Dialogue is not a One Way Street

A geometry of communication came into my mind the other morning. I was thinking about how a book, written by a local author who has since become a friend, has opened up a dialogue between us. In this dialogue, there is a sense of shared interests (in the health of Mother Earth and of the creatures who live upon her) and also a sense of how our two realms of personal interests and engagements only partially intersect.

That imagined geometric shape seemed a crystal like form, any of whose many facets can connect and open to the face of someone else’s presentation of their crystal like form—rather like two space vehicles docking against one another. As an individual, that plane of interaction is experienced as me interacting with my world. Contacting others, we learn both about them and about the parts of ourselves that engage in this interaction. Thus, by developing a network of interrelationships with others, we illuminate our own interests and aspirations.

As I attempt to articulate this architecture of interaction, I realize that it is related to an insight I encountered in the writings of Tibetan Lama Tarthang Tulku years ago: namely that the senses are two-way channels. This insight has influenced how I view myself as a human being. While walking under a tree on a windy autumn day–the branches overhead leaning into a sudden gust of wind–I saw how the senses do indeed flow in both directions. Listening to the wind singing in the branches—the leaves spinning wildly, tree limbs flailing in all directions, clouds scudding across the sky—I stood rooted to the earth below, utterly rapt. But, perhaps even more importantly, I felt my own inner being listening, watching, responding, and awakening to my life in this thrilling world.

Whatever moves us does so by opening this kind of two way flow, in which by reaching out towards the world we discover the one who is reaching out. We see, through interest and caring, a being caught in the act of responding to the beauty of our world.

A pair of multi-faceted beings, meeting along their plane of interaction, illuminates a field of engagement and knowing to which both respond.

Responding to the activities of others in a world we share, I more fully inhabit the unique perspective that animates my own individual life journey.

We won’t feel as isolated or alone when we see ourselves as part of a whole that nourishes our more defined, and therefore limited, presence within it.

We know by being known, and are known through our willingness to know anew.

Dialogue is more than a message flung across a gulf between diverse backgrounds and interests. Dialogue is a way of knowing ourselves through the eyes of another.

Paradoxically, by allowing ourselves to be fathomed by others we become more fully ourselves. As the Yiddish joke about Rabbi Moshe at the Pearly Gates suggests, being ourselves is a good thing.

Before Saint Peter can say a word, Rabbi Moshe starts to explain himself:
 Moshe: I realize that I should have lived a life more like Moses lived. I tried, but . . .
Peter: Your problem was not that you weren’t more like Moses. Your problem was that you were not more like Rabbi Moshe.

Ah, an individual self trying to know itself in the vastness—what a challenge! Every authentic moment seems to require an act of creation.

Thank goodness that we have been imbued with creativity, and vouchsafed a world in which we can exercise this gift.

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