The 7th in a 9-post series on Perceived Levels of Reality
I find that, in working with the five relationships, people tend to take one of three pathways through the three levels of perceived reality. This interests us, because it turns out that each pathway asks a completely different question and ends up in a completely different place. This has major implications for the agreements available to you and for the resulting outcomes, as will be clearer in a couple of moments. I call these three pathways: on-the-level; enlightened noun-ness; and grounded potential. The first one focuses on only one level, while the other two work among the levels, starting from different points.
On the on-the-level path, people stay predominantly at the noun or verb or light level (see figure below). Quite clear in why they do this, the argument typically goes something like, “It is all about…,” followed by the argument for the level they prefer. Let’s look briefly at each one.
The noun-level-only logic says, “It is all, and only, about what is actually here. Unlike the dreamers who talk a lot and the process people in endless meetings, we are realists, dealing with actual outcomes we can see right now. We focus on what is real; outcomes.” This way of looking at reality is captured by William Arthur Ward, “The pessimist complains about the wind; the optimist expects it to change; the realist adjusts.”
The verb-level only logic clarifies, “It is all about process. Without development nothing lives. It is in the dynamics of development that we can see all complexity. Dreaming of possibilities all day long is abstract, blue-sky thinking for academics. Working with the mundane of what is already here is for the tactical. We focus on what is real; process.” One of the fathers of the total quality movement, W. Edwards Deming, described this worldview, “If you can’t describe what you are doing as a process, you don’t know what you’re doing.” The psychologist Carl Rogers said it another way, “The good life is a process, not a state of being. It is a direction not a destination.” It is all about the journey, not the destination.
The light-level-only logic notes, “From possibility we can envision anything, see all of the great potential around us. This envisioning brings the best out of everyone. It is all about the vision. The rest is just about putting the vision into play. We leave that to the tactical folks.” Carl Sandburg, the poet, said, “I am an idealist. I don’t know where I’m going, but I’m on my way.”
Some groups you know place greater emphasis on things (nouns), development (verbs), or possibility (light). They almost suggest that “reality” is really just at the level, and the other groups are missing the point. “Noun” people are grounded, and the others are into that froo-froo stuff. “Verb” people are in the flow, not as crass as nouners or as flaky as lighters. “Light” people are in the possibility, riding the waves of the universe, while the others are less enlightened. Most people have told me that they find some things about these groups great and others frustrating. With a little more framework, later in the book, I will show you that working predominantly with one level of reality must lead to a collapse into scarcity. For now, I will basis this on your own experience. If I just dream about possibility, nothing happens, and I starve. If I only work on development, I have no guide to what I am developing for, and I achieve no outcomes. If I just live in the material world, I do not mature, and when the world changes, I am caught by surprise. Said another way, you experience all three levels, because that is human. In observing many low and high harmonic vibrancy groups, I find that to move out of scarcity, people must work with all three levels simultaneously. In the next post, I will look at the “enlightened noun-ness” path.