Zach Lind - Jimmy Eat World: Hells Bells and the Dangers of Rock and Roll
December 30, 2008 15:21

Written by Corey W. deVos

Jimmy Eat World. Part 1. Hells Bells and the Dangers of Rock and Roll.
Zach Lind and Ken Wilber

Zach Lind from Jimmy Eat World offers a fascinating glimpse into some of the inspiration behind the band’s distinctive sound, as well as a personal tour through his own upbringing in a conservative Baptist household.  He and Ken then discuss an Integral approach to understanding spirituality, religion, and fundamentalism, paving the way forward for Christianity in the 21st Century.

In 2002, Ken Wilber wrote a novel called Boomeritis: A Novel That Will Set You Free, a light-hearted and entertaining post-postmodern romp unlike anything Ken had previously written, laden with idiosyncratic humor, offbeat perspectives, and tons of contemporary cultural references.  In the book, Ken mentions the rock band Jimmy Eat World, a band Ken has expressed his fondness for many times in the past several years. 

The remark was noticed by Zach Lind, drummer for Jimmy Eat World, who had this to say in his own blog:

“I am a big fan of Ken Wilber. If you don’t know who Ken Wilber is, he’s one of the more well respected American philosophers living today…. I’ve written about various books of his on my blog before. His book A Brief History of Everything totally floored me.

What’s totally bizarre is that in his novel Boomeritis he mentions the band I play in and names some of our songs. Here’s the quote:

    “Jimmy Eat World is playing ‘Caveman’ and ‘Robot Factory,’ and the thump thump thumping pounds a brain too jagged” – Ken Wilber, Boomeritis

To give you a frame of reference for how cool this is for me, imagine if you were a Biola student and John Piper mentions in one of his books the persuasive essay you wrote in your sophomore year about how homosexuality is a sin regardless of what Brian McLaren might think. ;-) It’s THAT cool.”

Zach’s obvious enthusiasm for Ken’s work made it clear that we had to get these two on the phone together.  What follows is a fascinating glimpse into some of the inspiration behind Jimmy Eat World’s distinctive sound, as well as a personal tour through some elements of Zach’s own upbringing in a conservative Baptist household.  Ken mentions the symmetry he sees between some of Zach’s story and his own—Ken also grew up with a very traditional Baptist family, began to question such fundamentalist approaches to the world at roughly the same age, and even played the drums in a band for many years.

But the fact that both these men outgrew traditional religion at a relatively early age is not in any way to say that they abandoned their sense of spirituality, their connection to the world, or their intuitions of the divine.  There is a widely-held misconception that once we begin to develop past the traditional or mythic stage and into the modern or rational stage of psychological development, there is suddenly no more room in the universe for God, and all notions of spirituality are seen as vestiges of an antiquated past, thoroughly dismantled by the cold gaze of scientific materialism. 

It’s as if culture silently expects us to make a decision: religious fundamentalism or staunch atheism, one or the other; and anything in between amounts to either intellectual laziness or impotence of faith. 

But this is a false choice—our spirituality is capable of growing and maturing right alongside every other facet of human development, including our cognition, our values, our aesthetics, etc.  Individuals and cultures both grow through very real stages of development—what has been called archaic, magic, mythic, rational, pluralistic, and integral stages (and beyond), described in further detail below.  It is entirely possible, therefore, to be a rational Christian, following the universal teachings of Christ but without having to insist Christianity is the only exclusive path to God, and without having to literally believe in the pre-rational myths of virgin births, parting seas, and satanic fruit.

Spirituality and concepts of God, largely distrusted by the rational stage of development, become less taboo once we evolve into the next major stage of human growth—the postmodern, pluralistic, or green stage.  While there is much more freedom to contemplate spiritual questions at this stage, it can be very difficult to make sense of all the perspectives at our disposal.  We find ourselves armed with the pluralistic ideals of multiculturalism, egalitarianism, and inclusiveness, but we are left with the tattered remains of yesterday’s meaning—empty surfaces, gutted interiors, and deconstructed myths—fragments of truth with which we are supposed to construct our new visions of God.  It is this combination of zealous eclecticism, flattened hierarchy, and broken metaphysics that make pluralistic approaches to spirituality so often appear to be soupy, flaky, and New Agey. 

It is not until we reach the Integral stage of development that we can begin to see the pieces of the puzzle as they really are, and begin to put them together into a meaningful reflection of the human spirit, which is itself the reflection of God’s own ever-growing heart.  The contours of this Integral approach to spirituality are explored in this discussion, revealing glimpses of a truly unified inter-religious spirituality that can not only ease the academic culture wars that currently sweep through the world, but put an end to one of the largest sources of violence, suffering, and warfare in human history.

Note: Here are some of the stages of human development discussed in this dialogue, followed by a brief summary of the relationship between these developmental stages of consciousness and ever-present states of consciousness.

Infrared (archaic—a proto 1st-person perspective): Infrared Altitude signifies a degree of development that is in many ways imbedded in nature, body, and the gross realm in general. Infrared Altitude exhibits an archaic worldview, physiological needs (food, water, shelter, etc.), a self-sense that is minimally differentiated from its environment, and is in nearly all ways oriented towards physical survival. Although present in infants, infrared is rarely seen in adults except in cases of famine, natural disasters, or other catastrophic events. Infrared is also used as a kind of catch-all term for all earlier evolutionary stages and drives.

