“Movement” toward Dialogue

Movements are dead. At least they should be! I’ve written about the way they are a form of commodification, they are the political equivalent of an army or a corporation using people, and everybody else, as means to an end. The hard part with getting beyond old world-views, cosmologies, over-arching theories; is that we find something that, following the old model, appears to be a problem and then proceed to use the same outmoded methods to find a “solution.” Caught-up in our zeal we miss the transition from breaking-free to falling-back into the same modes of response. We react instead of create, or we think we’re doing both, and that this will work out… because we’re smarter than those who came before, we will work harder than those who came before, we are better than those who came before. Years go by, decades, and then we find that instead of championing life, we’re promoting lithium batteries and carrying “green” shopping bags made of plastic half-way around the world in sweat-shops. Our movement turned into a failed orbit and we’ve fallen back into the same noxious mix of “pragmatism” we so long ago knew was somehow wrong.

Bohm and Krishnamurti have been helping me find the language to talk about how this goes wrong as well as giving me confirmation of the importance of dialogue as a way to help each other through the confusion. The image of a stroke victim convinced she is being attacked in the dark of the night in her bed, to find that when someone answers her screams and turns on the light, her paralyzed arm has been hitting her across the face and chest. As Bohm puts it, she suffers from a lack of proprioception. The damage to her brain has cut off her awareness of her arm’s functions, so without any other sensory input its actions registered for her as an external attack. His theory of the brain – which I’m just beginning to look into – posits that our thoughts, our emotional reactions, our sense of self; all suffer from a lack of proprioception. We are usually incapable of sensing that these are reactions that happen in the absence of perception of their interiority so that we mistake their consequences for an external “reality.” We suffer from a barrage of attacks that send us reeling, looking for enemies, when in fact we are doing, and exacerbating the consequences, most of this to ourselves. “Selves” that are also just a screen between us and an actual engagement with the world.

What they put forward as an alternative is a change from striving to attending. If we allow our thoughts, etc. to happen without engaging with them on “their own” terms, without falling into the pitfalls of a lack of proprioception, we can learn to change the habits – what they call the “programming,” or “conditioning” – of the brain that keeps this cycle of reaction dominant. At that point we open ourselves to creativity as Mind, something they explain – with echoes in Jung’s “Collective Unconscious” – as a universal field that becomes available to us. At that point we are able to evolve our world-view, changing the set of variables from out of an old and counter-productive mode into one where we have left the sea of mirrored conflicts behind and can begin to engage with the world of direct perception.

This Mind, what Bohm also refers to as intelligence – what I would contrast with cleverness – is what we experience while engaged in creativity. I know from my own experiences that when I’m writing, or drawing, painting, sculpting, or dealing with any fast-paced emergent situation; what is happening is not under my control. The sensation is quite vivid that I am tapping into a font, not directing a production. This connects with what has long been called inspiration, or listening to a muse.

There is, if we allow it, a clash between this effortless Being-in-flow, and the Ego’s desire to feel itself in control of an independent “ME!” Over the years this has de-railed a number of attempts I’ve made to follow through on the gifts grace has proffered. The struggles with this battle have driven my striving for a solution to my own problems, as well as acting as a source for my preoccupation with larger social clashes within a similar framework.

“Struggle, Battle, Striving, Solution, Problem;” these are all terms I’ve slowly learned to take as warning signs. Bohm and Krishnamurti have begun to show me how they interact and where their insistent quality comes from. They so clearly fit into the “Spectacle” our own brains, and socially all of our brains, put in front of us due to that lack of proprioception. Again, this connects with Jung. His words, I’ve often quoted, that we end up having to deal with the external consequences of that which we deny is happening inside our thoughts; is just another way of putting it that unless we can awaken ourselves to the pattern of projections we call “our thoughts” and “our selves,” we cannot break out of a self-induced chain of escalating difficulties. The escalation, we perceive as ever greater challenges from outside, and then we ramp-up our responses, continuously building up a cycle of self-generating feed-back loops that ultimately lead to suicide or wider general destruction.

A virtuous consequence of our need to learn to move out of these cycles and to integrate our beings into a connection with Mind is that we need each other for this to succeed. This is where dialogue comes in.

We are accustomed to consider the expulsion of verbal noises amongst humans to be a competitive act, part of the struggle for dominance. When we speak we are pushing our agendas and trying to win over adherents so that we can commodify them to further our ends. When we “listen” we are in fact giving just enough attention to find chinks in the others attack that we can use to deflect their attempt to take us in. The parody of public “debate” we suffer under is the logical conclusion of this way of treating communication.

