Adam Burk

Founder/ Director, Treehouse Institute

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Can it be commonly understood that character development or the lack of it is the root of our collective ails and their solutions?

All human behavior can be traced back to two primordial archetypes, the creative and the destructive, light and dark, chaos and cosmos. Thus, individually we are responsible for aligning ourselves with either the creative or the destructive principle. Our effectiveness in doing so is reflected in timely action or lack thereof.

Our current climate crisis can be viewed as a collective failure of individuals to adequately development maturity and sanity. Our financial crisis is the result of collective greed of individuals.

Is it not true that someone develops a cure to a disease because at their core they have compassion and care enough to help alleviate the suffering of others? Is it not also true that those who design financial systems to ensure their own wealth with no regard for the social or environmental devastation that they cause are significantly lacking in superior traits of human beauty?

Can it not be commonly understood then that character development or lack there of is the root of our collective ails and their solutions? That by expanding compassion and consciousness rather than with holding their growth is the core solution to our collective struggles? Are we not faced primarily with moral and human challenges and secondarily technical ones?

  • Apr 2 2011: Yeah i think most of our collective problems are related to the pathology of those who seek/value power to such an extent that they actually get it. I think these people are a cultural universal ,with war and genocide simply the byproduct.

    Solution: 'You're more than capable, want the job?' 'Hell no'. 'Hello candidate 1'.
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    Apr 1 2011: I think you have oversimplified the issue by excluding the manifold dimensions created by conflicting visions of good/light/constructive. Perhaps not the least paradox created by your model is that who exactly count as the mature versus immature or sane versus insane will vary from one stance within the manifold to the next.
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      Apr 1 2011: Erik, let's try some "for examples," can you provide a context for what you are thinking?
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        Apr 1 2011: Christian fundamentalists versus atheists, Republicans versus Democrats, socialists versus capitalists, educational progressivism versus perennialism, pro-life versus pro-choice, same-sex marriage supporters versus one-man-one-woman supporters, right Hegelians versus left Hegelians, the list could go on and on. In each of these sample cases, the proponents have constructed a worldview which contains a sufficiently consistent view of THE GOOD based on their accepted premises, and they view members of the opposition as irrational/destructive/dysfunctional.

        Perceived intellectual/moral maturity seems to be a function of conceptual proximity to a person's own views. We must be careful, however, not to imagine some neutral position in which only the person who sees the relativity of such claims is truly mature, for as MacIntyre and others have shown, that perspective is, in itself, a constructed worldview based on a set of similarly non-universal first premises.

        The other factor that must be taken into account is that very rarely do people choose to participate in something they think is 'bad.' Much of the brokenness of our world, from whichever point of view we happen to be looking, is caused by a difference in the hierarchy of goods and acceptable costs for achieving them within those different positions within the manifold.
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    Apr 1 2011: Adam, I don't think it's that simple.
    Although you are certainly right that lack of character is a contributing factor to humanity's ailments, I don't think it's the exclusive cause.
    People often engage in destructive (or at least not creative) actions, not because they are evil, but because of ignorance.
    Climate crisis: true, some entities are contributing to the crisis, although they are fully aware of their deeds, but I would say, the vast majority of people contributes, not because of lack of character but lack of understanding of the implication of their action (or lack of action).
    Financial crisis: again, some entities, on purpose contributed to the crisis, but then, the crisis was not only a result of banks and large corporations engaging in unethical behaviors, but the individual on the street, spending more than he could afford, is to blame as well. Is that a question of lack of character ? I wouldn't say so. Again, to me it looks more like ignorance.
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      Apr 1 2011: Ignorance is fundamentally addressed by my proposal as extending one's consciousness or field of knowledge is the solution to ignorance. Expansion of consciousness/awareness is an act of character development.
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        Apr 1 2011: you only can extend your consciousness or knowledge if you are aware that you need to work on it. I suggest, that in many cases if not most, people who are ignorant or lack awareness, aren't aware of their shortcomings. So how do you make them see it ?
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          Apr 1 2011: I don't think you can "make" them see it. But this is an important component of character development--being available and open to the fact there is much you (I, we) don't know. In this way one can be orientated towards growth. If we are open to growth (and have practices/behaviors to ensure it) then we are apt to make it as a species.
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    Mar 31 2011: I sense a ironic smirk when I read your question. I don´t know who is wearing it.
  • Mar 31 2011: You pose a difficult question in that there is an inherent paradox in it. The nature of your question points the finger at lesser evolved, yet fails to show the development of compassion that you speak of. I don´t think you can do any good by pointing out that some people have less or different development than others. I suspect we´ll all find that we each have a piece. The gentiles, the jews, the autistic, the gifted, the developed, the greedy, the other and the self. Know that I heed my words as I type them: Look at you first, then see what you can do for the world. Accept the others as they are. Pray to god that they accept you.
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      Apr 1 2011: Tyler, I am with you. The serenity prayer comes to mind,

      "God grant me the serenity
      to accept the things I cannot change;
      courage to change the things I can;
      and wisdom to know the difference."

      And my question may not clearly articulate all the intricacies of my thinking. I do not point to lesser evolved as a class or group of people, but rather lesser evolved qualities that we each individually have and can be seen in collective issues.
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    Mar 7 2011: Completely agree and suggest to team up in solving and clarifying this issue.