Cup of Wisdom
The Art of Dialogue
The Importance of Dialogue
As a Cup of Wisdom host your primary task is to provide your guests with a safe space in which to read, think, and share their thoughts and reactions to what they’ve just read in The World Wisdom Bible. You need not be literate in the world’s religions, nor have any expertise in communication skills. Your only task is to keep the salon open and welcoming to all people and ideas.
This is no small thing, however. The importance of authentic dialogue and conversation is often
overlooked. In an age when talk is cheap, we forget that conversation is priceless. Here are some readings on dialogue and conversation to help you grasp the significance of what you are doing. While we offer these insights for you alone, feel free to share these with your guests as you see fi t. In the context of Cup of Wisdom we use the words “dialogue” and “conversation” interchangeably.
If there is one word that we should never tire of repeating, it is this: dialogue. We are called to promote a culture of dialogue by every possible means and thus to rebuild the fabric of society. The culture of dialogue entails a true apprenticeship and a discipline that enables us to view others as valid dialogue partners, to respect the foreigner, the immigrant and people from different cultures as worthy of being listened to. Today we urgently need to engage all the members of society in building “a culture which privileges dialogue as a form of encounter” and in creating “a means for building consensus and agreement while seeking the goal of a just, responsive and inclusive society” (Evangelii Gaudium, 239).
Peace will be lasting in the measure that we arm our children with the weapons of dialogue, that we teach them to fight the good fight of encounter and negotiation. In this way, we will bequeath to them a culture capable of devising strategies of life, not death, and of inclusion, not exclusion.
This culture of dialogue should be an integral part of the education imparted in our schools, cutting across disciplinary lines and helping to give young people the tools needed to settle conflicts differently than we are accustomed to do. Today we urgently need to build “coalitions” that are not only military and economic, but cultural, educational, philosophical and religious. Coalitions that can make clear that, behind many conflicts, there is often in play the power of economic groups. Coalitions capable of defending people from being exploited for improper ends. Let us arm our people with the culture of dialogue and encounter.
Dialogue, with all that it entails, reminds us that no one can remain a mere onlooker or bystander.
Everyone, from the smallest to the greatest, has an active role to play in the creation of an integrated and reconciled society. This culture of dialogue can come about only if all of us take part in planning and building it. The present situation does not permit anyone to stand by and watch other people’s struggles.
On the contrary, it is a forceful summons to personal and social responsibility. (Excerpted from Address of His Holiness Pope Francis on Receiving the Charlemagne Prize, Friday, 6 May 2016]
David Bohm, On Dialogue
[A] form of free dialogue may well be one of the most effective ways of investigating the crisis which faces society, and indeed the whole of human nature and consciousness today. Moreover, it may turn out that such a form of free exchange of ideas and information is of fundamental relevance for transforming culture and freeing it of destructive misinformation, so that creativity can be liberated.
In Dialogue or in our own meditation, or whatever, the attitude is one of exploration and emptiness – that is, not having fixed assumptions but rather an empty space where there is the possibility of exploring all sorts of things. This is a proposal for exploration. But even this is not final. It too has to be constantly open to exploration – seeing whether the proposal, as made, is coherent. In other words, we’re not even saying exploration is the answer. The purpose is constantly changing and flowing out of the meaning.
But we can’t give the meaning in a nutshell. If everybody knew the meaning, we wouldn’t need the Dialogue. The dialogue is not aimed at settling anything. We explore meaning together – the creative perception of meaning – thinking together and feeling together. But meaning is active. It is not merely sitting there. The consideration of this meaning may act – or it may not. The whole point of having the Dialogue is that we’re not trying to produce a result. That’s very important. It may never do it. Or it may do it at some moment when we least expect it. The seed has been planted. And the meaning is naturally, spontaneously active and transformative.
In the dialogue group we are not going to decide what to do about anything. This is crucial. Otherwise we are not free. We must have an empty space where we are not obliged to do anything, nor to come to any conclusions, nor to say anything or not say anything. It’s open and free. It’s an empty space. [p. 19]
Margaret Wheatley, Turning to One Another
I believe we can change the world if we start listening to one another again. Simple, honest, human conversation. Not mediation, negotiation, problem–solving, debate, or public meetings, Simple, truthful conversation where we each have a chance to speak, we each feel hear, and we each listen well…
Human conversation is the most ancient and easiest way to cultivate the conditions for change—personal change, community and organizational change, planetary change. If we can sit together and talk about what is important to us, we begin to come alive. We share what we see what we feel and we listen to what others see and feel. [p. 7]
William Isaacs, Dialogue: The Art of Thinking Together
We can learn to kindle and sustain a new conversational spirit that has the power to penetrate and dissolve some of our most intractable and difficult problems. We can learn to do this in ourselves, in our closest relationships, in our organizations and communities. [p.6]
Dialogue, as I define it here, is about a shared inquiry, a way of thinking and reflecting together. It is not something you do to another person. It is something you do with people. Indeed, a large part of learning this has to do with learning to shift your attitudes about relationships with others, so that we gradually give up the effort to make them understand us, and come to a greater understanding of ourselves and each other…Dialogue is a living experience of inquiry with and between people…[T]he most important parts of any conversation are those that neither party could have imagined before starting. [p.9]