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Food for Thought:

"The Power of Conscious Communication"
Friday, September 24, 1999

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Food for Thought 3:
The Power of Conscious Communication
Friday, September 24, 1999


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"In the twenty-first century
the real frontier will not be space,
or the oceans' floors,
or telecommunications,
or genetic engineering,
or a thousand other external pursuits.
It will be human relations."

Hugh & Gayle Prather,
From the book, "I Will Never Leave You"





The Power of Words
A Conversation With Linda Ellinor
The Mirror of Love
A Soft Answer


The Tandem Story
The Difference Between Men & Women



Well, I had planned to get an issue of SMORGASBORD out to all of you this week, but another report that I have been working on decided that it wanted to go first...

As all of you know, NHNE's primary mandate is to help solve the fundamental mysteries of human existence. You also know that we are not alone in this endeavor. Indeed, there are people, and organizations, all over the world that are seeking to unravel the great mysteries. Whether they are scientists attempting to unlock the secrets of our genetic code, or astronomers probing the depths of space, or archeologists retracing the footsteps of our ancient ancestors, a great many people are out beating the bushes.

Like most of you, I am deeply interested in all of these areas. It is, however, my personal belief that the greatest answers to the big questions lie less in strands of DNA, the stars, or prehistoric bones, and more in ourselves and the vibrant human beings we share this fascinating journey with.

This issue of FOOD FOR THOUGHT, then, is dedicated to taking a closer look at one another and how we can use "conscious communication" to probe our depths and expand our boundaries.

I hope you find it as educational, inspiring, and humorous as I did...

With Love & Best Wishes,
David Sunfellow





There was once a wise sage who wandered the countryside. One day, as he passed near a village, he was approached by a woman who saw he was a sage, and told him of a sick child nearby. She beseeched him to help this child. The sage came to the village, and a crowd gathered around him, for such a man was a rare sight. One woman brought the sick child to him, and he said a prayer over her.

"Do you really think your prayer will help her, when medicine has failed?" yelled a man from the crowd.

"You know nothing of such things! You are a stupid fool!" said the sage to the man.

The man became very angry with these words and his face grew hot and red. He was about to say something, or perhaps strike out, when the sage walked over to him and said:

"If one word has such power as to make you so angry and hot, may not another have the power to heal?"

And thus, the sage healed two people that day.

--- Author Unknown



The following online interview/chat session took place on January 22, 1997 with Linda Ellinor, who speaks and leads workshops on "Dialogue". The interview/chat session was facilitated by Joel Metzger, founder of the ONLINE NOETIC NETWORK (ONN). Joel is joined in the session by two other ONN members who are identified as Toni Michael and Trish.

For those of you who may not know, ONN is one of the finest, most deeply probing and worthwhile organizations on the Internet. Among other things, Joel publishes a regular stream of interviews, feature articles, announcements, and creative works. His network also maintains a free announcements mailing list. For information, including how to subscribe to these online publications, please visit the ONN website:



JOEL: Let me introduce Linda Ellinor. Linda is an organizational consultant specializing in the dialogue process of communication. I have a few questions that were sent in and many I have thought of -- so let me proceed with a couple. Can you give us a general description of dialogue?

LINDA: Generally, it is a communication process that involves deep listening and inquiry between people. There are many traditions of dialogue. David Bohm, the most recent inspirer of modern-day dialogue added a metacognitive dimension which involves becoming aware of the unfoldment of collective consciousness.

JOEL: How can one learn and practice dialogue?

LINDA: First, it is helpful to participate with others in dialogue. (That is, with others who understand the dialogue process and who help to hold the space.) Then, it is most important to take part in as many dialogues with others as possible. In other words, one learns best by doing or being in dialogue. After one has become familiar with the form, one might start a local dialogue group and in this way gain more experience.

JOEL: What do you mean by "hold the space" ?

LINDA: Because dialogue is so different from how we normally communicate in groups, we say "hold the space" to depict what it is like to be in dialogue, that which is different. This is very difficult to understand until one has taken part in a dialogue experience first hand.

