Dreaming of Dialogue


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Last night I met a man in a dream. He emerged from the darkness, waving his phone maniacally about his head, seemingly trying to ward away a group of small blue birds.

“It’s no good, it’s no good! I cannot hide from difference!” he moaned.

“Oh? And why not?” I enquired.

“Because difference is the gateway to the future,” came the response. “It is only through contact with other perspectives that I can find creative ways forward.”

He was a strange one alright, but it is permissible to be strange in dreams and he seemed a decent sort. “Take care, my friend – difference is also a gateway to destruction,” I reminded him.

“It’s true, I know it! Judgement is the root of the problem. As soon as one judges another perspective to be wrong, it’s all too easy to judge the holder of the perspective – to see him as stupid; to think him wicked; to regard him as being of less worth than oneself.” He looked guilty.

“Yep, I’ve been there too,” I empathised. “Differences in perspective on football, politics, religion – you name it – they lead to conflict between the I and the other; between people and between peoples. I really do think hiding is for the best – keep your head in the sand.”

“Then I am condemned to plough the same furrow for the rest of my days!” He beckoned me forward and reduced his voice to a whisper: “But what if I could suspend my judgement of the other? What if I gave myself time to look at it, to look out from it, to familiarise myself with it, to understand it?”

“Well, you could give it a go, I suppose.” Oh dear – another washed up idealist!

“What if I could witness the fire in which the other was forged? What if I could recognise that perspectives are formed from experience, not from badness? And what if the other could do the same?”

“Steady on now, old man.” This was eccentric even for a dream.

“What if, having allowed the perspectives, mine and his, to circle each other in a dance of familiarisation, we allowed them to joust; to fence; to conflict? What if in the process they became indistinct; interwoven; interlocked? Would we, the holders of the perspectives, be diminished, corrupted; would we have betrayed out identities? What if the cavorting perspectives became pregnant with new perspectives? Who would be the father, who would be the mother?”

They say eating something that’s ‘off’ can lead to ridiculous reveries like this, I mused.

“What if I and the other could no longer be separated, but were forever entangled with each other no matter how far we travelled apart? Would I be tainted; polluted; defiled? Or would I be a wiser man?”

“Yes… quite. Well thanks for that, but I must be waking up now.”

“No, wait! What if we could all find a space in which ideas could come into creative conflict, without people coming into destructive conflict? Maybe this space lies beyond the gateway of difference – a space of dialogue – a dialogic space!”

“Err – right – I’ll leave you to look for that then shall I? Although if it’s constructive dialogue with other perspectives you’re after, you could try Twitter.”

One of the small blue birds pecked his nose. He looked angry. He began to insult me in what I can only describe as a most ‘unprofessional’ manner, and walked away yelling ‘Unfollow! Unfollow!” at his phone.


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