19 December 2010

Dialogue & Necessity

I was imagining that I might write an entry about blogging itself, but I found myself writing about dialogue instead. In doing so I have used some terms like systems thinking, emergence, etc. without really defining them. I hope you are not overly bothered by this. I feel certain that I will come back to ask more about those things.

Is necessity the mother of invention? This is a pretty deeply held cultural icon. If it is, what are the implications of this?

In the Bohmian sense of dialogue it is usually the case that first dialogue is about the nature of dialogue itself. There are several aspects to this, it seems to me. One of the primary dimensions is the consideration together and for oneself about the 'purpose' of dialogue, and of any particular dialogue. In a certain sense, for me, dialogue is not a 'functional' undertaking in the modern sense. It is not intended as a means by which operational decisions are taken, though that is not excluded in the broadest sense. One way to consider this is that the moment of dialogue is not about some other moment. It is about that particular moment and these particular people in that moment, exactly as we are.

This is frustrating to many people when they feel a need to get something done. It may be one of the things that Bohm is pointing to when he talks about the nature of necessity, it seems to me. There are some aspects to this that are not immediately apparent and can be hard to unpack. The inquiry into some felt necessity in itself is not a proscription against action. It is an inquiry. Typically when we consider action, particularly action where we feel there is some urgent problem that must be solved, we do not engage in an inquiry beyond the functional means of accomplishing that action. We can even be frustrated or angered when asked to do so. It may seem to us in the moment that such an inquiry reduces our effectiveness. So why would we inquire into some necessity of this or that moment or context?

The first thing to realize is that such an inquiry itself is not necessary. That said, an inquiry into or observation of any apparent necessity might be considered from within several contexts. One context is the capacity for such an action in and of itself. The practice of self observation and inquiry in the areas where we might feel the most identified with some necessity or other is in itself a developed capacity, both individually and collectively. In the absence of a lived experience of this capacity it is a bit difficult to determine the value it may or may not hold. From this point of view the inquiry into any moment of necessity, often arising as conflict, is also a developmental act. It is a kind of 'investment' in one's being or way of relating in all such moments. This also makes it a kind of practice of compassion, since much of our suffering arises in and even as a result of the enactment of a certain self identification and attachment with and as some some moment of apparently self evident necessity. From this point of view, the 'purpose' of dialogue itself is a practice of compassion through and in which we are looking into the structural nature of suffering and the specific suffering of any moment of necessity and attachment.

We can also consider it from the point of view of systems thinking. From the point of view of systems thinking the inquiry into necessity is an inquiry into the structures that we are currently enacting with regard to that necessity itself. This means an inquiry into the context for the 'problem' the structures, patterns and habits associated with or even serving as the context for that 'problem' as an arising phenomena in the first place. This has a functional purpose. One way to consider this functional purpose is to imagine that solutions for problems that are based on the same assumptions as the system in which the problem itself is occurring tend to perpetuate or even amplify the 'problem'. If this is case, then the inquiry into the assumptions that give the problem meaning becomes very important.

Emergence is another context in which we might consider the inquiry into necessity that can take place in a dialogue. There are many ways to imagine this. Consider, with respect to your any necessity of the moment, do you imagine 'solving' it by yourself or through participation with other humans? If you imagine that participation with other humans might be involved, might it be the case the quality of that participation could have an effect on the quality of the particular result? (If you do not imagine participation with other humans why would we be talking about it, and why haven't you already 'solved' or dissolved it?) Another way to say this is that the unexamined necessity constrains or limits the field in which action and phenomena can arise. This is what people are trying to get at with brainstorming and 'out of the box' thinking, etc. The inquiry into some, any, assumed necessity opens the field in which emergence occurs. How much emergence, or creativity, can take place within the injunction 'we/you must/should do this'?

