Vertical Development

Adapting World Views Using Maps of Meaning

Going beyond knowledge and intelligence to adapting with awareness and consciousness.

Over the past few weeks, I’ve stopped all of my work and have just been reflecting on things. I’ve done so because I feel like I’ve hit a wall, whereby I don’t see how I can effectively communicate and continue my work anymore because the depth of it is often misunderstood and paradoxical to conventional minds.

Simply put, my work seems counter-intuitive and thus illogical to most people.

The crux of this has to do with the conventional belief that most of the worlds problems are due to people being stupid (i.e. “vast empty minds needing filling”) and they just need to get smarter, obtaining more knowledge. Once they do, everything will be better. The problem with this approach though is that everyone thinks they are smart now and know everything, while everyone else is seen as stupid.

Therefore the problem isn’t that we don’t have enough smart people. The problem is that we don’t have people aware and conscious enough to know if they are smart or not. It reminds me of quote relating to Darwin which articulates how intelligence isn’t the end all and be all.

According to Darwin’s Origin of Species, it is not the most intellectual of the species that survives; it is not the strongest that survives; but the species that survives is the one that is able best to adapt and adjust to the changing environment in which it finds itself.

Leon C. Megginson

There also seems to be this current belief that the world is getting stupider. I disagree. It’s not. If anything, we’re just becoming more aware of how many people are actually ignorant of things that we assumed they understood. Note I said ignorant not stupid. In effect, these people assume and believe they understand the world but are unaware that they don’t.

Why are we becoming aware of this now though? It’s because the world is rapidly changing. Back when things were more stable, everyone fit into their roles and place, with little cause to question things. Yet now that things are rapidly changing, people’s awareness and understanding of the world is being put to the test on almost a daily level, causing them to question everything. And how they answer these questions determines whether they truly understand the meaning of things or not.

And I think therein lies the problem which lies within us, lying to us. How we make our meaning is determined by how we perceive our world (aka worldview), thus relating to our beliefs and assumptions. Therefore, intelligence is not the end all and be all. What is more important than intelligence is our consciousness and awareness of things because it is the context of which our intelligence is contained within.

If acts of intelligence focus broadly on doing, awareness is more about a state of being.

In fact, you could say that awareness is the space inside of which intelligence lives. I mean, how can you be “intelligent” about anything that’s outside of your awareness.

The Precision Principle

What I find remarkable about this is that instead of the typical belief that we need more knowledge to make everyone smarter and everything better, it’s actually the opposite in a way. We actually need to unlearn. And I think this gets to the roots of vertical development. It’s basically about challenging your assumptions and beliefs…before they are challenged by life itself, as they will most definitely be in our rapidly changing world today, as Alvin Toffler notes below.

The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn.

Change is not merely necessary to life – it is life.

The responsibility for change…lies within us. We must begin with ourselves, teaching ourselves not to close our minds prematurely to the novel, the surprising, the seemingly radical.

A new civilization is emerging in our lives, and blind men everywhere are trying to suppress it.

Alvin Toffler

Another way of looking at this all is realizing that how we make our meaning and understanding of our world arises from how we perceive and see the relationship between things within it (including ourselves). And how we adapt, or more aptly transform the way we perceive our world and its meaning, is by changing these relationships. When we do so, we transform the meaning of our world and the way we perceive it, in turn.

Kegan explains that transformation is different than learning new information or skills. New information may add to the things a person knows, but transformation changes the way he or she knows things. Transformation, according to Kegan, is about changing the very form of the meaning-making system—making it more complex, more able to deal with multiple demands and uncertainty.

Jennifer Garvey Berger, A Summary of Constructive-Developmental Theory Of Robert Kegan

Why this is relevant is because I remembered a while back stumbling across learning about concept maps which are effectively maps of meaning which show our understanding of knowledge by showing the relationship between concepts and allowing you to narratively describe the meaning of something by following the relationship flows within it.

More importantly, it can also help you to see how you are misunderstanding the meaning of something as well, since you’ve explicitly extracted this meaning from within yourself and mapped the relationships of it, thus allowing you to see and manage it more easily.

All said and done, I think concept maps are something that I need to explore further, as a possible way to get beyond this wall that I’m hitting. In effect, I need a tool that is extremely simple and basic but can be used as a building block to articulate and communicate complex, even paradoxical, ideas. Yet more than anything, I have a funny intuition that it might be more effective in articulating and communicating the basic understanding and meaning of things in our world today that so many people are often misunderstanding.

In a sense, imagine as a traveller ending up lost in a small town and being told that your map is out of date. Getting a new local map, you compare the old and the new, seeing the now evident primary differences between the two. That’s what I feel like I’m looking for. Some simple way to visually show people the difference between their outdated conventional meaning of the world compared to a much larger reality.

Best of all, if I can figure a way to do this, I can use it to continually test my own assumptions and beliefs with my own development as well.

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