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In the Introduction to Bohm’s book, On Dialogue, Peter Senge shares his view of the modern world – a world that “is full of increasingly stunning technological advances and an increasing inability to live together.” The fundamental problem here, according to Bohm, is that “the whole is too much. There is no way by which thought can hold the whole because thought only abstracts; it limits and defines.”
It was Bohm’s belief that in order to understand wholes, you have to participate rather than isolate. As a physicist, he had an understanding about the universe – a participatory universe where meaning continually unfolds. Because everything is interconnected, we (as human beings) are part of the universe. And if the universe is participatory; then we are too, making possible among us a different kind of consciousness – what Bohm called participatory consciousness.
When a group attains Generative Dialogue, “each person is participating – is partaking of the whole meaning of the group and also taking part in it.” Yet we tend to separate or isolate ourselves from whatever is within the whole and therefore cannot take part in it. And this is when we return to abstracting, judging and defending.
Because we experience the world in polarity, for the most part we tend to separate ourselves from each another. There is pain and there is beauty. There is anger and there is love. There are good guys and there are bad guys. There are possibilities and there are challenges. And there is right and there is wrong.
We hold different beliefs. We have different identities. And because most of what we see in the world is a projection of our own fears, we make assumptions and judgments and feel a need to defend when others don’t share our world view.
But if the universe is indeed participatory; and if everything and everyone are truly connected, doesn’t that suggest that there are no “good guys” and “bad guys” separate from ourselves? Isn’t it instead that we “all participate in creating the forces that give rise to what exists – both what we value and what we abhor”?
David Bohm’s vision was a different more viable way of living together. As a physicist, he was dedicated to understanding how the universe works. As a human being, he wanted to “bring that same sort of understanding into the center of human affairs.”
The whole may be too much; but we have to try. Because It is through the invitation of Dialogue that we will “test the viability of traditional definitions of what it means to be human and collectively explore the prospect of an enhanced humanity.”
Image: Gerd Altmann Freiburg, Deutschland
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