Is This the Best We Can Do?
“Service to others is the rent we pay for our place here on earth.”
Sometimes when lying sleepless at night, I reflect. It isn’t my favorite pastime at night, I assure you, though I teach its importance in Bohm-inspired Dialogue. But, in my tossing and turning, waiting for either sleep or the first light of day, I reflect on my life, our world, what isn’t working, and why are things seeming to go downhill everywhere around me, the climate crisis getting worse, our government so polarized, the gun violence erupting?
One paradox I reflected on just last night was how the live comedy show I had attended had brought people from all political persuasions together for 90 minutes. We all laughed about our common human dilemmas: parents becoming teachers during COVID, children turning to video games and Cheetos when their parents weren’t watching or could no longer cope, how the streets were empty, but the air got cleared of smog. We could all laugh together about these common experiences. It didn’t matter if we were Republicans or Democrats during these two long years of the pandemic isolation.
I reflected on how humor and Dialogue can bring people together during such rough times. We can feel a connection through our laughter at ourselves and at digging down deep at what matters most to each other.
In my sleeplessness last night, I reflected on a program I had watched the day before. It was a dialogue between teenagers and Jane Goodall on a program that airs during the weekdays at 8am – 9:30am PDT called Humanity Rising. The focus on that day’s program was on the mental health of our youth.
They talked about how difficult it is to be hopeful these days, with the stark realities of climate change and the threats to our democracy. Jane Goodall’s wisdom was so helpful. Her research of chimpanzees, our closest human cousins shows our DNA is almost identical. The thing that differentiates us is our human neo-cortex which gave us language. Humans can talk between ourselves and think together and plan for our shared future. We can take care of the natural world and all life that unfolds from it. We are the only species that can do that.
Again, my tossing and turning last night had me take the plunge into my own life’s journey. One part of me kept saying that I should be retiring by now. My hair is getting grayer and my energy less abundant. Yet I’m busier than ever with my work on ‘Bohm-inspired Dialogue.’ Along with my business partner, Glenna Gerard, through the ActionDialogueGroup.com, we are currently providing 18 people in China with a program on the Foundational History and Skills of Dialogue. We are offering this program and a more advanced one to the public beginning in September. I am also continuing my climate activism and have co-founded with an amazing group of partners, a new organization: the climatedialoguegroup.com. Is this my service that Muhammad Ali suggested as my rent for my place on this earth?
Is this the best I can do at this juncture in my life? Is this enough? Should or can I do more? Would it be better to do less? What is the right balance between enjoying what is left of my life vs. trying to save what is left for future generations? I know that I am not alone in reflecting on these questions.
I sensed the light when morning finally came and jumped out of bed, relieved to move into the day, though not rested. At least no longer trapped with only these deep, self-reflective questions. I could go onto breakfast and into my day’s activities without taking the whole world on in my sleepless tossing reflections. I can understand why younger generations are struggling how to make sense out of the future coming towards them. For me, well into my crone years, I also struggle with the future, but I have less of it to deal with. And, of course, the struggle over how I can make a difference and am I doing enough?
Jane Goodall pointed out on the video that our species has been too successful. We have taken over the planet – now needing 4 planets just to keep up with our current level of consumption!! Yikes. We are causing a mass extinction of other species and we might be next.
David Bohm, whose work I follow, would say this is what ‘fragmentation of thought,’ does. We don’t realize how our collective past choices have led us to where we are right now. When fossil fuels entered into human life, we did not reflect on where they would take us. And, now, even when we see where they are taking us, we shrug our shoulders because we don’t want to reflect on it together. For most of us, change is scary. Dialogue, because it causes us to reflect together, would force us to make changes. But, because we don’t give ourselves enough reflection time, we are heading to even worse times in the future. We will keep building on our past choices without coming to the realization that that is the root problem of all of the terrible symptoms that are springing up everywhere around us.
So often in the Dialogue work I do, people ask how they can show others the importance of Dialogue when what most people want to do is to move into action to solve our problems without first taking the time to talk much about them upfront? I reply to these questions that Dialogue is action. It is the first step in taking aligned conscious action. Without dialogue there is only that which continues to ‘fragment’ or that which keeps us repeating our past choices. We will keep burning fossil fuels, for instance, to power our cars because that is how things are from our past choices. We feel powerless over the complex way we have co-created our world together. Yet, all of what is has sprung from our collective thought over our past. We just don’t reflect and realize it on an everyday basis. And, more importantly we don’t realize how we can co-create a completely different world by learning how to ‘think together.’
David Bohm’s proposal of Dialogue has the potential to build on what Jane Goodall tells us is our species’ greatest and unique ability of language. It provides us a process for using our species-specific forte, our language ability, for ‘thinking together.’ And the real potential before us is that we can use it consciously for creating the future we all want. Without it we seem to be waiting for the comet coming towards us (as in the movie “Don’t Look Up”) without taking any action. That is not the future I feel any of us want.
Perhaps joining with others in Dialogue is one way that you and I can be of ‘service to each other…and pay the rent for our place here on earth.’
Please consider taking our upcoming programs on Bohm-inspired Dialogue and pass the information on to others in your network. It is a critically effective way we can change our world for the better.