Deep Dialogue

As one is able to think with critical reflection and act with creative compassion, one begins to live the way of "deep dialogue." In this way of life, one chooses certain behaviors, including the following:

  1. Reach out in openness to the "Other" in the search for truth and goodness;
  2. Learn there are ways of understanding and embracing the world other than our own;
  3. Learn to recognize our commonalities and differences—and value both;
  4. Learn to move between different worlds and integrate them in caring, cooperative actions.


DEEP DIALOGUE - Principle 1: “Reach out in openness to the 'Other' in the search for truth and goodness.”

Explanation: The presupposition to reaching out in the search for truth and goodness to those who think and value differently from us, to those who are “Other,” is that we do not know everything about, do not possess all goodness and value in, the matter at hand. Though we are convinced that what we know is true and the values we hold are good, we recognize that we must endlessly seek more truth, goodness, and value─beyond just ourselves. The primary goal of dialogue is not for us to teach, but for us to learn, to find goodness. This discovery is the very definition of dialogue, to reach out in openness to those who think and value differently from us so we can learn and adapt our behavior accordingly.

Exercise: Choose a friend or mentor and interview that person to ask how she or he understands “truth and goodness.” With the same person, choose a situation in your society where you both agree that strong disagreements exist. Can you two name something you might learn from each side of the argument?

DEEP DIALOGUE - Principle 2: ”Learn there are  ways of understanding and embracing the world other than our own.”

Explanation: As long as we talk only with those who think like us, we assume that our understanding and valuing of the world is not only a true picture of the world but even the only true picture of the world. But, when we open ourselves to encounter the "Other," we learn time and again that there are ways of understanding and valuing the world  other than ours.

Example: If we have always lived in the city, when we go to live on a farm or in the wild, we encounter other understandings and valuing of many things to do with nature. The same is true of men opening themselves up to women, Christians to Jews, rich to poor, Germans to Chinese, etc.

Exercise: Identify a person or a group that for you is very different from you. What would you be curious to learn? What fears do you have of taking the risk to learn?

DEEP DIALOGUE - Principle 3: “Learn to recognize our commonalities and differencesand value both.”

Explanation: As we come to know the "Other," we find many things held in common. Psychologically, it is wise to focus on these commonalities, especially in the early stages of the encounter and during crises. We learn that there are levels of commonality of which we were previously unaware, and they now become a foundation for bonding. But, we must not cover over the differences, for they, too, are part of reality. Most often, however, we will find that the differences are not absolutely contradictory to our values and therefore are to be respected and valued.

Exercise: What difference, if any, does it make to find common ground in the face of differences that could divide? What, then, is the value of the differences?

DEEP DIALOGUE - Principle 4: “Learn to move between different worlds and integrate them in caring, cooperative actions.”

Explanation: We have learned that each of us “makes” our own world, built up from our experiences, reflections, and integration thereof. In deep dialogue we increasingly become aware that each person we encounter is an entire world unto her/himself. Both Judaism and Islam state this dramatically in their foundational scriptures, as was noted previously in both the Jewish Mishnah and the Muslim Qur’an.

Exercise: What practical project could you complete together with someone very different from you that would serve the wider world of both your communities?

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