Playing in TLO’s Three Circles of Awareness and Concern

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Across the last couple of decades, a new way of imagining our lives has emerged. This new way sees the flow of people and events in our lives as something that's more complex and nuanced than the linear stream of events that we’re currently prone to seeing. Especially more complex than the way we “see” when we’re looking at the world through our "natural mind's" instinctive ways of meaning making. Today, this new way seeing pictures our lives -- especially the vague, non-linear apparitions of the future that hang out on the edges of our consciousness -- as emergent realities that we're never quite aware of, but could be if we wanted to.

Most people are vaguely aware of their mirage-like apparitions. But, because these images are so ethereal, most of us are never intrigued enough with them to pay much attention. For me, Donald Trump has been, for a while now, one of these apparitions.  Who he is, what he says, and what he does day after day evokes for me wispy images of an unknown future that rest ‘out there’ on the edges of my consciousness, dangling like one of those presidential ballot’s "hanging chads."

Last October, I decided to test my Three Circles of Awareness ideas on my Trumpian apparitions. To get started, I took what for me were two new steps:

First, I drafted some questions that captured my feelings and my confusion about Trump and his presidency. Like;

  • How could someone like Trump immediately follow someone like Obama?

  • In the age of social constructionism, why should we worry about fake news?

  • How can the United States be global and local at the same time? And,

  • In the Trumpian era, is it possible that large numbers of elected officials and adults voters may not have the complexity of mind necessary to comprehend the threats and challenges that the 21st Century's creating for our democracy?

Second, I forced myself to sit down long enough to read five books and articles that seemed to speak directly to my anxieties, looking for some insights that might usefully reframe my confusion around the Trumpian questions I'd drafted. This is my original reading list:

  • Samuel Huntington; The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order,

  • Edward Luce; The Retreat of Western Liberalism,

  • BCG; Going Beyond the Rhetoric,

  • Owen Whooley; Are We Complicit? Talking Social Constructionism in the Age of Trump, and

  • Donald Kinder; Neither Liberal nor Conservative: Ideological Innocence in the American Public.

After I'd finished reading, I decided to pause at the end of each day so I could pay attention to what my reactions were to all the turmoil and chaos that I felt were swirling around me. I wanted to see what ideas, insights, and feelings emerged that were both new, and interesting enough to pay more attention to.

So far (September 2018), four patterns seem to be emerging:

  • I'm noticing how frequently my negative stereotypes of Trump dominate my sense of what's going on and how I'm feeling about it. Only rarely am I aware of any sense of Trump that suggests he might be saying something worth serious consideration.

  • I'm beginning to notice when my unquestioned family-of-origin premises are dictating what I do day in and day out (a First Circle of Awareness issue)

  • And, I'm beginning to notice how hard it is (even when I'm trying) to give some shape to the indecipherable anxieties I feel hovering on the edges of my consciousness (a Third Circle of Awareness issue).

  • And, I’m beginning to see how easy it is to slide back into forgetting all about this effort of mine that’s aimed at developing a new consciousness.

There's nothing startling here. But the results are interesting enough to warrant staying with the experiment a bit longer.