From Lou Marinoff, Professor and Chair of Philosophy at The City College of New York, founding president of the American Philosophical Practitioners Association, and author of the bestseller Plato Not Prozac!
Dialogue is indeed a vital and indispensable modality of human interaction. Dialogue furthers mutual understanding, deepens human relations, and serves many purposes: educational, therapeutic, diplomatic, motivational, and revelatory, among others. Monologue leads us nowhere; dialogue takes us everywhere.
From Ved Nanda was a Distinguished University Professor and formerly Thompson G. Marsh Professor of Law at the University of Denver, where he founded the International Legal Studies Program
President Ikeda’s reflections in the aftermath of 9/11 on the power of dialogue above all and his sage advice to listen and learn from those different from us should resonate with all who aspire for global peace. Today’s world, torn by ethnic and religious conflicts, suffers from mistrust and hatred, leading to widespread death and destruction. This has led to humanitarian crises in several countries. Take for instance the Republic of Congo, where 6 million people have died and precious minerals fuel internal conflict. Look at Syria — 125,000 people dead and six million displaced, including two million refugees. We are indeed compelled to find alternatives to the use of force in resolving disputes.
The UN was established for just this purpose — to create a neutral setting where world leaders could enter into dialogue, exchange ideas, and create a climate of mutual understanding, which would eventually lead to stable and lasting peace. We have to live up to these ideals and, along with President Ikeda, believe in the power of dialogue above all.
From Bernice Lerner, senior scholar at Boston University’s Center for Character and Social Responsibility and author, All the Horrors of War: A Jewish Girl, a British Doctor, and the Liberation of Bergen-Belsen
Can we listen to and learn from those who are no longer with us? In such cases, we cannot hope for mutual understanding, but our spiritual openness can spur inner transformation.
I recently learned about an interesting model of dialogue that involves young people exploring the lives of deceased compatriots. The program, called “Schools of Dialogue,” invites Polish middle and high school students to trace the paths of—and come to know—Jews who had lived in their hometowns. Who were these individuals who walked their streets, owned businesses in their neighborhoods, attended local schools, and worshipped in synagogues that have since been re-purposed?
Jews lived and flourished in Poland for 1,000 years. During the Nazi Holocaust, 90% of the country’s three million Jews were murdered. Each Polish city, town, and village holds a sacred piece of history. By assigning students to search for evidence of lives that had been destroyed—by having them visit archives, take note of faded signposts, and interview survivors and older residents—“Schools of Dialogue” guides foster meaningful, empathic connection.
I am struck by two characteristics of this worthy initiative: First, the starting point is an established commonality: the persecuted navigated the very same territory (i.e., the same alleys and thoroughfares; the same mountains and rivers and forests), as do today’s inhabitants of a particular area. Second, in taking a leap of the moral imagination as part of a close-to-home assignment, the young researcher can experience the flowering of his or her greater self, a self that will more likely care to break down walls of mistrust, hatred, and division in “the hearts of people everywhere.”
Dialogue may be helped initially by the realization of a shared experience. It can be extended beyond the original conversation to a compassionate stance that includes all of humanity.
From Ann Diller, Professor Emerita, Philosophy of Education, University of New Hampshire
A couple of years ago, I had an absolutely delightful time participating in the 8th Annual Ikeda Forum on Cultivating the Greater Self. Virginia Benson and I entered into dialogue on the subject of Dialogue and the Greater Self. In my presentation I talked about the importance of listening inwardly as well as outwardly. I suggested we work on listening with compassion to all our inner voices including those that sound like a Lesser Self. On that morning, I spoke many words on this subject. Sometime later, I came across these very few words on the subject — in a poem by Sinkichi Takahashi. I offer his poem as a brief poetic commentary on core convictions one and six:
I don’t take your words
Merely as words.
Far from it.
To what makes you talk —
Whatever that is —
And me listen.
* From Triumph of the Sparrow: Zen Poems of Shinkichi Takahashi, translated from the Japanese by Lucien Stryk with Takashi Ikemoto (Grove Press, 1986).