JOEL: Why do people learn dialogue?

LINDA: There are many reasons: to learn how to consciously create shared meaning which lies at the heart of the culture-formation process; to explore collective consciousness; to become aware of cultural and individual assumptions; to learn and understand collective and interpersonal phenomena, etc.

TRISH: Linda, in some ways, reading the materials, I felt it is very Quaker in orientation.

LINDA: This is one of the traditions of dialogue. You are right. The Quakers used a form of dialogue. They came from silence. We do the same in Bohmian dialogue.

TONI: I had an experience that made me very glad I had learned dialogue. My best friend asked me to intercede for her with her next-door neighbor in an altercation that had arisen between them. So I went to him as a mediator. We had a very long and earnest dialogue, where each of us shared our feelings about the situation, and shared background stories about the situation, and reached toward a solution. As I'm telling it now, you have no idea how emotionally charged the situation was. But I was very happy to have the principles of dialogue: listening in silence, really hearing what each other had to say. And because I was able to maintain a calm demeanor, so was the neighbor. It was a really good experience.

TRISH: Today's society tends to be so judgmental. How do you help people learn to lay judgment aside and listen with open minds and hearts?

LINDA: A very good question. This lies at the heart of why my partner and I feel it is so important for those wishing to learn dialogue to first develop some skills such as suspension of judgment and assumption identification. It isn't something that comes naturally.

Most of us want to make judgments of everything and of everyone we come across. In group settings or in interpersonal situations this means that we often put others on the defensive before we have learned anything about what it is that they have to say. It is really quite something that we ever are able to sustain relationships at all without attending to what we call the basic building blocks for dialogue. This doesn't mean that we don't already do some of this all of the time. It is just that in dialogue, we heighten our awareness around areas such as suspension of judgment.

JOEL: Do you think it is hard to start a dialogue group in local communities?

LINDA: No. People are hungry for this kind of deep connection. They may not be aware of "dialogue". But, if they are invited to attend some local gathering that gives them some experience of the dialogue process and a general description of what it is and how it is different from discussion, in my experience, many will be drawn to it. Look at all of the many study and discussion groups that are sprouting up all over -- through UTNE READER, THE KETTERING FOUNDATION, THE STUDY CIRCLE RESOURCE GROUP, IONS, etc.

JOEL: What are some of the difficulties people may have in the practicing of dialogue?

LINDA: As I stated previously, until people have had some kind of formal training experience with dialogue, there will be a tendency to fall back into what is a more normal way of group conversation -- discussion -- "This is what *I* think and *I* believe I am right about this, etc. Then they will not really be in dialogue and they won't understand how it is different.

JOEL: Of the many places where dialogue can be used, is there somewhere you see it first coming into widespread practice?

LINDA: I see it first and foremost as a grassroots phenomenon. I also see it being used in organizations whose values parallel those found in dialogue, such as spiritually-oriented groups. I also see it being used by forward-looking business organizations that are trying to create transformative structures and processes -- organizations that want self-organizing teams, more fluidity, a sense of community and greater participation and collaboration.

JOEL: I know David Bohm spoke about dialogue being important for today's world. Can you talk about this some?

LINDA: David had a very global perspective. He was continually concerned about societal fragmentation and the damage that it is doing to the planet. He felt that only through something like dialogue did we have a way to bridge this fragmentation and to create new ways of seeing collective wholes.

TRISH: I find at work and other places that people assume they know what you mean and therefore their listening then tends to funnel what they hear into their assumptions and perpetuates the problem.

LINDA: Do you mean that they only hear what they already have come to know and so don't really hear what the other is saying?

TRISH: Yes, their hearing is "blocked", so to speak, by their preconceived ideas. Is there a way to help them see that they really aren't listening to you, but to themselves?

LINDA: Again, part of the problem is that most of us don't understand how our minds work. We are all confused about how assumptions work and how the judgment process keeps us isolated and separate. This goes to the heart of what David Bohm was concerned with in terms of fragmentation.

