Feature Article: “Consciousizing” the Middle East: Don Beck in Israel and Palestine, Part 2

Feature Articles / June 2006

“There will be twenty seven of us seated around a long U-shaped table. One of the walls consists of a series of large square glass windows overlooking the silky blue Mediterranean rolling onto the sandy shore.” I was describing to Don Beck the room where the first-ever three-day Spiral Dynamics Level 1 training in Israel would be held. “You’ll be competing with the sea for our attention.”

He grinned, “I’ll take my chances.”

The first two days, Don’s brilliance eclipsed the water. The panoramic glass wall might have turned to gritty gray concrete and I would not have noticed. But there was a moment on day three when my attention wavered. Don was describing Turquoise, the eighth stage of human development recognized by Spiral Dynamics.

“Turquoise life conditions are awakening new capacities in humans to deal with the multiple layers of complexity our species is currently facing. All the earlier value systems – survivalistic Beige, animistic Purple, egocentric Red, saintly Blue, progressive Orange, and humanistic Green (the First Tier) – each contributes to the overall health of the Spiral. But in our fluid postmodern world, these diverse worldviews are colliding like awesome tectonic plates: tribal Purple cultures are being decimated by humanitarian Green NGO’s unable to recognize the dire consequences of their good intentions; heroic Red warlords are trying to recapture their lost sense of power and honor by unleashing bloody low tech terror tactics to disrupt the secular Orange marketplace; absolutistic Blue theocrats seek to enforce the will of God through the acquisition of high tech Orange weaponry; profit-driven Orange multinationals are heartlessly committing wanton biocide and geocide; sensitive Green activists are recklessly imposing their standards on less developed societies inadvertently decimating delicate cultural ecologies.

“The integral Yellow system recognizes the complex nature of these problems, but it is only when you awaken holonic Turquoise that a culture emerges that is able to transform the turbulent First Tier dissonance into a symphonic evolving Global Meshworks.”

The words Global Meshworks transfixed me.

The rolling waves undid my focus.

I slipped into reverie.

Time displaced thirty centuries and space seven hundred miles northwest. I am hovering over the ancient city of Troy. Below, the Achaeans and Trojans are engaged in bloody contest for supremacy. Above the great Power Gods are tugging on an invisible net that binds the combatants. I see gray-eyed Athena, Goddess of Strategy, wrenching the mesh towards Agamemnon, the King of the Greeks. I see Ares, God of Brute Force, flexing his sinewy arms, drawing the battle mesh towards Priam, King of Troy. And above, majestic Zeus, King of the Gods, is watching the drama unfold, as Homer tells us, to pleasure his heart.

The vision morphs.

Troy transforms into Jerusalem. The Greeks are replaced by Israelis and Palestinians ambulating pell-mell over the hills surrounding the holy city. The Power Gods transfigure into perfect spheres radiating the colors of Spiral Dynamics. A tight meshed net binds all the people clumping individuals, families, even entire communities together. They are struggling to break free. Six of the spheres are wrenching the net in different directions. The web snarls and the knots grow tighter.

The sky darkens.

An old Palestinian woman, veiled in Purple, ululates curses at a passing tank; a sixteen year-old boy douses his Red underwear with jasmine perfume in anticipation of the 72 virgins martyrdom will soon bring; the anguished cries of a father wearing a Blue knitted skull cap rise skyward alongside the smoke curling from the seared flesh of his son’s body; a short man strokes his Orange tie as he brokers a deal for high-grade explosives; a doctor in a Green uniform is overcome with sorrow as the mangled figure of little girl caught in the crossfire goes limp in his arms.

The sky brightens.

Above the tangled web, a Yellow whirl is swept into a swirling sea of Turquoise. The two colors conjoin and the chromatic vortex begins to spiral down towards the knotted mesh.

Don’s voice ripples through my daydream and reels me back into the present moment.

“We are witnessing new version of the historic continental drift as our economic, political, technological, and social worlds are being pulled closer together and further apart. Simplistic ‘car-wash solutions’ must be replaced by a rich understanding and respect for diversities in people, uniqueness in situations, and inevitable steps and stages in human emergence.

“The next step in the evolution of human problem solving must give rise to a culture that honors all life forms; ranks planetary concerns over narrow group interests; improves life conditions at all levels of development; and embraces human transformation as an emergent consciousness-driven process. This is the sort of visionary thinking that will be required to resolve the thorn bush issues consuming Israel, Palestine, the Near East, and indeed, the entire world.”

Later that day Don screened a segment from the Oprah Winfrey Show that featured his friend Dr. Kenneth Salyer, the doctor who led a team of fifty doctors, nurses, technicians, engineers and consultants to perform the most complex operation in human history, uncoupling the Egyptian twins. Muhammad and Ahmed Abraham who were born joined at the head. Though they possessed two brains, they shared one cranium. The team worked pro bono. A free rotation table was designed especially for the operation. Experts combined efforts to solve complex problems that transcended the perspective of any one individual.