I’ve tapped into the concept of Dissensus and pointed at examples of conversations that are dialogues that move beyond this battle-ground of ideologies before. Once again, Bohm and Krishnamurti give me context and corroboration. The few examples I’ve found on-line of their dialogues are wonderful glimpses of the possibilities when we enter into this other form of – I was going to say relationship, in fact as they point out, this is a relationship while the other form is just a clash.

Along with other actions in which we allow a switch from striving-to-become to simply manifesting an experience of Being, this form of dialogue nurtures the conditions that help us get out of the illusions of Ego and the habits of our brains. Beyond that, it is a fulfillment of our interconnectedness and a refusal to treat the “other” as a commodity, or a means to an end.

As with any derailment of commodification, this precludes any attempts to “leverage” the other, to create a wholesale effect by massing consensus on “our” side. It is the suspension of Movements as a suitable activity that strikes at the core of their problematic nature and eliminates the view that “requires” us to strive after movements in the first place.

Those caught-up in anger, lashing out within the dream-world of spectacle, have no patience for any of this. Yet in all their self-induced dramatics, they are blind to the futility of their position.

Krishnamurti characterizes this as the tragedy of the awake in the face of the preponderance of people who sleep-on. Bohm, who was driven by a profound sense of urgency – as have any of us marginally awake people for quite some time! – was yet able to recognize what Krishnamurti called the imperative of “right-action,” that we do this because it is the right thing to do, even if this does not bring us to a way out of our present predicament. In fact, this ties-in quite well with a profound understanding of our powerlessness to control outcomes, and the traps such an attitude leave us open to.

Two things that come across most clearly in Bohm and Krishnamurti’s dialogues are Bohm’s affectionate and empathetic listening, and Krishnamurti’s deep reflection before speaking. Between the two they embody and communicate the two sides of the activity they are discussing. Contact with Mind, and the inter-connectivity of all things, leads to a profound sense of love; and that connection with Mind requires a deep act of listening, not only to the “other,” but to the upwelling of Mind as we quiet the brain’s striving.

Their example of patience, coupled with an insistence to couch their discussion in a terminology that is both open and precise, is another of the wonders of these dialogues. This is another example of what cannot be gained any other way than through relationship. Mind’s true presence then is not in what any “one” says, or makes, but in the combined reciprocal activity of the relationship itself. This is implicit in any profferment of insight, inspiration, the gift of the muse; and it is there in the tacit expectation of a return, a reciprocity in a continuation of dialogue.

As Bohm says elsewhere, the deepest motivations for creativity have nothing to do with quid pro quo. They have everything to do with a desire to find reciprocity and relationship.

We don’t reach such an existence by “campaigning” for it! It’s not there at the end of some striving for becoming, in some future shoe-horned into the crippling reductivism of an “ideal.” It happens. It just happens when we leave movements and struggles behind and let ourselves BE.

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19 thoughts on ““Movement” toward Dialogue

  1. Hi Antonio,
    I’ve linked to this and quoted a couple of chunks. I shall need to read it again. In order to leap to a conclusion/shut down painful uncertainty and ambiguity, I’ll obviously have to find SOMETHING to comment on in it… whirr….whirr… I think the opposition between movement and dialogue may be unfair to the possibilities of movements that contain and encourage dialogue. There’s a book I’ve not yet read about the 60s called “Freedom is an Endless Meeting” by Francesca Pollenta. I’ll let you know…

    Also, via the great Johnnie Moore, I’ve stumbled across a book called Hare Brain, Tortoise Mind by a guy called Guy Caxton…
    ‘Learning to loaf’ — this books explores the ways of knowing that require more time, the ways we have unlearned or ignore, but that are crucial to our complete mental development. The human brain-mind will do a number of unusual, interesting and important things if given time. It will learn patterns of a degree of subtlety which normal, purposeful, busy consciousness cannot even see, let alone master. It will make sense out of hazy, ill-defined situations which leave everyday rationality flummoxed. It will get to the bottom of personal, emotional issues much more successfully than the questing intellect. It will detect and respond to meaning, in poetry for example, that cannot be articulated. It will sometimes come up with solutions to complicated predicaments that are wise rather than merely clever. There is good, hard evidence, from cognitive science and elsewhere, for all these capacities. Claxton explores the slower ways of knowing and explains how we could/should use them more often and more effectively.
    http://www.amazon.co.uk/exec/obidos/ASIN/1857027094/qid=1041780270/sr=1-1/ref=sr_1_2_1/026-4437003-7458855

    Hope this is helpful…

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    1. Dwight,

      I hadn’t known about Guy Caxton’s book. Thanks yet again for a great find!

