking for Business stops at the Performance v-Meme for the hard-and-fast. I’m sure there are some other books out there on social capital that map into the Communitarian v-Meme. But they all cap out sooner or later. I’m sure there are other writers than the core Wilber/Beck/Cowan group out there in the higher business v-Meme landscape (Eckhart Tolle? Frederic Laloux?) and there obviously have been other, super-evolved business leaders — for real inspiration, read about J. Irwin Miller, one of the architects of Cummins Diesel.
We’re not going to cap out in this blog. Instead, I’m just going to double down on that metacognition card and admit I don’t know. And then have the rest of you fill in the blanks. The reason? One of my budding theories is that while we may not be able to evolve all of us to a Global Holistic state, if we connect enough of us together, we can, in aggregate, function at those higher levels. Onward!
Takeaways: When people start talking about God, or whose business books they like to read, one of the big things they’re telling you is their metacognition and how they process what they don’t know. A good idea to pay attention!