Dialogue is to Collaboration What Water is to Fish

I enjoyed reading this book recently, Community Conversations, written by Paul Born (2012) from Canada. I haven’t met Paul in person, but he is someone that has been recommended to me by others.

I love Paul’s reference to connect dialogue and collaboration. Essential. Essence. I like the way that he points the narrative to going as community. Collaboration sometimes means the details of getting ducks in a row. Often, however, it means something much less projecty than that. It’s lifeline, the medium of water to fish, that connects us and sustains us in engagement together. It’s lifeline to help us encounter more of the invisible that is created “among” us, not just in any one of us. Ah, shoot, I just love it when people encourage a narrative of wholeness. And, of course, it’s not just about words. Dialogue, and conversation, are just a couple of the ways that we humans get to wholeness, aren’t they.

Here’s a few other insights I found and appreciated in Paul’s book.

  • “Dialogue is a collective way to open up judgements and assumptions (David Bohm).” — Given that I’m in a summer in which much of the work I’m convening is deep dives into The Circle Way, this concept jumps out at me. It helps respond to the question of “Why go together?” And, knowing that there are many responses to this question, one that excites me is about being able to see together what can’t be seen alone. It’s hard to tickle yourself. It kind of needs another person. It’s hard to see assumptions. We kind of need each other.
  • “The first skill is the ability to see the forest and the trees (Peter Senge).” — Beauty here, isn’t there. It’s not just one of the two, though some of us are uniquely oriented to forest while some of us are naturally focused on the trees. I love the invitation, and requirement, to cultivate capacity to see both. If I go back to The Circle Way with this, I love the way that circle creates container to see the forest and flip fluidly between foreground and background. With groups, it’s the aha glimpse when someone speaks the ephemeral that is trying to be seen among us and we all nod in delight for the clarity that gives us direction. Or grounding. Forest. Trees.
  • “The second skill is to nurture the tension between process and action.” — I run into this everywhere. It’s actually a nuanced version of Senge’s forest and trees. Some people are delighted to dwell in process, in the becoming. Process aggravates the bejeebers out of others. Some people are hell bent for action and efficiency. For others, the fixation on action strips most of the poetry from the work. I love Paul Born’s invitation to notice the tension and then to nurture it. That means be kind to it. That means developing an ability to suspend some pretty deeply engrained bias.

I’m glad friends recommended this book to me. I enjoyed the read. I enjoyed dipping in to a fellow Canadian’s words. I enjoyed feeling insights dance within me as the words helped me find some inner music. I enjoyed noticing for a moment, the water.


To Gold

Dreams inform my life. As symbols. As glimpses to the subconscious. As touch-points to what is collectively invisible. There are no absolutes for me in dream interpretation. An entry point to sense-making beyond rational brain is enough. And utterly fruitful. I give myself permission to pick any detail or details from the dream, with the only reason being that it / they have my attention in recall. That’s where I start. I find that when I give my dreams my attention, I remember more of them.

This week I dreamed:

I am an old man, perhaps in my 80s. I live in a village where there is a king (or prince). There is a narrow and steep path of stone on the edge of a mountain that leads from the village up and over a mountain. Each stone is like a shingle, overlapped by the next. Each stone is rectangular, two feet in length and about nine inches wide, and 1.5 inches thick. The king has asked for someone to do an enormous task (I can remember what it was in the dream). As an old man, I tell him that I can’t do that, but I can “paint” each stone from the path that leads up and over the mountain. There is some reward that I will receive if I’m able to do this. The king accepts. I proceed. With each slab of stone, I brush its full surface with at first a cedar bough, that then turns to a paint brush, though there is no paint. I begin to get scared from the height of the path when I am about 50 feet above the village. It is very narrow and it is a steep fall. I can see villagers below and know that I’m in a dangerous place. At first, I don’t want to stop. I don’t want to feel embarrassed or ashamed for not accomplishing the task. However, my fear of the height over takes me. I call out in fear and slowly step down the stone-shingled path, one stone at a time, which continues to really scare me. But then I’m able to hold the slabs with my left hand and slide all at once to the bottom. I feel my failure of not painting the whole path. The next morning I wake to find that each stone that I brushed and painted has turned to gold. The king is wondering how I did it (and valuing it). I don’t know how I did it. I wake.

One of my details in this dream is the alchemical change, which is as good of a narrative as I find to invite depth in human beings together in work, community, family, etc.

Whether you think it, respond with a comment, or reach me privately, what do you touch that turns to gold, even without knowing exactly how it happens?