Integral Second Grade


Something I posted on Facebook a year ago.

I had a minor insight while helping my eight year old daughter do her second grade grammar homework.

This is the stage Integral continues to be at.

We are still in Integral second grade, still learning the basic grammar of the stage. Which looks something like “quadrants, levels, lines, states, types, etc.”

But eventually the grammar gets internalized, and then you don’t really need to use the terminology any more. It becomes part of your communicative substrate, unconsciously guiding your language. We begin to forget the rules, but we still follow them (which is why my daughter is constantly teaching me/reminding me of the basic grammar rules I use every day!)

Learning the fundamentals is tremendously important, and I think that is where “integral jargon” truly shines. But eventually we move on from the fundamentals, and we just start talking to each other. The gear works are still there, somewhere beneath the surface, helping to guide and orient our thoughts — but they are no longer the point of discussion, they are objects that have been fully taken in as subjects, and woven seamlessly into our unconscious sense-making.

This is why an “integral novel” (or “integral video game” or any mature integral artifact) likely would never mention something like quadrants, levels, lines, etc. — but it would certainly use these concepts in order to create new kinds of narratives. All the grammar would be packed in there, but we would never see a sentence like “this is the subject, this is the predicate, here’s the noun, here’s the verb”.

Which doesn’t mean that every now and again we shouldn’t dip back into the fundamentals. And many/most people who think they’ve already gone beyond this, really haven’t. They may be enacting the grammar from orange, or from green, or from teal, or from turquoise, and therefore need to check back in with the fundamentals as their capacity to more fully understand and enact them continues to evolve. And I think the grammar itself helps direct and accelerate this process, if we are humble enough to return to Integral Second Grade as often as we need to.