“The best way to find out if you can trust somebody is to trust them.” Ernest HemingwayO
ur crisis of trust has been rapidly compounding in recent years, as the internet has delivered us into an age of aperspectival madness — an epistemic breakdown where shared reality becomes splintered into hermetically-sealed social media silos, where all enfoldment between opposing perspectives breaks down completely, and where evidence-based truths become sacrificed on the altar of narrative beliefs.
“Trust” is something like an immune system for our society. It prevents our collective body from being infected by propaganda, zealotry, and social regression. Here at the tail end of 2020, it is clear that we are experiencing a crisis of truth, as well as a crisis of meaning. And underlying them both is an even deeper crisis — a crisis of trust.
Trust, of course, is a paradox. We live in a highly complex and highly specialized civilization. Our daily lives depend upon us being able to trust a massive interconnected system of strangers and institutions, just to be able to put food on the table every night that won’t end up making our families sick. And yet when our fundamental trust in those same strangers and institutions begins to collapse, so do the foundations of civilization itself.
When our fundamental trust in each other becomes completely dismantled, then so does our capacity to perceive and understand truth. After all, our perceptions of “truth” depend on a mutual recognition of “truthfulness” — another word for trust. And when we allow ourselves to believe that everyone is always already lying to us from every direction (other than our own preferred media silos, of course), then our reality suddenly becomes unknowable. As President Obama recently said:
“If we do not have the capacity to distinguish what’s true from what’s false, then by definition the marketplace of ideas doesn’t work. And by definition our democracy doesn’t work. We are entering into an epistemological crisis.”
This is a truly wicked problem. It is a tremendously complex and multivalent challenge, with causes and effects that can be tracked through all four quadrants. And like any other “wicked problem”, it is not something that can be solved in a piecemeal fashion: focus too much on any single variable and all the other variables change immediately — which means that partial solutions actually risk making things worse.
Watch as Ryan and I take a deep dive into the wicked problem of social trust, looking at this meta-crisis through each of the four quadrants while suggesting some key practices and perspectives within each quadrant that can help us restore our trust in each other, in our institutions, in ourselves, and in the grand evolutionary unfolding itself.
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About Corey deVos
Corey W. deVos is Editor-in-Chief of Integral Life, as well as Managing Editor of KenWilber.com. He has worked for Integral Institute/Integal Life since Spring of 2003, and has been a student of integral theory and practice since 1996. Corey is also a professional woodworker, and many of his artworks can be found in his VisionLogix art gallery.
About Ryan Oelke
Ryan Oelke is a co-founder of Buddhist Geeks and founder of Awakening in Life. He has an MSEd in counseling psychology and is contemplative teacher of awakening, healing, and embodiment. He has 18 years experience in meditation, particularly in the Tibetan Buddhist and Dzogchen lineages, he is a Buddhist Geeks teacher, and is a fully certified teacher in Judith Blackstone’s Realization Process. Ryan teaches meditation and a way of living dedicated to revealing natural presence and awakening in each moment of our lives, regardless of how it appears to us. He lives in the beautiful mountains of Asheville, NC with his partner Alyssa and stepdaughter Fiona.