ASSUMPTIONS. . .

Greenleaf writes: One is always at two levels of consciousness: …from one level of consciousness, each of us acts resolutely from moment to moment on a set of assumptions that then governs his life.  Simultaneously, from another level, the adequacy of these assumptions is examined, in action, with the aim of future revision and improvement.  How else can one live and act in the real world with a clear conscience?  …to refuse to examine the assumptions one lives by is immoral.

Greenleaf identifies two levels of consciousness; my experience is that there are at least three levels.  I capture my three levels as: I am a ‘Reflective-Participant-Observer.’  At one level I consciously participate; at another level I can, at the same time, ‘observe’ myself participating and at another level I can also, in real-time, ‘consciously reflect’ as I participate and observe.

I also know that I can participate without being consciously awake and aware (or intentional and purposeful).  As I was driving to my favorite coffee shop this morning I found myself driving on ‘automatic pilot’ when I was ‘rudely awakened’ by a car pulling in front of me and suddenly slowing down to make a right-hand turn.

I also know that I can focus more on one of these three – or two of them – and neglect the others-other.  What Greenleaf challenges us to do is to be awake, aware, intentional and purposeful AND consciously experience life at two levels simultaneously [my personal challenge is to hold and be aware of all three simultaneously].

I have come to believe that one of the most important challenges we have, as fully human beings, is to discern and name our assumptions and then to consciously ‘evaluate’ them.  There are three types of assumptions that each of us have integrated (and that any organized group of two or more folks have integrated).  I/We hold assumptions that are ‘conscious.’  They are ‘public’ – anyone has access to them.  We can state them clearly and others can also state them or reflect them back to us.

Then there are assumptions that reside at the pre-conscious level.  With a little effort we can raise them to a conscious level.  Others, again, via being a reflective mirror for us, can discern them, name them and help us move them to a conscious level.  These pre-conscious assumptions are a bit more anxiety producing for us to discern, name and embrace (think: emotionally and intellectually own) and so at times we find ourselves ‘resisting’ their being identified and named.

The most power-full and influential and impact-full assumptions are the ‘deep, tacit assumptions’ that reside in our subconscious.  Because they are ‘deep, tacit assumptions’ they are not easily accessed.  We spend a great deal of energy ‘protecting them’ and even resisting the idea that we hold them.  Others might even be able to discern them and name them AND    we will, nevertheless, resist accepting them as being ‘real’ for us.

I have a hunch that when Greenleaf tells us that it is immoral for us to refuse to examine the assumptions we live by that these ‘deep, tacit assumptions’ are the assumptions that he is referring to.  Our deep, tacit assumptions inform, support, confirm, and affirm our prejudices, stereotypes,  core values, core beliefs, core life-guiding principles, judgments, and our ‘view of the/our world.’  They enable us to deny, ignore, denigrate, avoid and reject all that threatens them (directly or indirectly).

Gentle reader, what are some of the assumptions you hold that powerfully impact how you ‘see’ and how you ‘engage’ the world?  Are there any assumptions that you have discerned and named and discarded and replaced?  When have you ‘refused’ to examine (or discern and name) an assumption that you hold (have integrated)?

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