      Sleep deprivation is compulsion’s way to keep people hijacked and allegiant to Ego. Nothing saps the patience and calm openness needed to engage and immerse oneself in connection. Nothing makes it easier instead to drive ourselves to react, to attack, to resist, and conspire; than a good long jag of sleeplessness fed off a feedback loop of rising urgency and self-justification.

      One of the most important aspects of negative capability, the capacity to withhold judgement, cannot function in a mentally/emotionally exhausted condition. As Bohm puts it, being in mind requires an energetic brain.

      Each experience is so thick and rich, the whole notion of boredom can only come from a too fast and too glib habit of perception and attention. More precisely, the habit to side-step these entirely, looking for slight, but shocking triggers that take us past the effort of perception/attention and send us directly into the fast escalating loops of compulsion and anxiety, and their overflowing the brain with the compelling dramas of Ego.

      Just a quick note on “meetings.” Any intention that is put into action so as to promote becoming instead of attending to being will create division and polarization. It will strengthen – if not create – its own opposition.

      The hard part about recognizing this is in Jensen’s question about what we would do in the face of the Death Star, or a brutal assailant. This attitude towards attention to mind does not preclude any action in-and-of-itself. This is not a call for pacifism. Coupling the attitude of attending to mind with any preconception of what actions it might lead to is an insistence to remain outside of mind and in a condition of striving and planning and holding onto the myth of control.

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  2. I am having a heck of a time actually *doing* empathic listening… without which a real dialogue cannot happen. Everything in me wants to push the other person a certain direction. I am not quite sure what to do about it right now.

    The other thought is… there is a bit too much political correctness in certain groups that very much want to do dialoguing right, and end up stifling it… such as when the “talking stick” is being passed around, and other people cannot respond in a freewheeling sort of fashion. It can have a place, don’t get me wrong, but raucous give and take does too. It brings things up from the gut that one does not even know are there.

    What I no longer have any use for is the kind of ego-bound sniping that so often goes on in debates and online comments. Nothing wrong with an occasional snarky repartee especially when funny. But hostile exchange does not usually bring out much that is creative. It ends up being a repetitive waste of time.

    I hope you will give us some practical pointers emerging from your exploration of these two notably thoughtful men, Tony.

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    1. Leavergirl,

      “I am having a heck of a time actually *doing* empathic listening…”

      It all begins with an awareness of this difficulty. Without that awareness we are simply acting out and in deep slumber. For me the best handle on what can be possible is the story about proprioception and thought. This is a “lesson” that infuses us when we take it in. It’s the ultimate Wizard of Oz moment of seeing past the little man behind the curtain. After that, practice and supporting habit can begin to fill an armorarium that helps us through the strident attacks of a wounded ego.

      “I’m not sure what to do about it right now.”

      It’s all there.

      Question the “I.” Is there a “thinker behind the thought?”

      “Not sure…” Uncertainty is a perquisite to attention!

      “To do…” This construction turns action into the result of a plan instead of an emergence of mind.

      “About it…” About what? This couches existence as a problem awaiting solution.

      “Right now.” This implies time as a factor. Bohm and Krishnamurti – I’m holding myself to writing out their names in “long form” so as to keep in mind how annoying it must be to hear me spout these references again and again! – make connections between the intrusion of time into our judgements about existence as a causative factor in stripping away our sense of the unity of all things and the promotion of divisions and a falling under the thrall of thought. This is the central distinction between Being and Becoming.

      Let’s put it this way. An attitude of attention to Being opens us to emergent existence while a preoccupation with time sends us into the back and forth of past and future that keep us caught-up in compulsions and anxieties.

      There is such a connection between what we’re talking about here with the discoveries you’ve been making in your most recent post….

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  3. […] does not usually bring out much that is creative. It ends up being a repetitive waste of time.” Leavergirl “With this in mind, the debate in the Australian parliament has been morbidly interesting. With […]

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  4. […] David Bohm’s image of the paralyzed woman hitting herself in the darkness is not just a way to see how we are each affected by a lack of Proprioception. We can expand this image. Duplicate her and then duplicate them, again and again until the number of people acting out of fear in the darkness has reached our nearly ten billion. When we strike out against those who have struck us we only add to the foment. We do nothing to slow or stop the chain-reaction. This does not imply an ideological non-violence. What we do in self-defense; so long as we are ready to face the consequences in accepting responsibility, rejecting self-justification, and embracing the load of our grief; is, or might be, necessary. […]

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