Top Scoops

Book Reviews | Gordon Campbell | Scoop News | Wellington Scoop | Community Scoop | Search

 

Authentic Dialogue is the Music of Meaning

Meditations (Politics) - From Martin LeFevre in California

Authentic Dialogue is the Music of Meaning

Dialogue is a word that has been rendered almost meaningless by having so many meanings to so many people. Politicians have appropriated the word and nearly destroyed its usefulness. But there is a deeper meaning to dialogue, having to do with shared exploration through questioning together.

As I see it, dialogue, or inquiry, is the social equivalent of solitary meditation. Awakening the meditative state is an almost inexpressible solitary art, which involves undirected attention to thought, and a quantum leap in existential awareness. The social counterpart, which is almost as difficult to convey, is the art of questioning together with the intent of igniting mutual insight.

A prime proponent of this kind of dialogue was David Bohm, a physicist of the highest order who Einstein called his “intellectual son.” Later in his life, after his work in quantum physics, Bohm became very interested in the transformation of human consciousness. He proposed questioning together--dialogue in depth--as a means of fostering radical change in human consciousness. That entails examining, and going beyond, the narrow range of reaction based on assumptions and unexamined worldviews, which so often pass for communication.

I had the privilege of meeting and participating in a series of superb dialogues with David Bohm. Each gathering was an intense experience, both because of Bohm’s prodigious intellect, and because of his passionate concern for the human prospect. Bohm is the only famous person I know of whose private demeanor complemented his public persona. Indeed, I’m not sure he had a public persona at all.

“Dialogue as we are choosing to use the word,” Bohm said, “is a way of exploring the roots of the many crises that face humanity today. It enables inquiry into, and understanding of, the sorts of processes that fragment and interfere with real communication between individuals, nations and even different parts of the same organization."

The main factors in exploratory dialogue are that participants be self-aware, and that they develop an ear for the right question for the group at a given moment.

Self-awareness is essential, as it neutralizes the tendency to automatically speak from assumptions. Participants in meaningful dialogue examine their assumptions when they come up. And because there is an atmosphere of affection and safety, people don't resist when someone points out assumptions. In short, participants are attuned to the fact that they have unexamined assumptions, and are quick to look at them.

Of course, as with anything, Bohm’s mode of dialogue can be abused. I’ve attended organized dialogues with master manipulators, facilitators who sell themselves as authorities on dialogue, while pretending not to be. Such people cunningly set the agenda and determine the course and feel-good outcome of a dialogue. Indeed, an entire industry has emerged that takes advantage of the confusion we all feel during these times.

On the other hand, I’ve also been part of groups where questioning together has produced an extraordinary degree of collegiality and shared insight. The result isn’t a group mind, since each person retains his or her own perspective and uniqueness. Rather, there is a quality of communion that is very beneficial to everyone in the group. And since core insight penetrates to the heart of human consciousness, authentic dialogue helps create a new culture for humanity.

The space for listening, and the listening that produces space, allows communication beyond the verbal level. Most communication is verbal, conceptual, and reactive. You say something, and I instantly translate it into what I think you mean, and then reply to that. (A way to slow down reaction, especially with difficult subjects, is to check what a person says against what one thinks they mean before responding.)

The process of examining assumptions and listening for meaning entails continually asking questions together. It’s very hard for most people to withhold their opinions and beliefs, much less to honestly examine them. But speaking from opinion and belief is not dialogue, or even communication, as I’m using the words.

In a group of self-aware people, the right question is like the starting notes in a musical composition. Listening and questioning by participants is then a thread of mutual exploration that simultaneously composes and plays the music of meaning.

************

- Martin LeFevre is a contemplative, and non-academic religious and political philosopher. He has been publishing in North America, Latin America, Africa, and Europe (and now New Zealand) for 20 years. Email: martinlefevre@sbcglobal.net. The author welcomes comments.

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
Top Scoops Headlines

 

Gordon Campbell: On Why We Should Be Anxious About Artificial Intelligence

Frankly, the prospect of possibly losing half the existing forms of paid employment to AI does make me feel extremely anxious, given the indifference shown by central government to the downstream social damage caused by the reform process last time around... More>>

ALSO:


Binoy Kampmark: Tom Wolfe The Parajournalist

As New Journalism’s primary advocate, Tom Wolfe headed the field with such experimental forces as Norman Mailer, Truman Capote and Hunter S. Thompson, all dedicated to enriching supposedly factual accounts with excessive flourishes that hurried out the beige in favour of the kaleidoscopic. More>>

Gordon Campbell: On Racism And The Windsors

For all the talk about the modernizing effect that Meghan Markle could have on the Royal Family, the suspicion all along has been that the House of Windsor is resistant to change at any level beyond the purely decorative. More>>

Gordon Campbell: On Prospects Of US Talks With North Korea

On June 12, the leaders of North Korea and the United States will meet across a table in Singapore, and Kim Jong Un must already be feeling giddy at the thought that this meeting is already being described with the word “summit” formerly reserved for meetings between superpowers of equal stature... Image: Steve Bolton NZ's contribution to the IAEA’s work on North Korea

  • United Nations - UN chief ‘optimistic’ over peace efforts
  • David Swanson - Enough is Enough. The Time Has Come to BDS the US - Peace Comes to Korea: Let’s Understand Why
  • CTBTO - CTBTO on North Korea
  • NZ Govt - NZ welcomes talks between North and South Korea
  • Massey University - Nukes to cyber war – NZ security in focus
  • Jim Miles - The Doomsday Machine - Confessions of a Nuclear War Planner
  • UNHCHR - North Korea detente: UN expert urges human rights opening
  • Binoy Kampmark - Trump, North Korea and Post-Olympic Angst
  • Gordon Campbell: On National’s Latest Attempts At Relevance

    Having ignored the existence of massive problems in health and education for nine years in government, it is no longer politically viable for National to maintain the pretence that such problems really don’t exist, or are somehow unworthy of serious concern by rational men of commerce.... More>>