We think a thought and then we forget that it was our thought. We don't see that we tend to perpetuate our own reality over and over again because the thinking process is transparent to us. That is, until we learn how to suspend our judgment in ways so that we learn to become aware and conscious of not only our own individual consciousness, but of that of the collective consciousness.

JOEL: Linda, how does dialogue "change collective consciousness"?

LINDA: Dialogue changes collective consciousness through creating awareness of the process of collective consciousness itself. In other words, we place a lot of emphasis on how our thought process individually and collectively gives us the reality that we live in.

TONI: Linda has a graphic showing that problem, contrasting discussion with dialogue. It's two lists, really, of differences in attitude and behavior -- traits of Discussion on the left, traits of Dialogue on the right:

Discussion | Dialogue

Tell, sell, persuade | Inquire, learn
Gain agreement on one meaning | Unfold shared meaning
Evaluate parts | Integrate multiple perspectives
Advocate to convince | Advocate to contribute
Inquire to evaluate | Inquire to understand
Justify, defend assumptions | Uncover & examine assumptions

TONI: To me, this one page summarizes the difference between dialogue and ordinary discussion.

TRISH: Silence is almost a foreign thing in today's world. Do you find it difficult to teach people to be comfortable with silence?

LINDA: Yes and no. It is true that in normal social settings silence gets the short end of things. But people are really quite hungry for silence, reflection time, coming from a centered space. So, when given permission and some suggested structure for valuing silence, most people love it and do it quite naturally. Like many other social aspects of life, modeling helps a lot.

JOEL: What makes the form of dialogue as proposed by David Bohm different from the other forms of dialogue?

LINDA: What makes dialogue different, or what makes Bohmian dialogue different, is that we are trying to pay attention to our thinking process. This is the metacognitive element I mentioned before. Both Toni and Joel might remember at the IONS Institute on dialogue, we always took time at the end of each dialogue session to "reflect" back on our process. This is a form of becoming aware of our process; the collective work that is unfolding. In this way we can begin to learn how process (collective consciousness) creates its own reality.

This is very hard to do, because we rarely ever reflect on what we just did, or much less on how we just did it. But, this is the only way we can become more aware. While many of us work on becoming aware of our own individual process, we rarely ever work on becoming aware of our collective process.

JOEL: Bohm suggests a formal structure for dialogue. Does dialogue have to be practiced in the formal sense that he suggests, or can it be integrated in other ways in organizational life?

LINDA: Yes to both. It is best used as a practice in which participants use it periodically over time. This would ideally be in a group that is dedicated to its use, either because they share some task together, or because they are committed to dialogue's exploration per se. The other way groups might take advantage of "dialogic communication" is for it to be integrated into work they are doing, normally with the help of a facilitator trained in the practice of dialogue. They might use it for problem solving in this way or for strategic planning or for diversity work or in exploring group conflict.

JOEL: I have some questions about having a facilitator for dialogue groups -- is one necessary? How long is it necessary for a group to have one? What is the purpose of the facilitation role?

LINDA: It is important to have a facilitator in the beginning. I think most groups interested in the dialogue process think that they can just go and do it. They try. They have a few bad experiences, then they say forget dialogue. A trained facilitator who has had a lot of dialogue experience can help a group hold the space and experience it in a way that will motivate them to continue its practice.

It is helpful to have a facilitator long enough for the group to be able to facilitate itself -- this might be after an initial training of 3 to 5 days plus two or three more sessions.

The purpose of the facilitation role is to model the dialogue process, to point out and help the group develop the key skills of dialogue: Assumptions Identification, Suspension of Judgement, Listening, and Inquiry and Reflection, plus the guidelines (release of the need for specific outcome, suspension of roles, respect for all perspectives, one-person-at-a-time, etc.)

JOEL: Do you have your trainings available on audio or video tapes?

LINDA: Yes. We have two tape series. One on the basic technology of dialogue and one on how dialogue works to transform organizations as well as individuals.

