Dialogue - Notes LO24825

From: ACampnona@AOL.COM
Date: 06/10/00

Dear learners,

As preparation for a course a few years ago i took the following notes, I
have others but these are the most concise and to the precise point of
clarity I sense some desire for a shared understanding of the term
dialogue as performed here in the LO community. Apologies if someone has
already posted same or similar.

Meandering thoughts on paper concerning ideas of dialogue set out by David
Bohm, Donald Factor and Peter Garrett.

Opening definition of the term Dialogue.

"-Dialogue is a way of exploring the roots of the many crises that face
humanity today. It enables enquiry 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 organisation. In
our modern culture men and women are free to inter-act with one another in
many ways; they can sing, dance or play together with little difficulty
but their ability to talk together about subjects that matter deeply to
them seems invariably to lead to dispute, division and often violence.
This points to the possibility of a deep and pervasive defect in the
process of human thought."

In and around 1983 David Bohm enquired into the suggestion that a pervasive
incoherence in the process of human thought is the essential cause of endless
crises in human affairs. Resulting from this initiation significant others
held seminars and meeting in countries other than the U.S. In essence
dialogue was found to be reflective of the following values or properties.

1. It can be a means to explore presuppositions, ideas and beliefs that
subtly control our interactions.

2. It provides opportunity to participate in a process to display
communication successes and failures.

3. It can reveal pattern in incoherence that lead groups to avoid certain
issues or to insist against all reason on standing and defending opinions
about particular issues.

4. It is a means of observing, collectively, how hidden values and
intentions can control our behaviour, and how unnoticed cultural
differences can clash without our realising it.

5. It can therefore be seen as an arena in which collective learning takes
place, out of which a sense of increased harmony, fellowship and
creativity can arise.

The nature of dialogue is exploratory therefore its own meanings and
methods can continue to unfold. No firm rules need be laid down for
conducting a dialogue because its essence is learning, not as a result of
information or doctrine imparted by an authority, nor as a means of
examining or criticising a particular theory or programme. It is rather an
unfolding process of creative participation among peers.

It is a presupposition of Bohm's that much of mankind's malady stems from
the containment of expression by the way we think.

That without the willingness to explore this deeply to gain real insight
we may never move beyond temporary and unsatisfactory solutions.

Thought is defined thus for the purpose of utilising dialogue. "Thought
is the active response of memory in every phase of life. Virtually all
our knowledge is produced, displayed, communicated, transformed and
applied in thought."

There is then set out by various authors' inclusive lists of signification
of the term thought. For brevity you may assume that any describable human
action or process is determined or pre-determined by thought. Even
unconsciously determined features.

In this complexity called thought there lurks a two-fold problem.
In the first instance thought is so complex that it is judged impossible to
actually dissemble from it complexities notions of accuracy, let along truth.
Further more, as if to aggravate this 'condition' the thought processes
conceals the problem from out immediate awareness, so generating a sense
within individuals that the way they think is necessary and sensible.
The resolution to this conflicting duality is held to be the need to slow
down the process of thought (perception of the conditionality of time) in
order to be better able to better observe what is occurring.
James Joyce wrote famously, -" Mr Duffy lived a short distance from his
body." When you move your arm or leg, you can do so slowly and self
consciously, it seems then that one has slowed to a point below or beyond
reflex in which you 'will 'your arm to move. This is termed propriocention
-to have awareness of our body's reaction to thought. But it seems that we
cannot so easily slow down our thinking. Furthermore it seems as if we are
least able to do it when we most need to.

Why Dialogue?

Dialogue is concerned to create space in which communally such attention
or noticing can be given. Through collective dialogue we become better
able to form a collective propriocentered system holding out the
possibility of breakthrough and breakout of the harming or restricting
templates or mental models and limited thought processes. One might
envision it as a 'design' for understanding all thought. The actual word
has it's root in two Greek words 'dia' and 'logos', -through and the word.
The image offered then is one of, "A river of meaning flowing around and
through the participants." It offers us the opportunity to examine the
differences offered us between examined and unexamined thought. However it
is stressed that such dialogue is not concerned to deliberately alter or
change behaviour, not to move participants toward any specific goal. This
would distort and obscure the very processes that the dialogue has set out
to explore. It does "offer an opportunity to explore the thoughts and
feelings that play freely in a continuously engaging movement."

Purpose and Meaning are not the same

Dialogue then is not consistent with purpose that is predetermined. It is
to stay in a realm wherein participants can expect to witness the
unfolding and revelation of hitherto unexperienced and revelatory outcomes
and collective meanings.

Paradoxically however, at first the experience is often one of frustration
and inertia leading to annoyance and anxiety. This can in turn lead to
some trying to take control or to break the group up. Strong feeling will
be expressed, along with the thoughts that sustain them. This is all part
of the process. It sustains the dialogue and extends it into new realms of
creativity and altogether new domains.

It has been noticed that when high levels of trust are apparent Extremes
of frustration are contained easily, they can even become the central
focus for the collective exploration in what might be termed a meta
dialogue (my italics), aimed at clarifying the process of dialogue itself.
In this state no single person can achieve dominance because every single
subject including domination and submission is available to be considered.
At this stage of dialogue participants may become involved in an ever
changing and developing pool of common meaning. A shared content of
consciousness emerges which allows creativity and insight to appear that
is not usually attainable. This level of awareness has been termed
koinonia and means 'impersonal fellowship', a term used to describe early
forms of Athenian democracy. (See my essay 'Condemned to be Free- Handy,
Locke, and Rousseau.)

This point is critical, it calls for a vigilance because it contains an
almost aesthetic feeling of well being, a 'high' that invites stasis.

Finally a few words on what dialogue is not.
It is not discussion, which has its root in the meanings of 'breaking things
It is not a debate. It is not to hammer out a point or even agreement.
It is not a salon for the exchange of gossip or other information.
Hierarchy has no place in dialogue.
Leading should take place from 'behind' with the resolve to make itself
redundant at the first opportunity.
Frustration expressed after a session is often a fertile ground for further
dialogue. One wishes to move beyond the superficiality
of "group think", good manners or a dinner party.
"Finally, the spirit of dialogue is one of free play, a sort of collective
dance of the mind that, nevertheless, has immense power and reveals coherent
purpose. Once begun it becomes a continuing adventure that can open the way
to significant and creative change."

I wrote around the world last year to seek a place to enter this form of
dialogue and came up with a blank, if anyone on the LO knows a place I'd
be happy to go there.


Andrew Campbell



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