Congratulations, President Obama

On behalf of the entire Integral community, I’d like to extend sincere congratulations to President Obama on his historic election. Today we witness not only millennia of human progress symbolized in another peaceful transfer of political power but also the first black American to accept service in United States’ highest office.  I believe it possible that today may be remembered throughout history as a turning point for the human race. Today may mark the birth of the Integral Age.

A leader today - whether in business, religion, politics or otherwise - has to lead at a time not only when the span in age of those she leads is the greatest it’s ever been (due to longer life spans), but so too is the span in developmental stages the widest it’s ever been (due to the ever-expanding edge of human evolution). At no time in history has the diversity of perspectives been greater, or the need more urgent for leaders who can reach across all perspectives and unite us in a common vision of responsibility and service.

The leading paradigm for handling this diversity, multiculturalism (and its insistence that all views are equal), has failed under the weight of its own absurdity.  After all, if all views are equal than we cannot even accept our own views with any real seriousness, and we’re left to cope with our very own lives with either narcissism (“I am everything”) or nihilism (“I am nothing”). (Today’s teenagers are the canaries in this coal mine, essentially screaming for a way out of the existential crisis they’ve been taught to espouse.)  That 2008 provided such frequent and horrific examples of what goes wrong with both ends of this spectrum only underscores its symbolism as the year the Information Age ended (sort of loud and painfully, as these things often do...).  

President Obama recognizes this unique moment in history and will call on all of us to join together in a unity that can be formed only in a cauldron of deep crisis and grand vision.  Out of the ashes of a demoralized information age, broken as it has been by the limitations of a system too complex to bring to heel, arises the Integral Age, marked by a reconstructive paradigm that can integrate truth, values and action at all levels of diversity.  A reconstructive paradigm can honor what has come before - tradition, responsibility, values, and long-cultivated social norms -  while also manifesting a future vision not yet realized - progressive, compassionate, liberating and boundary-expanding.

It is with great shock - and awe! - that the pundits in Washington are meeting the first Integral President.  In President Obama they find a deep pragmatist who is concerned with the science of what works, the empiricism of results.  They do not have a name for what he’s doing other than to say he is “post-cultural,” “post-racial,” and “post-partisan.”  They don’t know that the word they seek is “Integral,” that in the embodied integral human the rigid walls of singular dogma are transcended such that all ideologies can be embraced when appropriate.  (After all, all ideologies are real, having something important to contribute to our understanding of reality.)  

This ability to fluently operate among and within all ideological positions creates a trans-ideological leader, one who can handle immense diversity through neither imposition of a single ideology as we find in traditional modes of human action, nor a deconstructive act of making all ideologies equally meaningful (and thereby meaningless) as we find in postmodern modes of action, but rather a reconstructive act of calling on the entire range of ideological positions if, as and when appropriate to address the task at hand.  That Obama is doing this is suspicious to the traditional conservatives, scary to the liberals, and just confusing to the intelligentsia.  And that he can do so while also appealing directly to our loftier visions of ourselves, compelling us to hope, is just inspiring.

How can the same leader ask Reverend Warren to provide an inaugural invocation; seek an unprecedented Keynesian stimulus package; seek to further socialize health care; have a private dinner with leading conservative intellectuals; and consider how to rein in devastating and unrealistic long-term social security and Medicare liabilities? How, indeed. Embodying an integral view of the world, by definition, means seeking to integrate, to fully include everyone under the umbrella while also transcending the narrowness and partiality of each.  (This, incidentally, is why every group that looks at Obama claims him as “one of them.”  This is the ultimate litmus test of an integral leader.) A great leader is one whose sense of self is not threatened by a vigorous war of ideas, and an integral leader is one who wages the war from a worldview of love and abundance.

While there is a minefield of massive structural problems that we collectively face, this is also Obama’s real opportunity: great trauma yields great open-mindedness to meaningful change.  I believe that since the election Obama has been an Integral leader, and if he can continue to navigate the landscape of open-mindedness that exists while integrating all the perspectives that are already there waiting for him, than he can lead us through the birth of the Integral Age and may significantly evolve the dominant mode of political discourse and action.

Through events such as Integral Spiritual Experience, State of the World Forum, Catalyzing Conscious Capitalism, and many others, I know that all of us in the Integral Life community will be doing our part to help him and his administration more deeply embody an integral path forward.

Loving regards,

Robb Smith


NOTE: For more insight as to how Integral Life will be engaging and enacting this new "Integral Age," be sure to check out these two links:

The State of the World Forum: An Integral Approach to Climate Change

Integral Spiritual Experience