Every two weeks or so I host a small Zoom conversation under the collective title ‘Breathing Together’. I manage a Facebook group called https://www.facebook.com/groups/ConsciousCompassionateCreativeConversation. I am interested in conversation.
I’m sometimes accused of writing long essays that no one is likely to read .. This is one of them. It is about conversation:
“Something fundamental changes when people begin to ask questions together. The questions create more of a learning conversation than the normal stale debate about problems.”
“An organization’s results are determined through webs of human commitments, born in webs of human conversations.”
Fernando Flores, former Chilean Minister of Finance
“Conversational Leadership is the … intentional use of conversation as a core process to cultivate the collective intelligence needed to create business and social value.”
These are quotes that I’ve found on a number of websites about the value and necessity of conversation ..
Perhaps the one that I like most is:
“So, instead of admonishing our children at school and employees in organizations to “Stop talking and get to work,” we might be better served to encourage them to “Start talking and create together!””
Juanita Brown and Tom Hurley.
All of these site are worth more than looking at, they are worth working with. I will certainly be looking at and working with these sites in more depth because they resonate with my own values and I think can support the actualisation of these values within me as the individual and within the communities in which I exist.
The values that I’m talking about, and which I’m sure that most people bothering to read this share, are based on the two axiomatic premises of the unity of consciousness and the intrinsic worth of all conscious beings. These are nowhere better articulated that by Jesus in Matthew 22:
“Thou shalt love the Lord thy God [the essential Unity of Consciousness] with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself [recognise yourself in the other]. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.”
These are to be considered absolute moral principles that Jesus clearly distinguished from relative and situational observances that might be derived from them. The difference is most epigrammatically expressed in the famous:
“The sabbath was made for man, and not man for the sabbath.”
Kant arrived at a similar articulation of absolute moral law by asking what law of action would a rational being construct if it did not know what situation it would be subject to when it was thrown into the actual world. His answer was that:
‘a) A person should act that the principle of one’s act could become a universal law of human action in a world in a world in which one would hope to live.
b) A person should treat other people as having intrinsic value, and not mearely as a means to achieve one’s end.’
The moral law whether understood as justice or as love is foundational to our existence as human/rational/social/spiritual beings because it is through our apprehension of this law that we also apprehend our intrinsic unity with all being and the intrinsic worth of each person including ourselves.
Jesus’s warmly intuited Love is a higher realisation of the moral law than Kant’s coldly calculated Justice which resonates with the laws of the Old Testament and the Law of Karma.
Jesus understand that forgiveness is the fulfilment of the moral law while Kant sees forgiveness of the murderer as contradicting that law. Nevertheless for both Jesus and Kant a life without connection to the core moral intuition is hardly a life at all. This should be self-evident.
“For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world, and forfeit his soul? “
It is dialogue/conversation that explicates the moral law because it is in conversation that we recognise our intrinsic unity with all and the intrinsic worth of each person including ourselves.
“If it is in speaking their word that people, by naming the world, transform it, dialogue imposes itself as the way by which they achieve significance as human beings.”
— Paulo Freire
Acting from dialogue is very different from acting from the imposed authority of a ruler or even a majority. The concept of Ubuntu is not uniquely African though expressions may be particularly African.
“Ubuntu is rooted in what I call a relational form of personhood, basically meaning that you are because of the others,..in other words, as a human being, you—your humanity, your personhood—you are fostered in relation to other people… It is about coming together and building a consensus around what affects the community. And once you have debated, then it is understood what is best for the community, and then you have to buy into that.”
In Ubuntu is the same truth that Kalhil Gibran express in ‘The Prophet’
“Like a procession you walk together towards your god-self.
You are the way and the wayfarers.
And when one of you falls down he falls for those behind him, a caution against the stumbling stone.
Ay, and he falls for those ahead of him, who though faster and surer of foot, yet removed not the stumbling stone.”
We are a procession. Humanity is a procession, we recognise this in conversation athe kind of conversation that reaches into our authenticity. Revolutionary and transformative and inclusive conversation:
“it is necessary to trust in the oppressed and in their ability to reason. Whoever lacks this trust will fail to initiate (or will abandon) dialogue, reflection, and communication, and will fall into using slogans, communiques, monologues, and instructions. Superficial conversions to the cause of liberation carry this danger”
Freire’s ‘Pedagogy of the Oppressed’ was published in 1968. I first read it sometime in the 1980’s and it speaks the same ‘root truth’ that Ubuntu, Freire, Gibran, Jesus and Kant express. We need to reach into these roots and pull inspiration from them. Personally I feel that I have to travel back forty or fifty years to re-ignite something that stalled that many years ago. A movement that perhaps arrived half a century before its time but that perhaps has laid the groundwork for the future if we recognise its prophetic significance. In 1980 Marilyn Ferguson wrote about ‘networks as a tool of transformation’ in the ‘Aquarian Conspiracy’:
NETWORKS—A TOOL OF TRANSFORMATION
“A revolution means that power changes hands, of course, but it does not necessarily mean open struggle, a coup, victor andvanquished. Power can be dispersed through the social fabric.
While most of our institutions are faltering, a twentiethcentury version of the ancient tribe or kinship has appeared: the network, a tool for the next step in human evolution.
Amplified by electronic communications, freed from the old restraints of family and culture, the network is the antidote to alienation. It generates power enough to remake society. It offers the individual emotional, intellectual, spiritual, and economic support. It is an invisible home, a powerful means of altering the course of institutions, especially government.
Anyone who discovers the rapid proliferation of networks and understands their strength can see the impetus for worldwide transformation. The network is the institution of our time: an open system, a dissipative structure so richly coherent that it is in constant flux, poised for reordering, capable of endless transformation. This organic mode of social organization is more biologically
adaptive, more efficient, and more “conscious” than the hierarchical structures of modern civilization. The network is plastic, flexible. In effect, each member is the center of the network.
Networks are cooperative, not competitive. They are true grass roots: self-generating, self-organizing, sometimes even self-destructing. They represent a process, a journey, not a frozen structure.
As Theodore Roszak said, the old revolutionary mass movements offered no more refuge to the person than did capitalist societies. “We need a class smaller than a proletariat…. The new politics will speak for the millions—one by one.”
‘The Aquarian Conspiracy’, the websites about the principles and practices of conversation together with the technologies that support conversational communities and networks. I need to revisit lessons from the past and learn fresh things about their application in the present. Different people will have different resources to draw upon but we all need to draw on whatever our root values are because we and our world need those values, of conscious solidarity, more than ever.
There is a PDF of ‘The Aquarian Conspiracy’ here: https://pdfs.semanticscholar.org/5ffc/a9c6a20da95af73fe666e534b1977b88ac50.pdf
The word ‘conspiracy’ means ‘breathing together’.