Talking Our Way to Coherence

Talking is very natural. We do it without effort, or so it seems. Conversations about the weather, about last night’s sporting event, the upcoming election, what our kids are doing, the book we recently read. On some level, we are always in dialogue with one another, always using language to share ideas and feelings and opinions and so forth.

Dialogue – in the Bohmian sense, in the Krishnamurtian sense, as I am trying to see and bring it into application – essentially builds on that. Here is a thing that happens reflexively, even casually, and so can we use it to deepen or intensify meaning? Can we talk in a way that creates a shared meaning that is coherent and not shallow or fractured?

I think the answer is yes. But we have to be sensitive to what is going on as we talk. Most of the time we are not. We just talk. But all the time we are engaging in this activity – this sharing, this communication – there is a lot of underlying energy that is hard at work. There is an identity that is invested in both presentation and outcome. When we are talking to the waiter about what kind of pizza we would like, this isn’t such a big deal. That identity slumbers. But when we get into more complicated issues – nuclear proliferation, say, or how to parent children – then it can become quite active, to the point of violence.

So one thing we are looking for when we talk – when we communicate – is that sense of self that underlies or undergirds the activity. This is awkward at first. But that’s not the real problem. The real problem is that when we start to make contact with that self and see the way that works – and maybe intuit something of its motives, which is to say its survival impulse – then we are going to run into some pretty strong denial.

Most of us believe that we are essentially good people. Sometimes we make mistakes but who doesn’t? And to the extent that we’re greedy or selfish, we are usually able to rationalize that by saying that everybody does it, or we have a right to eat and to store up supplies, or that we are only conforming to our Darwinian heritage and so forth. We don’t really want to see that have a propensity for real violence. You know, it is always somebody else who is torturing foreigners, or building concentration camps, or hoarding food.

And of course, most of us are not doing that sort of thing externally. Our connection to evil, if you will permit that word, is tangential at best and, again, it is sort of inevitable in our culture. Perhaps nuclear power is bad, and nuclear power contributes to the electricity we use, but what can we do? Stop using computers or lights? There is a sense that we are implicated in something but also powerless to address it, much less change it.

The thing is, there is a relationship – a very real one – between our interior condition and what we perceive outside of us. In the west, A Course in Miracles, has been both poetic and succinct in exploring this. There is a direct relationship between what we “see” inside and what we “perceive” outside. At the beginning of chapter 21, the text notes that:

Projection makes perception. The world you see is what you gave it, nothing more than that. But though it is no more than that, it is not less. Therefore, to you it is important. It is the witness to your state of mind, the outside picture of an inward condition. As a man thinketh, so does he perceive. Therefore, seek not to change the world, but choose to change your mind about the world. Perception is a result and not a cause.

In dialogue, then, we are using our natural inclination to talk to explore more deeply the roots of perception – that is, the self that seems to be ordering everything and giving it meaning and using judgment to decide what is good and what is bad and thus directing our behavior to this or that end. Our willingness to suspend judgment in that context of talking with others can allow the projections of that buried or obscure self to emerge: we can see the anger, the need to be right, the investment in this idea, the resentment of this person. It sort of floats in mind in a way and we can see it.

Ultimately, as we experience those thoughts more and more as thoughts – and not as extensions of the self, like an arm or a leg – then we begin to release them. A Course in Miracles calls this process “forgiveness.” Thought is just thought. We are not what we think. It sounds simple of course but our experience of it – a sort of felt reality, that what is passing through our mind is not us – is quite liberating. In that space, we begin to sense that what we are in truth is more collaborative and inclusive – more of a one than a many, say – than we first suspected. And so from that ground – which we arrive at through dialogue – we can begin to create a more coherent – in the sense of both healed and healing – meaning for what we are and what we are about.

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