"Dialogue, as we are choosing to use the word, is a way of exploring the roots of the many crises that face humanity today. It enables inquiry into, and understanding of, the sorts of processes that fragment and interfere with real communication between individuals, nations and even different parts of the same organization.
- [D. Bohm, D. Factor and P. Garrett (1991) "Dialogue - A Proposal"]
"A key difference between a dialogue and an ordinary discussion is that, within the latter people usually hold relatively fixed positions and argue in favour of their views as they try to convince others to change. At best this may produce agreement or compromise, but it does not give rise to anything creative" [Bohm, D., and Peat, D. (1987) Science, order, and creativity, New York: Bantam].
- "The purpose of dialogue", David Bohm suggests, "is to reveal the incoherence in our thought." In so doing it becomes possible to discover or re-establish a "genuine and creative collective consciousness." The process of dialogue is a process of "awakening;" it entails a free flow of meaning among all the participants.
"All real living is meeting" 1 "I do not accept any absolute formulas for living. No preconceived code can see ahead to everything that can happen in a man's life. As we live, we grow and our beliefs change. They must change. 2
- 1 [Buber, M. (1958) I and Thou, 2e, Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark; trans. R. Gregory Smith
- 2 [Martin Buber, quoted by Hodes, A. (1972) Encounter with Martin Buber, London: Allen Lane/Penguin]
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Achieving understanding of a sexual orientation or gender identity other than one's own is a challenge of knowledge, experience, and empathy. The differences of sexual and gender diversity are not always obvious, like eye color or height. Sexual and gender diversity involve our bodies and the most personal of feelings and behaviors. Discussions about our bodies, feelings and behaviors often evoke presumptions of divergent values. As a result, questions are not asked, attitudes are not examined.
Jewish tradition encourages questions. Contemporary life presents opportunities daily to re-examine our attitudes. Asking questions, encountering knowledge, and reflecting on our attitudes, though, requires an intention and consciousness that is represented in the word "dialogue."
By putting aside particular agendas and assumptions to engage in dialogue, people create common meanings with each other. They benefit from reflecting on each other's experiences. They share the transformation from opinion to knowledge to understanding.
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Study the JHVRC materials in hevruta with a classmate, colleague or friend, particularly the Case Studies and the classic Jewish texts in the Text Study section.
Engage in study about the role of sexual orientation and gender identity with faculty members and social action groups on campus or in your local communities that are interested in matters of equality, justice, ending discrimination, or inclusion in the Jewish community.
David Bohm sets out three basic conditions for Dialogue:
1. Participants must suspend their assumptions.
"What is essential here is the presence of the spirit of dialogue, which is in short, the ability to hold many points of view in suspension, along with a primary interest in the creation of common meaning" [Bohm and Peat 1987]. Suspending an assumption does not mean ignoring it, but rather "holding it in front of us" ready for exploration.
2. Participants must view each other as colleagues or peers.
Dialogue occurs when people appreciate that they are involved in a mutual quest for understanding and insight. "A Dialogue is essentially a conversation between equals" (Bohm et. al. 1991).
3. In the early stages there needs to be a facilitator who "holds the context" of dialogue.
"Their role should be to occasionally point out situations that might seem to be presenting sticking points for the group, in other words, to aid the process of collective problem solving, but these interventions should never be manipulative nor obtrusive" (Bohm et. al. 1991). They continue, 'guidance, when it is felt to be necessary, should take the form of 'leading from behind' and preserve the intention of making itself redundant as quickly as possible."
Dialogue is, thus, speech across, between or through two people. It entails a particular kind of relationship and interaction. In this sense it is not so much a specific communicative form of question and answer, "but at heart a kind of social relation that engages its participants" [Burbules, N. (1993) Dialogue in Teaching. Theory and practice, New York: Teachers College Press].
Burbules continues to list certain virtues and emotions that dialogue entails:
* Concern: In being with our partners in conversation, to engage them with us, there is more going on than talk about the overt topic. There is a social bond that entails interest in, and a commitment to the other.
* Trust: We have to take what others are saying on faith - and there can be some risk in this.
* Respect: While there may be large differences between partners in conversation, the process can go on if there is mutual regard. This involves the idea that everyone is equal in some basic way and entails a commitment to being fair-minded, opposing degradation and rejecting exploitation.
* Appreciation: Linked to respect, this entails valuing the unique qualities that others bring.
* Affection: Conversation involves a feeling with, and for, our partners.
* Hope: While not being purely emotional, hope is central. We engage in conversation in the belief that it holds possibility. Often it is not clear what we will gain or learn, but faith in the inherent value of education carries us forward.
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