Dialogue, I have come to see, is essentially an aspect of love. By love, I mean creative participation with life in ways that generate new things; that, in fact, give form to the blueprint and the ultimate meaning – the logos – of life. It is this that I mean when I define Dialogue as participation in the emergence (dia) of meaning (logos). The Polish poet, Czeslaw Milosz, captures this sense of love when he writes:
Love means to look at yourself
The way one looks at distant things
For you are only one thing among many.
And whoever sees that way heals his heart,
Without knowing it, from various ills –
A bird and a tree say to him: Friend.
Then he wants to use himself and things
So that they stand in the glow of ripeness.
It doesn’t matter whether he knows what he serves:
Who serves best doesn’t always understand.
I have come to understand that every Dialogue process includes the stages of connecting, exploring, and discovering. Dialogue brings the skill/tool/practice aspect that creates self-awareness and freedom in order for love to happen, including skills of listening: listening in order to connect and be present; listening to understand and hold the tension of differences; and listening to discover and give voice to what is being generated out of the process.
Since Dialogue Love is, I believe, infinite in its potential, it can address – respond to, relate to, work with – everything we encounter, including the unknown, with death being the ultimate unknown for us. I have experienced this very personally in recent times with the deaths of a family member and a close friend.
In the first experience, the challenge for us was to find a way to grieve and celebrate at the same time, realizing that inadequate grieving can dilute celebration, just as inadequate celebration can compromise grieving. A Dialogue Love allowed us to connect to the death and to feel the reality of the passing without having to understand or justify the wide range of emotions that it stirred. It then enabled us to explore the thoughts that exploded around us by simply holding them without having to explain or justify them. And, finally, it empowered us to discover and express the insights and the powerful energies that were generated by the experience. The poet, Rilke, in a poem called ‘Death Experienced’ reflects the new life that can be generated out of this often painful unknown. He says, ‘We know nothing of this passing on that so excludes us…’ He then describes what I’m calling insights and powerful energies like this:
But when you went, a streak of reality
broke in upon this stage through that fissure
where you left: green of real green,
real sunshine, real forest.
He would seem to be describing the gift of death, as it were, that does indeed enable us to address the challenge we had of grieving and celebrating at the same time.
The second experience involved a sudden and violent death, which on the surface felt like a tragedy. But a Dialogue Love helped us connect to the person that we loved and feel her presence still with us. It also allowed us to explore – and hold, without fully understanding – memories of her great happiness, her ‘incredible lightness of being’ that she expressed in the months before her death. And finally, it generated the realization that this was neither an accident nor a tragedy but simply the right time – what the Greek language describes as kairos – for her to step into the next stage of her journey, as part of a loving process.
Rilke, in another poem called ‘Circles’ captures this powerful awareness that Dialogue Love brought to us about our friend, but also about all of us:
I live my life in ever-widening circles
That reach out over the world
I may not complete this last one
But I give myself to it
I am circling around God, the ancient tower
And I have been circling for thousands of years
And still I do not know: am I falcon,
a storm, or a continuing great song.
Book of Hours I 2
Dialogue Love, it would seem, is our path to an infinite realization that includes wider and wider circles of identity – falcon, storm – and that culminates in the continuing great song that we call God.