TAO of Dialogue
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Originally published in UniS (The UniS Institute),
A few words to express my own frustration that, whilst there may be a certain
velocity to what I can do, the question of the adequacy of the acceleration needed
to escape the conceptual gravity well is a matter of concern.
There are so many velocity-bound do-able things, that those with a significant acceleration to them are easily lost to sight.
As to dialogue, I am back into my reflections on the equivalent of a golf
handicap. To be provocative, I now suggest structuring this along the lines
of the symbol of the Tao and its various components --perhaps inspired by the
famous Zen ox-herding pictures.
The idea would be to take elements out of the Tao symbol and allocate them to various levels of dialogue, along lines similar to the following:
- lowest level of dialogue: to be described in terms of the self satisfaction
of a viewpoint which considers itself complete. Symbol a black or white circle.
The white for those standing for perfection and ideals — this view is
right. The black for those standing for pragmatism and realpolitik —
doing whatever it takes. At this level each essentially treats the other as
irrelevant — mutually exclusive circles.
- the white knights now pursue the black knights: in this dialogue
each is very aware of the other. The whites see the blacks as the unbelievers
to be converted. The blacks see the whites as marks to be conned. Each seeks
out the other — there is a form of predator-prey co-dependency which
neither would acknowledge. Here lies the tragedy of the commons? Each circle
is drawn into its elongated blobby, "aerodynamic" shape —
one starting to pursue the other as in the Tao symbol — but not yet
- a sense of system: dialogue now recognizes the importance of the
other within a system. Emphasis is placed on unity-and-diversity. However
there remains confusion as to the meaning of each, with a stress on my unity
tolerating your intransigence. The two parts of the symbol now touch and are
held together, but the nature of the circular boundary is as yet tenuous
- firming of the boundaries: dialogue now recognizes that we are stuck
with each other, like it or not. We have to live together in the same neighborhood
or on the same planet — or in the same household. The outer circle of
the symbol takes form.
- limitation: although we have to live together, my side is definitely
"up" and the other is definitely "down". My side has to
educate yours and I will learn through the frustrations of that experience
— but not by adopting any perspective from the other. I learn the limitations
of my own perspective. The black eye in the white portion of the symbol opens.
- relativity: there are situations in which I recognize the value in
the perspective of the other, in areas to which my own is not sensitive —
but this does not deny the value of my perspective. Although it is "dark"
and uncomfortable, there is found to be a kernel of unexpected validity. The
white eye in the black portion of the symbol opens.
- uncertainty: for the dialogue to move forward, both parts are needed
— as in the process of walking on two legs or using two wings to fly.
Each movement by one side is subject to necessary correction by the other
— creative co-dependency for survival and thrival. Definitiveness is
challenged — such as the effort by the right leg to go off on its own.
The unexpected is to be expected. In contrast to the previous stage, whilst
acknowledging that I do have valuable understandings, the other holds truths
which may call these into question under certain circumstances — I depend
on the other in areas in which I may discover that I am blind. The symbol
of the Tao takes on a movement, or becomes the expression of movement.
Of course the above is an especially good reflection of the limitations of
my own understanding. Hopefully you can sharpen the contrasts or play with them
in other ways.
My point would be that whilst dialogue between levels must occur, that at the higher levels needs to be strengthened and given credibility.
But what does this say about the nature of future dialogues? The question
of the mix, the inclusions, the exclusions and the fortuitous all remain.
- Towards Another
Order of Conferencing: Insights from the Chinese Book of Changes (1990) [text]
- Transformation Metaphors
for sustainable dialogue, vision, conferencing, policy, network, community and
lifestyle (1997) [text]