JOEL: Do you have plans to expand your work with Dialogue to applications outside of the organizational setting?

LINDA: We have just formed a not-for-profit organization called THE CENTER FOR DIALOGIC COMMUNICATION. We hope that this organization will be able to expand the scope of the work. We are looking towards research, service, and educational programs in a wide range of areas, all intended to stretch the work with dialogue beyond business organizations.

JOEL: Do you, or anyone you know, teach Dialogue skills for family relationships, private counseling, or for similar applications?

LINDA: Many, many therapists use forms of dialogic communication in family work. They may or may not be aware of the work of Bohm. But these concepts (dialogic) are in widespread use.

JOEL: Linda, have you participated in any dialogues online? Do you know of any like that?

LINDA: I do know that THE FETZER INSTITUTE, an organization that we have been involved with over the past year, is just now organizing an Internet site for ongoing dialogues.

JOEL: Would it work online? What are the differences?

LINDA: Yes, it will work online. We will attempt to integrate the principles of dialogue. I do not have enough details as of yet to know how it is going to work.

JOEL: Can we try it now, or set up another time?

LINDA: Perhaps another time. We need more people. We need more time and better set-up for us to have a good experience. As I said previously, most groups think that they can just do it and then try it and can't figure out what went wrong. With only four of us online, with no agreement as to what we are doing or for how long, etc. No, it doesn't feel right for now.

TONI: It seems to me that an online chat is very much like dialogue in that you have to wait and pay close attention to what others are saying. But unlike dialogue, online chats are mostly anonymous. You don't have the visual feedback from the speakers, as you do in dialogue, and you don't hear their voices.

JOEL: Having done it before, I definitely agree with Linda. It would be hard to introduce someone to it online.

LINDA: It is true that there is an artificial aspect to online communication that makes it seem like dialogue. Suspension of judgment is easier, as is listening, etc.

TRISH: I would like to hear more about the theory of the holographic universe.

LINDA: Lots on this is from Michael Talbot's work and from David Bohm's work.

TONI: I recommend David Bohm's book, "Wholeness and the Implicate Order."

JOEL: I want to thank you very much, Linda, for this interview. Dialogue is a much needed skill.

LINDA: My pleasure. Thanks for including me in your work. I've loved reading everything you have sponsored.








"The Holographic Universe" by Michael Talbot

"Wholeness and the Implicate Order" by David Bohm



By Harville Hendrix

My wife, Helen, and I have known each other for eighteen years and have been married for thirteen. Recently, we were asked to present a keynote address on the subject of "keeping the dream alive." We were asked to talk about our relationship and the techniques we have devised to keep our love growing and thriving. At first, Helen and I were intimidated -- we certainly didn't want to present ourselves as models, but we also didn't want to present ourselves as too flawed. Finally, we decided we'd just tell the truth -- that our current relationship is the result of thirteen years of struggle, years that have been every bit as challenging for us as for anybody else.

One of the major difficulties that we encountered over the years was an inability to make romantic moments last. It seemed that every time we created a romantic moment, whether it was reading poetry to each other, going to a movie, or having dinner at a fine restaurant, we just couldn't seem to hold it. It would last for that evening, maybe -- but we would definitely blow it within a few days, if not that very night. Then we'd be back into tension with each other. So, at a certain point, we both just stopped trying to be romantic. Why work at what wasn't working?

Once we realized what was happening, we began to look at our relationship with a critical eye. We found that our romantic moments were sabotaged when we became analytical of a trait or behavior in the other person. For instance, we would have different points of view about a movie and we'd show little appreciation for the other's ideas. We would criticize each other. And then we made an interesting discovery: We each possessed the very same traits that we criticized in the other. And not wanting to accept a particular disliked trait in ourselves, we would assign it to the other. We came to understand that rejection of a trait or behavior in the other was actually a form of self-rejection. We concluded that unconscious self-hatred was the source of our conflict and probably fueled the power struggles of many (if not all) couples.

