The First Parish Blog

Can You Risk Change?

By , Published on January 17, 2017

For this month’s Big Question Forum we ask: Can you be open to dialogue with The Other? Are you willing to risk growth, being changed by elements of a perspective you had previously thought abhorrent?

The thoughtful blogger Maria Popova recently posted an interesting perspective on this topic on her BrainPickings site. Citing the thought of the late legendary physicist David Bohm as detailed in his book On Dialogue, the post addresses what she calls the “Crucial Difference Between Discussion and Dialogue, and What Is Keeping Us from Listening to One Another.” Bohm defines the difference between Dialogue and Discussion this way:

  • Dialogue is an open exchange of meaning, “flowing among and through us and between us.”
  • Discussion, Bohm points out, has the same root as percussion and concussion. It is “like a ping-pong game, where people are batting the ideas back and forth and the object of the game is to win or to get points for yourself.”

Who changes? Dialogue involves an openness by all parties to be impacted, to be changed, by the exchange. Discussion by contrast implies a contest where each participant, unchanging, tries to change the other(s).

But dialogue is risky to the extent that it may involve letting go of something, some idea, some assumption, some “truth”, which is part of one’s self-identity and thus highly valued.

So in this season when we may find ourselves in conversations with others who hold differing perspectives, we wondered whether dialogue is possible. Or will we cling to our familiar perspective, resisting any opportunity for growth?

Join us on Tuesday, January 24, at 7:30pm in the Parlor as we take up these questions.

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