“…a stream of meaning flowing among and through us and between us.”
David Bohm, Introduction to On Dialogue
“and the stones show me the way….”
Welcome to Concentric Dialogue!
This site is where this new project is being born. Its home as it develops.
What is Concentric Dialogue?
Let’s see if this can be illuminated by a meandering little story…
The image at the top of the page, and in our preliminary logo, is of a charcoal drawing I did around 1991. In the last few years, as I’ve returned to painting after a long break, I’ve found resonance in the imagery of these earlier works. Discovered connections I wasn’t aware of when they were drawn.
This drawing, Flow, connects with a story David Bohm often told. As a bookish boy he felt physically clumsy, accustomed to moving with a deliberation more suited to an old man. One day on an outing with some other boys they came to a stream. His companions rushed across. He hesitated. Noticing stepping stones, an insight arose that never left him. To deal with complexity we must trust in a flying leap. No amount of planning will insure our feet will stay dry.
Many years before I encountered David Bohm’s work I’d come to draw this image as part of a series of large, 32″ x 40″ charcoal drawings.
Open improvisations. A first stroke generating an impulse resulting in another. Each mark or erasure building a totality emerging as it appeared. I still relish the feel of inch-thick vine-charcoal. A stick cut from a meandering vine distilled into velvety-black carbon, fitting my hand. Dissolving into the textured paper. Gouts of powdered carbon-black running down the sheet and settling onto the floor. Charcoal acting almost as a liquid, flowing and splashing upon the surface. Each drawing took only a few moments. Coming into focus, arriving at a totality, achieving a presence somehow akin to what we feel encountering another being – thing or creature.
Now here we are, taking a flying leap into this project. It seems like a good totem….
David Bohm may be one of the most important thinkers of the Twentieth Century. He’s also one of the least well-known. I’d heard his name in passing. Worked with Bohr and Einstein….
Then I ran across Bohm’s collaborations with Jiddu Krishnamurti – the other most important, not well-known 20th C. thinker. The physicist and the Eastern mystic-turned-philosopher teamed in the seventies and eighties, pooling their insights. Coming from broadly different starting points, developing an entire new way of looking at thought and feelings and the coherence – or lack of it – in our present understanding of how we confront the world.
A deep study can be made of their work. Here are a few places you could start. I’ve gone about my confrontation with their work a little differently. As with many threads appearing in these last years, from System Theory to The Dark Mountain Manifesto, I’ve been struck by a resonance with my own meditations over the years. Not so much like encountering and then studying interesting new theories, as recognizing currents I’ve long imagined. As if discovering old friends I’d forgotten I knew.
Years ago, these sorts of recognitions – there’s even a novel with that title from the fifties! – inflamed my Ego. I gave up painting for over a decade as a result. Now I see this all quite differently. Recognitions resonate as we are ready to find them. We don’t invent them. We find them. As with any creative work, confrontation and engagement with something beyond the limitations of a single human mind take on tacit meaning.
This is very much what Bohm & Krishnamurti were up to.
He turned his attention to the broadest questions of how we may live, questions of meaning and value, instead of remaining locked into a specialized silo. What we look for here in his work are insights into the development of a practice. And, as with any useful practice, it is much more important to engage in it than to study it. The proof is in its results. We arrive at results by doing, not in study.
A rather rushed preamble….
I wrote this essay a few years ago in an attempt to see past a perceived impasse Dialogue entered after Bohm’s death. He envisioned Dialogue as a conversation, a series of conversations, among up to forty people. A wide a range of perspectives brought to bear to overcome the limitations of each person’s narrow view.
There is a whole history of Bohmian Dialogue. We suggest this approach. As some of us met online over the past few years we opened ourselves to a spirit of dialogue. We’ve come to this notion of Concentric Dialogue:
Two or three of us, with an established history and developed rapport, enter into a conversation, live-streamed and recorded. An interlocutor acts as a stand-in for those unfamiliar with the core conversants and their assumptions. A role David Bohm took on himself in recorded conversations with Krishnamurti.
To take advantage of the interactive capabilities of a live-streamed event a monitor interacts with texts sent into the stream, finding the right moment to insert these threads into the conversation without disrupting its dynamic. A conversation begins. It is accessible. We’ll see what happens next!
A live event will literally be concentric. A table, a few people in a proximate ring connected to the conversation directly. A permeable ring of looser attention surrounds this one. A place where people come and go as their interest waxes and wanes.
This is the concept!
It’s going to take some doing to get this off the ground. I expect this fist stab at an introduction makes for a poor explanation and doesn’t begin to address your questions.
Let’s say for now these are conversations without agenda. The only intention going-in is to be open and receptive. Topics may start with anything that springs to mind, though they have tended to migrate towards a recognition of our general predicament and how this attitude of engagement can help us discover creative responses.
“a noun is a slow verb.”
These written conversations can form a parallel dialogue. A slow dialogue. A correspondence.
Consider entering into this process as well as attending our CD events.
I can’t promise our feet will stay dry, but I do expect this to be fun!