The Untimely Death of Integrity: And… Cold Data vs. Warm Data

Jeff Bloom
Mar 25, 2018 · 5 min read
Photo by Jeff Bloom “Multnoma Falls”

With beauty before me, I walk
With beauty behind me, I walk
With beauty above me, I walk
With beauty below me, I walk
From the East beauty has been restored
From the South beauty has been restored
From the West beauty has been restored
From the North beauty has been restored
From the zenith in the sky beauty has been restored
From the nadir of the earth beauty has been restored
From all around me beauty has been restore.
With beauty before me, I walk
With beauty behind me, I walk
With beauty above me, I walk
With beauty below me, I walk
From the East beauty has been restored
From the South beauty has been restored
From the West beauty has been restored
From the North beauty has been restored
From the zenith in the sky beauty has been restored
From the nadir of the earth beauty has been restored
From all around me beauty has been restored. [1]

Traditional Navajo ways of being revolve around the notion of walking in beauty. Beauty in this case is not based on superficial notions of appearance, but rather on deeper ways of being. From such a perspective, you cannot manifest beauty, if you cheat, steal, disparage others, be hateful, and so forth. Walking in beauty for the Navajo is what we might call the ultimate in manifesting integrity.

According to various the online Merriam Webster Dictionary, “integrity” is defined as:

1. : firm adherence to a code of especially moral or artistic values : INCORRUPTIBILITY

2. : an unimpaired condition : SOUNDNESS

3. : the quality or state of being complete or undivided : COMPLETENESS

And, some synonyms from the Microsoft Office thesaurus and Thesaurus.com include the following:

  • Truthfulness
  • Veracity
  • Honesty
  • Uprightness
  • Truth
  • Honor
  • Reliability
  • Rectitude
  • Forthrightness
  • Incorruptibility
  • Principle
  • Sincerity
  • Goodness
  • Probity
  • Virtue
  • Righteousness
  • Purity
  • Candor
  • Straightforwardness

The root of “integrity” is “-integ.” We see this in such words as “integral,” “integrated,” and “integer.” All of these words are based on the notion of completeness or wholeness… and maybe even a sense of wholesomeness. We also can see how “integrity” can be extended to include:

  • Consistency
  • Cohesiveness
  • A sense of wholeness and coordination that includes: body, mind, and spirituality (probably not religious, since most contemporary religions have lost their integrity and lost their connection to spirituality)
  • Respect for self, other, and environment
  • Ethical
  • A sense of an aesthetic of being, an aesthetic of how one manifests
  • A sense of reciprocity in relationships
  • A sense of balance and equanimity
  • A Navajo sense of beauty and “walking in beauty.”

Unfortunately, the quality of integrity seems to be approaching an untimely death. I’m hard-pressed to find a corporation or corporate executives and even lower level employees, politicians, small business owners, religious leaders, academics, or professionals of any kind that fully manifest this sense of integrity. Maybe the current Pope, the Dalai Lama, and the exceptional individual or entity demonstrate integrity, but it is rare. In fact, societies seem to honor those without integrity. They elect them as leaders. They raise them to exalted positions of honor and power.

I’m sure there are many reasons for this decline into the substratum of darkness that lies beneath the surface of humanity. However, among the many contributing contexts, I’ve been pondering how a deeper disconnect affected a multitude of contexts. The positivist, reductionist, and mechanistic revolution in thinking that arose from the work of Rene Descartes and Isaac Newton had a huge effect on all aspects of societies around the world. This revolution moved societies out of superstitious ways of thinking and provided a powerful to understand the universe. The clock or machine became the metaphor for how everything worked. From this beginning, arose all of modern science and technology. But, this kind of thinking infiltrated social and cultural thinking and beliefs about the nature of reality. From this point of view, we felt that we, humankind, could control and manipulate the natural world. And, to a large extent, this is just what happened. However, this approach has begun to backfire, while, at the same time, we are beginning to realize that we really can’t control the natural world.

One of the characteristics of this Cartesian and Newtonian approach was the reliance upon numbers and quantification, or on cold data. We reduced everything to numbers. If knowledge claims were not supported by numbers and statistical analyses, then the claims were dismissed or not taken seriously. At the same time, such quantification was tightly linked to the notion of objectification. Living systems really don’t fit within these mechanistic, quantifiable, and objectified perspectives. But, we kept forcing such a framework onto the way we thought and related to living systems. This mechanization and objectification of living systems was a major disconnect with the nature of life and was ultimately the death knell for integrity. We no longer had to rely on the heart, or rely on our relationships with one another and the natural world.

This fundamental disconnect from the “other” (people and the natural world) has eroded the integrity that held us together. Of course, all kinds of other factors have contributed to this erosion of integrity, but this fundamental separation set the pattern for an Ayn Randian objectification and self-centeredness that seems to have permeated contemporary societies, especially among the ruling sectors.

In the International Bateson Institute, we are introducing Warm Data Labs, where numbers and quantification are nowhere near as important as human experiences, aesthetics, emotions, and the living — breathing qualities of living systems. These qualities and the ideas that arise out of them are the warm data[2] that allow us to understand the dynamics of living — social systems. So, far we’re seeing the re-emergence or re-blossoming of integrity as people, when given the supporting context, are creating communities characterized by integrity.

— — — — — — —

NOTES

[1] ”Navajo Prayer” on page 160: Maybury-Lewis, David (1992). Millennium: Tribal Wisdom on the Modern World. New York: Viking.
[2] Nora Bateson (May 28, 2017) at "Warm data: Contextual research and new forms of information” on HACKERNOON

Jeff Bloom

Written by

I’m interested in complex systems that span everything from teaching and learning to ecologies of mind, nature, and social systems. Informed by Bateson, et al.

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