Don helped organize the team, maximizing interconnectedness and optimizing communication between the team members. Despite the formidable resources available, Dr. Salyer estimated only a thirty percent chance that both twins would survive.

The operation took place in Dallas, Texas. Dramatic clips of the first incision on the babies’ heads gripped our attention. When I saw the images of the detached twins seeing each other face to face for the first time I held my breath.

Tova Averbuch, one of the participants in the SDi training raised her hand.

“What if we switch the boy’s’ names to Isaac and Ishmael? “ Her voice was trembli“The people of Israel and Palestine are connected at the head. They can’t part ways and yet neither can they see each other face to face. How can they stand on their own two feet and walk independently?”

“I hadn’t considered the metaphor in this context.” Don admitted. “You’re touching a raw nerve. You’re right, there has to be separation and independence before integration and interdependence can emerge.”

Tova and Don were dancing around a basic principle of human development: fusion, differentiation and integration form three discrete phases that characterize the progressive unfolding of consciousness.

Tova’s metaphor was powerful, but it raised a practical question: In the context of the Middle East conflict, what element corresponds to Dr. Salyer’s bone drill which severed the fused skulls? How does the region move from fusion to integration?

The answer came from an unexpected quarter: the “Middle West.”

Allow me to introduce you to the extraordinary sponsor of Don’s Mid East initiative, John J. Smith, CEO of Hearthstone Homes based in Omaha, Nebraska. John is a tall, fair complexioned man with a jovial face, perpetually on the brink of breaking into a smile.

John accompanied Don on his second trip to the region. Meeting him formed the high note in a melodic week. He is the first successful Integral businessman I’ve met. His company is among the top 100 homebuilders in the United States, and it is undergoing rapid growth.

I felt like a butterfly enthusiast sighting a rare specimen for the first time.

He shared the secret of his success with me one evening over dinner at the Dan Tel Aviv Hotel.

“In 1996, I had a profound spiritual transformation, “John explain“and I began to explore alternative ways of doing business. All organizations have a culture. Most are unconscious or semiconscious. I wanted to create a very conscious culture.

“Increasing consciousness means acknowledging your fears and moving beyond them. It requires integrity – looking, seeing and telling the truth and taking authentic action, without regard to outcome.”

“How do you implement these principles in practice?” I asked.

“We open our meetings by reviewing our core values, creating a safe arena where everyone can speak their mind and where shadow issues can be defused. Only then do we discuss the theme of the meeting. Transparency is essential, or else people’s issues get in the way of creative thinking and problem solving. We are now implementing this transparency with our vendor partners. A few years ago, I decided to guarantee their profit margins, but insisted that they open their books to us so we could determine true costs in an attempt to lower costs as much as possible. They were reluctant at first, but they finally agreed. The results exceeded all our expectations. For those vendor partners that are fully on the program, we have managed to cut costs per home built by up to twenty five percent. Most of those savings are passed on to our customers. Because of this and also our extremely computerized business processes, we are outperforming our competition and hope to triple our business in the next five years.”

“That’s remarkable!”

“It’s what happens when you consciousize an organization.”

“Consciousize?” I was unfamiliar with the term.

“This is the key ingredient in creating Integral culture.” John fixed his blue eyes on me.

“Consciousizing means taking unknown things and making them known. Every aspect of an organization can be delayered until you reach the original intention or seed energy. When you can see the original intention plainly there are no more false starts or hopeless situations.”

“Do you think the Middle East can be consciousized?”

“Yes, definitely. Consciousizing begins with leaders and works its way across a collective. A country can be delayered. Don is catalyzing that process. Spiral Dynamics is a great consciousizing tool. In fact, I use it in my company. It develops minds, opens hearts and advances the quest for emergent solutions. That is why I am sponsoring his work in the Middle East.”

John’s perspective enriched my appreciation of Don’s role in the region. The transformation of consciousness was the bone drill that could separate the children of Abraham and perhaps someday enable Israelis and Palestinians to eventually recognize the good in each other.

“This is a rough neighborhood.” I told John.

“Don’s from Texas.” John replied.

On the last day of his visit to the Middle East, Don and his Arab co-presenter, Elza Maalouf, drove to Ramallah to introduce Spiral Dynamics to a group of Palestinian NGOs. On the way back, a gunfight broke out around them. Their driver Muhammad deftly maneuvered in the opposite direction and guided them to safety through alleys and back roads.

Elza recounted the story that evening over dinner.

“Were you worried when you heard the gunfire?” I asked Don.

He looked up from his plate. His back stiffened and he thrust out his chest. “Hell no, it’s not the first time I’ve been shot at!”

Don is an Integral warrior.

As he continued eating his meal in silence, I imagined him wearing an invisible white Stetson, a pair of dusty boots, a Turquoise badge pinned over his heart.