Yet another way of considering this initial inquiry into dialogue itself is that it serves as the basis for paradigm shift or transcending the enacted pattern of paradigms altogether. The activity of or motive to persuade an other of some, any, necessity becomes the act of inquiring within oneself and together into the nature of the necessity itself. In the process the modeled assumptions that are the structure of the necessity become transparent. We self observe the act of arguing from within our own paradigmatic reality. We observe this individually and together. We 'suspend' or make transparent the interpretive act in which we are engaged in that moment. The functional expression of that suspension is the active inquiry into some, any, necessity. The inquiry is then not about the necessity from within the paradigm that is generating it, but rather a reflection on the underlying values associated with the enactment of this or that paradigm itself. We can begin to see the field of being from which we might be enacting some particular paradigm. We begin to see our participation in and as that field both individually and together. In that moment a different quality of acceptance, forgiving, and choice are available to us. In the moment that we see we are animating a pattern, perhaps even habitually and unconsciously, we can make choices about that. This moment is not proscriptive. This is not a moment of assessment about whether the felt necessity is itself right or wrong. It is a moment of recognition. We may leave such a moment with greater clarity about some, any, necessity, rather than some proscriptive ruling that we should not feel it as necessary. It is a moment of freedom, which is not about the optionality to do this or that, but rather about recognition of our own choices and enactment.

One final aspect of this (for now) is that we are freed, in some sense, from the grip of our habitual fear. The fear itself may or may not dissolve in this moment for us, individually and together. The animated contraction of fear may become transparent to us. When it is not transparent such an animation can become the context for our being. We can habitually animate, in ourselves and in our participation, a state that is appropriate to some immediate, felt threat to our survival. We might do this to the extent that we are self identified with and as some, any, unexamined necessity. The basic characteristic of this shift is a shift from an animation of self as separate to reality as an expression of interconnectedness. Such a shift cannot itself be accomplished in order to fix something about our habitual state of fear and separateness. This itself is an example of the sort of 'fix' that amplifies the apparent 'problem.' Soon we would have Interconnectedness Laws and Enforcement Agencies. What must be realized or re-cognized is that it is the fear that is enacted, not the interconnectedness. Another way to say this is that in the absence of some fear based animation or enactment reality is already coherent, interconnected: a unity. This possibility cannot meaningfully be asserted or insisted upon in most cases. Such a possibility can only be contemplated, in the truest sense of that word.

This contemplation is the fundamental nature of dialogue. As such, it is a contemplation of beauty, though it may not be pretty. It is a contemplation of happiness in the truest sense, though it may not be fun or entertaining. It is a contemplation of truth, though it may not be right. In that contemplation together we might seem to pass through many of the conditional patterns of our suffering and enacted fear... or they may seem to pass through us individually and together. Initially, and to the extent that we feel ourselves self-identified with and functional as such patterning, we may not experience this as pleasurable in any normal sense. The dialogue enactment is not trying to get someplace. The dialogue is not trying to fix something about any of this. The contemplation is not trying to accomplish something. The dialogue, truly understood, simply is. That is the nature of contemplation, in which we are in and as the presence of something felt as whole along with all that re-cognition imbues. The our-being of that moment (as all moments, recognized or not) is not separate from the interconnectedness or prior unity contemplated. The contemplation itself is not separate. This is true in any moment of a dialogue, regardless of how it looks, though we may not be present to that in some, any, moment.

My own feeling is that to participate in a dialogue, as such, one might wish first to be present to the felt reality of such a contemplation and, to whatever extent is authentically possible in the moment, to simply rest there in the process of dialogue. In this state the structure and habits of thought, as a field, become transparent. Paradigms and models become transparent, as such. One's participation in and enactment of one's own suffering becomes transparent. One way to understand this transparency is to imagine that the field from which and in which such patterns are arising is apparent. Ground of being becomes apparent.
Clearly though, in any moment, I may not be resting there. Perhaps I feel agitated. I feel some attachment. I feel offended. I feel certain that some other is wrong about something. I feel unheard and unseen. Maybe I feel angry or sad. Perhaps I do not notice that I feel these things. Perhaps I experience myself as these things. I am this or that. I have a problem. It is necessary to fix it. If you do not agree, you are wrong. Perhaps some you are my problem. The moment of dialogue is also the exploration into this individually and together. The arising of some particular conflict or asserted, felt necessity is like a doorway or reflective surface that allows what is.

I've written something brief on the source of 'necessity is the mother of invention' which is from the Republic and will write something on the division of labor from Adam Smith related to that later this week.

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