Thinking about Dialogue

So I have become interested lately in the idea of dialogue – not conversation or discussion – but dialogue. I am reading David Bohm, also Jiddu Krishnamurti. I do not feel as if I am wandering too far afield of Jesus and A Course in Miracles. Perhaps dialogue – this dialogue, this way – is another helpful form of the “universal curriculum.”

I am thinking of dialogue in terms of something that takes place between people who are alert to their own conditioning and tendency to be dull and stultified, and so want to awaken, and perhaps even see this dialogue, this exchange, as a means to do that. It is a creative gesture, a movement away from the self and towards oneness, however one understands oneness.

A person who engages in dialogue is both willing and able to suspend judgment. That is, they are aware of how judgment operates in their own thought system, they have at least a basic understanding of how it mucks up their perception of reality, and so they are engaged at least sometimes in non-judgmental thinking. It is not just an ideal, not just an intellectual appreciation, but something more tangible. Willingness is characteristic of the intellectual side but the ability is related to application. Neither can really exist without the other, but a person can identify more with one than the other, and so believe that willingness and ability are separated and conditional upon each other.

Dialogue is most effective when one has taken these initial steps in terms of their own thinking, their own innate inclination to judge.

It seems that dialogue makes some demands of its participants. It implies some preparation. This is because if we come into it without at least some basic awareness of how we operate at the level of thought, then we are going to be mired in opinion and a sort of offense/defense approach to the other person or persons. An effective dialogue is not about winning and it is not about persuading somebody else of the rightness of your own ideas and thinking. Indeed, a condition precedent might be that one enters the dialogue without any preconceived notion of what the dialogue is about or what it means or where it is going.

For many people, that is not possible. We are stuck in the cultural loop, repeating old ideas. Maybe one thing about a dialogue is that is is always new or at least it can be. If we can shed a lot of the framing upon which our thoughts are draped and shaded, then something new can happen.

One thing that can happen is that we can listen better. If we aren’t filled up with our own opinions and agendas, if we aren’t filtering experience through goals, then there is some space. The other person or persons are going to be better received because their words won’t have to navigate so many filters on our end. How often do we hear through our filters? We are always channeling experience in ways to support our view of ourselves and the world. We make a decision about what life means and then we interpret everything accordingly.

It is very hard for people to hear one another in that kind of setting. And it is even harder to change one’s mind.

So a dialogue is a sort of open-ended space in which people are in communication with one another. The space is not the physical space in which the dialogue takes place (although this is not insignificant). Nor is it a metaphor. It is a real condition in which one is deeply attentive to and aware of their thoughts and the effect of their thoughts and is exercising great care in how those thoughts impinge on communication. The dialogue aims to create itself anew every moment by not relying on the past and by shedding the inclination to judge according to preconceived conditions.

On this view, dialogue is radical, in the sense that it goes to the root, the very base of what it means to be in relationship – with another person, with a landscape, with the universe, with life. Its aimlessness is its strength, because it constantly allows for the very awakening – the very energizing – that makes it so necessary. When we are in dialogue we are getting to the bottom of things, we are getting to the essence, we are finding the “dead center,” which is actually alive in a way we can barely imagine.

Dialogue is healthy – it is healing. It leads us towards the paradox of egoic thought without borrowing that thought’s structure or method. It is undoing. It is a means by which one can realize the truth inherent in A Course in Miracles or another mythology, another belief system. Love is what we are; love is all there is. This, too, is dialogue.

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