CONVERSATION

As an old Burt Bacharach song says, ‘what the world needs now is love, sweet love…’ I would change it slightly, not to deny the need for love, but to suggest one simple way to actually make this happen: what the world needs now is real conversation….

Today, there is a lot of talk but little conversation. There is a lot of communication but little connection. I am proposing a simple process that will enable us to engage in a real conversation and connect us in ways that will allow new, exciting, life-giving things to happen. The other day I came across a little book I read years ago called Conversation by Theodore Zeldin, an English philosopher and historian, that demonstrates what good conversation can do to our lives:

Humans have already changed the world several times by changing the way they have had conversations. There have been conversational revolutions which have been as important as wars and riots and famine. When problems have appeared insoluble, when life has seemed to be meaningless, when governments have been powerless, people have sometimes found a way out by changing the subject of their conversations, or the way they talked, or the persons they talked to. In the past that gave us the Renaissance, the Enlightenment, modernity, post-modernity. Now it’s time for the New Conversation.

The kind of conversation that the writer refers to is one which you enter with a willingness to be changed, to emerge a slightly different person. This kind of conversation is an adventure, a search, an experiment; there is nothing certain about it; it involves risk.

Conversation like this is not just about conveying information or sharing feelings, nor is it about convincing or insisting. This conversation is essentially about meeting: the meeting of differences – different perspectives, different assumptions. When this kind of meeting happens, ideas are not just exchanged they are transformed, reshaped; new insights are drawn from them; new directions begun. When minds and hearts meet there is a spark: it is the spark of life, no less than the spark that ignited the supernova explosion that gave birth to all we know as the world. In fact, it is the same spark. The same impulse that initiated what we call ‘The Big Bang’ continues to ignite new explosions in earth and sky, and in minds and bodies.

So, the kind of conversation I am talking about here is natural, innate; we know how to do it. In a sense, all we have to do is participate in the magic. And that’s what I’m inviting us to do: join the conversation that is already going on, that has been going on since the beginning; be part of the endless evolutionary process of adaptation that will enrich our lives and transform our societies.

The word dialogue comes from two Greek words – dia which means ‘through’ and logos which refers to ‘meaning’ – that together describe the universal process of participating in the unfolding of meaning. This is how life happens. This is what it means to be alive. Dialogue-conversation is our unique human way of participating in the great mystery, and joining in the dance of the universe.

This project is an invitation to join in this dance in a very simple way. All you need is a little courage: the courage to share a small piece of your truth. The good news is that we can give each other this courage with a tiny touch of vulnerability, which means nothing more than just showing up. As one of my poet friends, William Stafford, says:

And so I appeal to a voice, to something

shadowy,

a remote and important region in all who talk:

though we could fool each other, we should

consider —

lest the parade of our mutual life get lost in the

dark.

Which brings me to a final thought: this is critical work. It may indeed be simple – though some would say otherwise – but today it is essential for all kinds of reasons. To paraphrase Bacharach again, ‘what the world needs now is sweet, simple conversation.’ The last word goes to Stafford:

For it is important that awake people be awake,

or a breaking line my discourage them back to

sleep;

the signals we give — yes or no, or maybe —

should be clear: the darkness around us is deep.

 

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14 Responses to CONVERSATION

  1. Brian Stempel says:

    I couldn’t agree more that the need for legitimate respectful conversations (dialogue, not debate) must be the next revolution in our society. From local school closure politics to the toxic national political discourse, we (as a society) are very good at talking at people, stating our points, but not truly listening or empathizing. How can we expect to solve any of the large issues of our time without being able to simple conversations. The revolution begins with each one of us. A quote of my own from a far smarter man than I:

    “Do your little bit of good where you are; its those little bits of good put together that overwhelm the world.”
    ~Desmond Tutu

  2. Pete G says:

    This concept is noble and a worthwhile undertaking and it rings of the life long collaboration between Bohm and Krishnamurti.
    http://totalhumanbeing.com/

    The so called Bohm Dialogue model comes to mind where participants agree to suspend their beliefs and prejudgements and be open to truly listening instead of (by implication) looking to defend and reinforce their established beliefs and entrenched positions, as so many of us do..
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bohm_Dialogue

  3. Thomas says:

    Danny,

    As you know, I’m always up for appeals to shadowy things, even if I have to be awake for it.
    Seriously, I think your idea is excellent, promising, likely to promote more substance and continuity in the dialogue. As I recall a young Kenyan boy who was dying of cancer well before he would ever reached maturity giving sage advice: “We must do what we can, in the place we are, with the time we have.” That’s what I hear you doing, Donal Og, as always, and I admire it greatly.
    Thanks for keeping hope alive.

    Thomas

    • Danny Martin says:

      Thomas, you probably know this statement by Vaclav Havel about Hope:
      It (hope) is a dimension of the soul and is not essentially dependent on some particular observation of the world. HOPE is an orientation of the spirit, an orientation of the heart. It transcends the world that is immediately experienced and is anchored somewhere beyond its horizons. HOPE in this deep and powerful sense is not the same as joy that things are going well or willingness to invest in enterprises that are obviously headed for early success, but rather an ability to work for something because it is good, not because it stands a chance to succeed….

  4. Sue Wootton says:

    I’m in, too – and already appreciating the energies & Spirit so alive in even these few exchanges…Also glad & grateful you’ve remained faithful to this work of “Creative (and Creating) Conversations.” I’m getting kind of weary myself, however, the least I can do in honor of you is to show up, be willing to listen, be vulnerable and share my own bit of truth….However, I must be honest: I am less & less certain about more & more….however, that does not make me un-happy !

    • Danny Martin says:

      ‘Less and less certain about more and more…’
      I am reminded of two things Sue:
      – one is a novel in the 60s called ‘Three Cheers for the Paraclete’ where the protagonist sates, ‘God preserve us from easy answers…’
      – the other is the Higgs boson – the so-called ‘God particle’ – and its implications for everything we think we know

  5. Anne Pearson says:

    Danny, your appeal is couched in captivating language special to you in so spectacular a manner that it engenders hope. It is certainly needed and I pledge to join you in the hope that I can succeed. Best always, Anne

  6. John C says:

    Danny, ma chara,
    As an old-fashion, anti facebook relic, I prefer face to face conversation where we can look into the eyes of the speaker. However, your suggested email dialogue has the advantage of forcing some thought before one speaks.
    As one of your many disciples, I admire your great talent for lifting our minds and hearts
    when contemplating life’s mysteries.
    The dialogue that I dream of is honest discussion between liberals and conservatives, if such is possible.
    Never the less, I would be pleased to participate in your webmail exercise.
    All the best

    • Danny Martin says:

      You are, as always John, a gentleman and a scholar….I’ll leave the rest of the phrase for now!! Yes, like you, I also prefer the face to face encounter which provides so much more data and even energy. But I think it is incumbent upon us to address the reality of something that is clearly here to stay and find ways of making it richer. The intention, attitudes and skills implied will be all the more important if we are to have the ‘honest discussion between liberals and conservatives’ you would like to see.

  7. Tayria Ward says:

    Danny, I just wrote a lengthy response to your Living Authentically blog, so will be brief here, to say – as best I can, I am in. I want to encourage the conversations in whatever ways that I can. Thank you for your commitment to creative dialogue. I have loved reading your writings and all of the responses on these blogs. So much sincerity, intelligence, thoughtfulness and care.
    Best to all.

  8. Danny Martin says:

    Tayria, already this conversation is so rich. Perhaps for the Webinar, it will be enough to invite anyone to offer their experience and then spend a little time listening FOR what more is emerging. That could be powerful….

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