On Dialogue — Purposelessness
What is the purpose of you reading this?
Why are you spending the precious minutes you have in this day scanning these words and attempting to interpret what I mean?
What are you hoping to get in return for all of your effort?
Sorry for the confronting introduction, but I want you to consider two things:
- That so many conversations we have are undertaken with the expectation that we will get something out of it — we will leave having convinced someone of something, with an answer to a question of ours, or simply feeling better about our situation
- That this sort of expectation comes bundled with our own opinions, assumptions and judgements that we defend throughout the course of our conversations, preventing us from discovering anything new
Insofar as we have opinions that we defend or assumptions that we defend, there is something that interferes with true creativity. If you are defending an assumption, you are pushing out whatever is new.
— David Bohm
You may have a deep sense for all of this already and say to yourself, “Ed, you’re wasting my time. I’m off!”. I admit that this conversation is regrettably one-sided.
But you would miss my point, which is this: there is a different way to participate in conversation with each other (and individually, with ourselves) that allows us to move beyond our opinions and assumptions in an entirely different direction — a “tangential” direction — into something new and creative.
This is dialogue.
Dialogue is a conversation that doesn’t have an agenda or a purpose. It is about creating an empty space where we are not obliged to do anything, nor to come to any conclusions. There is no requirement for us to say anything or not say anything. It is open, empty, free.
The cup has to be empty to hold something.
With this attitude, all of these opnions and assumptions of ours can be observed and examined gently to better understand what they mean to us and to others.
In dialogue, we don’t try to change — ourselves nor others. Over time, as we build trust in the other participants in the dialogue, we are able to let go of our instinctual defenses. The contents of dialogue eventually move toward being free of those opinions and assumptions, and allows us to explore something new that is beyond all of that.
The collective dimension of the human being […] has a qualitatively new feature: it has great power — potentially, or even actually. And in dialogue we discuss how to bring that to some sort of coherence and order. The question is really: do you see the necessity of this process? That’s the key question. If you see that it is absolutely necessary, then you have to do something.
— David Bohm
Check out open dialogue if you are interested in learning more about a tool to enable individual dialogue and a deeper understanding of our own thought processes.