Magenta (egocentric, magic): Magenta Altitude began about 50,000 years ago, and tends to be the home of egocentric drives, a magical worldview, and impulsiveness. It is expressed through magic/animism, kin-spirits, and such. Young children primarily operate with a magenta worldview. Magenta in any line of development is fundamental, or "square one" for any and all new tasks. Magenta emotions and cognition can be seen driving such cultural phenomena as superhero-themed comic books or movies.

Red (ego- to ethnocentric, egoic): The Red Altitude began about 10,000 years ago, and is the marker of egocentric drives based on power, where "might makes right," where aggression rules, and where there is a limited capacity to take the role of an "other." Red impulses are classically seen in grade school and early high school, where bullying, teasing, and the like are the norm. Red motivations can be seen culturally in Ultimate Fighting contests, which have no fixed rules (fixed rules come into being at the next Altitude, Amber), teenage rebellion and the movies that cater to it (The Fast and the Furious), gang dynamics (where the stronger rule the weaker), and the like.

Amber (ethnocentric, mythic): The Amber Altitude began about 5,000 years ago, and indicates a worldview that is traditionalist and mythic in nature—and mythic worldviews are almost always held as absolute (this stage of development is often called absolutistic). Instead of "might makes right," amber ethics are more oriented to the group, but one that extends only to "my" group. Grade school and high school kids usually exhibit amber motivations to "fit in." Amber ethics help to control the impulsiveness and narcissism of red. Culturally, amber worldviews can be seen in fundamentalism (my God is right no matter what); extreme patriotism (my country is right no matter what); and ethnocentrism (my people are right no matter what).

Orange (worldcentric, rational): The Orange Altitude began about 500 years ago, during the period known as the European Enlightenment. In an orange worldview, the individual begins to move away from the amber conformity that reifies the views of one's religion, nation, or tribe. The orange worldview often begins to emerge in late high school, college, or adulthood. Culturally, the orange worldview realizes that "truth is not delivered; it is discovered," spurring the great advances of science and formal rationality. Orange ethics begin to embrace all people, "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal...." Ayn Rand's Objectivism, the US Bill of Rights, and many of the laws written to protect individual freedom all flow from an orange worldview.

Green (worldcentric, pluralistic): The Green Altitude began roughly 150 years ago, though it came into its fullest expression during the 1960’s. Green worldviews are marked by pluralism, or the ability to see that there are multiple ways of seeing reality. If orange sees universal truths ("All men are created equal"), green sees multiple universal truths—different universals for different cultures. Green ethics continue, and radically broaden, the movement to embrace all people. A green statement might read, "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all people are created equal, regardless of race, gender, class...." Green ethics have given birth to the civil rights, feminist, and gay rights movements, as well as environmentalism.

The green worldview's multiple perspectives give it room for greater compassion, idealism, and involvement, in its healthy form. Such qualities are seen by organizations such as the Sierra Club, Amnesty International, Union of Concerned Scientists, and Doctors Without Borders. In its unhealthy form green worldviews can lead to extreme relativism, where all beliefs are seen as relative and equally true, which can in turn lead to the nihilism, narcissism, irony, and meaninglessness exhibited by many of today's intellectuals, academics, and trend-setters... not to mention another "lost" generation of students.

Teal (worldcentric to “kosmocentric,” integral): The Teal Altitude marks the beginning of an integral worldview, where pluralism and relativism are transcended and included into a more systematic whole. The transition from green to teal is also known as the transition from “1st-tier” values to “2nd-tier” values, the most immediate difference being the fact that each “1st-tier” value thinks it is the only truly correct value, while “2nd-tier” values recognize the importance of all preceding stages of development. Thus, the teal worldview honors the insights of the green worldview, but places it into a larger context that allows for healthy hierarchies, and healthy value distinctions.

Perhaps most important, a teal worldview begins to see the process of development itself, acknowledging that each one of the previous stages (magenta through green) has an important role to play in the human experience. Teal consciousness sees that each of the previous stages reveals an important truth, and pulls them all together and integrates them without trying to change them to “be more like me,” and without resorting to extreme cultural relativism (“all are equal”). Teal worldviews do more than just see all points of view (that’s a green worldview)—it can see and honor them, but also critically evaluate them.

Turquoise (“kosmocentric,” integral): Turquoise is a mature integral view, one that sees not only healthy hierarchy but also the various quadrants of human knowledge, expression, and inquiry (at the minimum: I, we, and it). While teal worldviews tend to be secular, turquoise is the first to begin to integrate Spirit as a living force in the world (manifested through any or all of the 3 Faces of God: “I”—the “No self” or “witness” of Buddhism; “we/thou”—the “great other” of Christianity, Judaism, Hindusm, Islam, etc.; or “it”—the “Web of Life” seen in Taoism, Pantheism, etc.).


Another revolutionary concept presented in Integral Spirituality is the difference between structures of consciousness and states of consciousness. Altitude applies primarily to structures of consciousness, and those structures generally emerge through a developmental sequence of stages or waves, starting at infrared and unfolding through a rainbow of possibility from there. Many states, however, are available to everyone no matter the Altitude of their COG. States include the three natural states of waking, dreaming, and deep sleep, as well as altered states, peak experiences, intoxicated states, and the entire spectrum of spiritual states, from gross states of oneness with nature, to subtle grace and illumination, to causal formless absorption, to pure witnessing and nondual union with all that is arising.

Because most states are ever-present, individuals can have authentic spiritual experiences at any stage or Altitude of development. States and stages, however, are deeply interrelated: research has shown that continued development through stages can help convert passing states into permanent traits, which is one of the more exciting findings of an Integral Approach.



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