What is dialogue? I think it is a process. What is the process? I think the process is listening. Of course, there is a fundamental difficulty. Apparently we do not have this thing, listening. We only have thought. That is what we do. We don't seem to know a moment to moment watching, such an urgency of listening that burns up the listener. Why can't we say in dialogue that we don't know? Or perhaps we do say we don't know, but then a moment later thinking, knowledge, discussion continues. Why? Why not stop there in the 'don't know'?
Dialogue is a subtle thing. I have to distinguish between the different kinds of thought, otherwise I get lost at the very beginning. One of the subtleties is the problem of how to have a creative dialogue that uses thinking. How can I talk, how can I use words, how can I think creatively when thinking itself is conditioned? It seems that I inherit my language and most if not all of the ideas and meanings that I can express with it. Maybe very few expressions in speech or language are really original. I think that this is not a problem in dialogue.
Thinking is expressed in dialogue by speaking, obviously. But isn't the expression of thought perfected in listening, and isn't listening in fact the art of dialogue? I would like to propose that in dialogue speech doesn't come from thought. Instead that it comes from listening.
Then speaking is not a response of memory, it is a response of the moment. What is listening? Isn't it just the unfolding, the rolling out of the moment? It seems to be impossible to describe, it appears to be multi-dimensional. The pot plant by the window, the sound of the refrigerator, this room we are sitting in. Love, desire, fear. My response to the moment then is dialogue. What is important is surely the moment! I want to say that the foundation of dialogue is listening not thought, not even 'understanding', whatever that is.
I know that thought is strong and slippery, complicated and devious and very quick. Even in listening it often springs up. Where there is strong thought like that then there is suffering in the other. We share the suffering of the ego, its isolation, its antagonism, its loneliness, its polarity. And such thought seems to demand a reply. Why? Why does this kind of thought attract further thought like a strong magnet? In dialogue I have to be very 'on it' not to respond. The thought jumps out of my mouth, interrupts, talks over, has me on the edge of my seat. Emotion, like a flame underneath, kindles it further.
But doesn't this polarised thought which threatened me fade away quite quickly in listening? Instead, more and more is revealed. What is revealed is good. It is so good it might even be love. Total acceptance of her, total agreement with him. Concord.
In listening, I do not have time to evaluate or to process what is being said. And so the other will be able to express themselves perfectly. Whatever the expression it will disappear like vapour in the blue air. And in watching, the space between her and me, him and me will also disappear. That desire, that intellectualisation, that fear, that's me in fact! Then we are together in the space of dialogue again. That's good isn't it?
But to me, there often seems to be so little space. Perhaps this is because there is a kind of nervousness to stop for a moment. Someone comes along and says, that's not the real question my friend, you have to stop whatever it is you're doing and look at the present moment. And then there is usually an expectant pause which is almost unbearable. Perhaps the idea of listening seems rather boring; what is more pleasurable is good theory. And this kind of unanswerable question always seems to stop the dialogue, the flow. But in fact there was no dialogue, no flow; there was only the isolation and the loneliness of thought.
This moment of stopping is a kind of crisis. It is a threshold. It is not even a threshold; with a threshold there is somewhere further to go. It is a desert. I do not have anything other than myself, and now even that is denied to me. But that is where I must be, in the desert of my spirit, of myself. Because I don't know. That is perhaps the start of a different process, a different dialogue.