The Spirit of Dialogue

By Aran Patinkin June 21, 2015

“What is essential here is the presence of the ‘spirit’ of dialogue, which is, in short, the ability to hold many points of view in suspension, along with a primary interest in the creation of a common meaning.” David Bohm and David Peat, ‘Science, Order and Creativity’

When I came across this quote several years ago, I thought, yes, that’s it! Like Bohm and Peat I’d been deeply troubled by the feeling that something essential was missing; and that missing thing that was causing all the problems in the world. What made me aware of this were the brief moments in my life when the ‘feeling that something was missing’ was replaced with the ‘feeling that something was there!’ It was like finally hitting the mark after an incalculable number of tries! And all that I could say about those particular moments and what made them so remarkable, so entirely different from all the rest, was nothing more than an absence of conflict.

I realized that our dialogue has been for generations, mostly argumentative and polarized. In the kind of dialogue we are normally engaged, one person expresses an opinion. When one pole is expressed, the opposing pole naturally surfaces. Someone, it could be me or you, is intuitively driven to express the opposite pole. Feeling that the preliminary opinion is only partial, he rushes in with an opposing view in an attempt to fill in the gap. This appears to be a structural malfunction inherent in our culture. Those participating in this kind of dialogue see, on the one hand the genuine need to correct a perceived imbalance to achieve a state of coherence, while on the other hand they are caught in the grip of the ego’s need to dominate and control. I realized that my opinions and assumptions form the robe I wear. They give me a clear identity, a shelter, a place of security. And this robe is what we commonly call, ego.

It seems to me that true dialogue can only emerge when all participants are genuinely willing to disrobe. It became for me a personal question; am I willing to be stripped of my ambitions? I’m definitely a mixed bag; sometimes my personal desires are transparent and can be dismantled, and sometimes I get trapped in my opinions. I’m not necessarily advocating ‘navel staring’. From my experience, it doesn’t seem to be effective. What worked for me as an incentive, was the longing for the ‘sweet’ taste of encounters that had no conflict.

Our nakedness, in front of a genuine question, allows the full ‘ground’ of meaning to be revealed and we as participants realize that one pole does not contradict the other pole, but rather complements it with love. That is how the full meaning of the moment is expressed, and in this moment something new is born, a common meaning is shared. This is the eternal dance between male and female, primordial poles, begetting a new meaning. Like Bohm and others, I strongly sense the calling of all creation for a new relationship to dialogue. It is a personal call that I take very seriously, but it is also a collective call addressed to all;“A new kind of mind thus begins to come into being which is based on the development of a common meaning that is constantly transforming in the process of the dialogue.” David Bohm in the forward to ‘On Dialogue’.