Editor’s note: This article was first published in February 2013 at the time of the Oscars but its relevance continues….

Have we evolved beyond our awards shows such as the Oscars? Have our awards evolved to keep up with us as we have changed?

Today – some brief reflections around those questions.

It’s about the money, stupid.

Why do we have awards like the Oscars? There is a part of me that wants to believe that they are about honoring the human spirit, holding up to the light examples where we spiritual beings created something truly extraordinary. I have no doubt that somewhere in the creation of all of our celebrations of human accomplishment, this intention played a part.

However, these rituals are a reflection of our human consciousness and where we are collectively. The Oscars, for example, were born at a time when our worldview was a combination of traditional ideas mixed with modern-materialistic viewpoints. (In Spiral Dynamics language, we were exhibiting the blue and orange memes.) Our traditional side created a ceremony with categories and rules which were not easily changed. Our materialistic side recognized both a need for “winners and losers” as well as the financial gain that could be made through the process.

There’s no doubt that winning Academy Awards creates a financial windfall. Each year tons of money is spent lobbying “the Academy members” to vote for certain films and actors. It’s not unlike what our corporations do with Congress. Our mental collective tendency toward seeing the meaning of life as being tied to accumulating the most money and power is a product of this modern-materialistic worldview.

But we have evolved.

There is still a large part of our culture mired in either the traditional or modern worldviews. Hence, there is a lot of resistance towards changing our awards. Some don’t want to change them because “that’s the way we’ve always done it”. Others don’t want to change a structure brings them great amounts of money.

Yet many have moved into more advanced worldviews. The “cultural creatives” (Spiral Dynamics green meme”) believe in equanimity. There’s something just not quite right about honoring one person over another when both deserve to be celebrated. What’s “best” should be about what supports and honors all humans. Awards should go to every individual who did their best. Awards should go to content that lifts us up – intellectually, emotionally or spiritually. It’s only in considering the content in the selection of the “winners” where we can feel the influence of this worldview.

A small number of people have evolved into seeing the perfection in the interplay of all the worldviews. They recognize the evolutionary aspect of our consciousness and the role we play in that process. These individuals (those in Spiral Dynamics second-tier levels or in other circles called “integral”) play more in the arena of the creation of the artistic expressions, rather than devoting their energy so much to awards. They seek to put into the collective consciousness ideas that further humanities movement of the spiral of evolution.

The falseness of forced choices.

Our evolutionary past has been served by the ability to quickly make an accurate choice among options presented. Is this a threat or not? Should I fight or flee? The skill in answering questions such as these determined whether we survived and reproduced. Our knowledge has been increased by determining which hypothesis best fits the facts in the world. Our advances in science have come through these choices. Making such choices serves us.

On the other hand, we sometimes force ourselves into making a choice when it’s not really necessary. This is a false forced choice. We think we need to choose when we don’t need to do so.

Which film this year is the “best picture”? Which actor or actress is “best”? Why do we have to choose? Why do we only select the number of nominees that we do? Why not select everyone who exceeded some standard and honor them? How does making this false forced choice really serve us? One of the characteristics of a higher level of thinking is the recognition that we can hold multiple ideas and concepts in mind, even if they appear as “opposites”. Being comfortable with not choosing sometimes is the best choice.

“Best” depends on what you need.

We bestow the title of “best” on things without frequently stopping to think about what really is “best”. What is the best car? Is it a fast and fancy sports car? Maybe. In the right circumstances, that might be the best car to experience driving. But if our purpose is to transport people from one place to another using the least amount of energy resources, then a sports car might not be “best”. Best is what fits the need in the moment.

What is the best film? In some moments, I may need a lighthearted comedy that makes me laugh. At other times, it might be a documentary that informs me in a new way. In some cases, it might be historical drama that enlightens me on our past or a drama that makes me think. How can I compare various films that have different purposes and say one is better than another without knowing what our need is?

Our needs differ based on our worldview. The best film for someone in a traditional viewpoint may be the one which celebrates our past. For materialistic viewpoint, it might be the biggest film at the box office. For the cultural creatives, it might be the one that celebrates the human spirit and our equality. I’m way oversimplifying here, the point is this – those who choose “best” are applying a particular lens to their choice. The one who wins may be more of a reflection on the predominant worldview of the Academy than which film is actually “best”.

By the way, in my thinking the best films are the ones which serve to move us evolutionarily towards an awareness of our interconnectedness. Any that support us evolving to our highest potential should be celebrated.

Pulling for our favorite.

Do you have a favorite for the award being announced? How did you come up with that one? Considering the Oscars, most of us begin by choosing among the movies we have seen. We frequently rule out immediately any film we haven’t seen. We then use some criteria to choose among the ones with which we are familiar. Is it the one I personally enjoyed the most? Is it the one that is the favorite among my friends? Is it the one that made some specific point about the human experience?

There’s nothing wrong with following such a path for choosing our favorite on something so trivial as a movie. It’s when we use the same logic to lead us to our favorite political viewpoints, human groups to like, countries to favor and so on that it can be problematic. Choosing only among what is familiar to us personally and excluding ideas and people with which we are unfamiliar can create very ethnocentric behavior which we need to be careful about.

Enjoy the show.

Enjoy the Oscars program or any other award program. But as you do so, I would invite you to consider the following:

Notice that false forced choices that are being made. Choose to personally honor everyone, nominated or not, who fully expressed their creative talents.

Notice the worldviews at play in the content of the various things being discussed and honored. Remember that the choice of “best” really is a reflection of the worldview of those making the choice.

Are we honoring content that furthers bringing us together or dividing us?

Are these awards serving our collective evolution?

Mark Gilbert


Check out all of Mark Gilbert’s books—available at Amazon. Click here to visit his Author Page. This includes his recent one Our Spiritual Rights and Responsibilities. In this book, he offers what he suggests are the 5 basic rights we all possess by virtue of our being these spiritual beings on planet Earth — and our 2 responsibilities we all hold in relation to one another! Check it out!