The Lost Art of Communication
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Across the Great Divide
At Yggdrasil’s Mystery School/Retreat for Visionary Contrarians, our basic “curriculum” revolves around four basic soul tasks. The third of these is “inviting dialogue between diverse intelligences.” Diverse intelligences can include beings of the more-than-human world with whom we share this planet – plants, animals, rocks, rivers, clouds, and mountains; and beings of the unseen realms – spirit guides, animal totems, characters in a dream. But most fundamentally, it includes other human beings.
Unless we can learn how to communicate with each other – across sometimes seemingly insurmountable barriers posed by the differences between us – then there is little hope that the human species will survive the damage that we are doing to the planet, its other inhabitants, and each other. As renowned physicist David Bohm wrote in his classic, On Dialogue – nearly 20 years ago now (1):
"During the past few decades, modern technology . . . has woven a network of communications which puts each part of the world into almost instant contact with all the other parts. Yet, in spite of this worldwide system of linkages, there is, at the very moment, a general feeling that communication is breaking down everywhere, on an unparalleled scale."
Since Bohm saw the early handwriting on the digital wall, email, cell phones, text messaging, Twitter, Facebook, Skype, and other conveniences of the Internet Age have made communication even more instantaneous than he imagined, and virtually unimpeded by barriers of time and space anywhere on the planet. Information and misinformation is omnipresent, just a Google search away. Yet despite all this genuinely amazing technology, the evolution of our communication skills has not kept pace, and we seem to be mired in deepening trouble because of it.
Nations with different political ideologies, economic interests, or ethnicities routinely and easily descend into war with other nations, impatient with the lost art of diplomacy, much less any sincere attempt to see the conflict from the other’s point of view. Within nations, differences between people lead to systemic patterns of sexism, racism, ageism, gross economic disparities, political gridlock, censorship, genocide, and other atrocities born of a basic failure to communicate.
Even within smaller groups and subcultures, minor differences can trigger irrational patterns of response that make genuine interaction awkward at best, impossible at worst. Divorce rates are high; isolated, bullied teenagers commit suicide; and the Supreme Court declares money to be speech – essentially all because we have forgotten what genuine communication is.
How did we get to this impasse, and what can we do about it? These are very large questions, and I won’t pretend to have ultimate answers. But in this blog series, I want to explore some of the dimensions of good communication, and how they are an essential component of healing person and planet. If we are going to focus at Yggdrasil on the art of dialogue among diverse intelligences, then it will be helpful to start by getting clear about what exactly we mean by that.
(1) David Bohn, On Dialogue, London, England and New York, NY: Routledge, 1996, p. 1.
The next post in this series is Communication – the Quest for Common Ground.
To read more blog posts, go here.