Not only does this unconscious self-hatred get in the way of expressing love, it also interferes with receiving love. You cannot feel worthy of accepting love if you unconsciously hate yourself or even hate some parts of yourself. We finally realized that in order to increase our self-love, we had to learn to love in the other person the trait we most disliked in ourselves. And we had to stop criticizing each other, because the more we criticized a disliked trait in the other, the more we increased our unconscious self-hatred. Putting it all together, we came to the conclusion that self-love is the paradoxical achievement of loving another, especially that part of the other which we reject in ourselves.

To this end, we created a system for developing what we call a conscious marriage. In such a relationship, conflict is reframed as an unconscious attempt to resolve issues and connect at a deeper level. We developed a special form of communication that we believe is essential to any relationship. This process, called "intentional dialogue," was inspired by the Jewish philosopher and theologian Martin Buber.

The process includes three steps.

The first step involves what we call "direct mirroring." It is designed to help the listener hear the other person without any interpretation of emotional reaction: the listener merely reflects back the speaker's words. All emotional interpretations of what the words mean are dropped. The listener simply paraphrases back to the speaker what the speaker just said, without judgement.

Step two is what I call "validation." Once the listener has heard the other person without adding any interpretation, he or she then must try to see the issue from the others point of view. An example could sound something like, "What you are saying to me makes sense, because ..." Then the listener completes the sentence, filling in the blanks after because. Another example: "Given the fact that I was late, it makes sense to me that you would think I didn't care or that I didn't take my obligation seriously." This statement forces the listener to see that the logic in the other person's mind is equal in value and truth to the logic in his or her own mind. It's a very self-transcendent act and a great equalizer!

The third part of the dialogue process is "empathic relating," or truly understanding the partner's feelings. When you are able to mirror the feelings of the other person, validate the other, and see through his or her eyes, then you have become empathic. An instance of empathic relating: "Given what you are experiencing, I can imagine that you must feel hurt or excited or angry." Amazingly, if you keep practicing empathic behavior, you will eventually begin to experience the actual feelings and inner world of the other person. Through empathy, you will share your essential connectedness while remaining your unique individuality. We call it freeing the partner from the prison of our conceptions.

Helen and I, with the help of Buber, see this process as discovering the "Thou-ness" of the other person without surrendering the "I-ness" of oneself. I am not really capable of loving you until I surrender the position that my way is the right way, until I can see the logic of the way your mind works, and until I can experience your feelings as yours, separate from mine. It's when I can truly see and experience your "Thou-ness" that I can begin to love. Up to that point, what I may profess to love is actually what I imagine you to be. I am only really loving my own representation of you. True love is when I can experience and honor your otherness, apart from my needs and expectations. And I can maintain that love, even though my experience of you may not always be either satisfying to me or a way to serve my needs.

We have also been able to use this process when dealing with our children. Just recently, I was frustrated with Hunter, who is ten, and began to express my feelings in a strong way. Instead of reacting by defending himself, he began to mirror my thoughts and feelings, which rapidly brought the tension to an end. Another time, during a car trip, I was expressing some anger to my wife about something she had done. My daughter Leah then leaned over the front seat and whispered into Helen's ear, "Mirror him, Mom." That effectively ended the scene! But the best part of all this is that the level of emotional connection between Helen and me is now being experienced by our children.

Helen and I also use intentional dialogue with our adult children. Whenever they are upset with us, we invite them into dialogue. The conversation sometimes is very long, but it always ends with connection rather than conflict, distance, and alienation.

You can also use this process for responding to positive experiences, not just conflictive ones; it enhances the communication and deepens the connection between you and the other person.

Feelings of being unloved have more to do with a person's own unconscious self-hatred and self-rejection than with a true absence of love. So the question is, "How can you get in touch with your unconscious self-hatred and begin to modulate it?"

You can do this by becoming aware of what you really don't like in your partner or your children or in humankind in general. What is it that really bugs you? I find that I get annoyed when my wife Helen overindulges in sweets or spends what I think is too much time on the telephone. But then I also sometimes overindulge or withdraw from people by spending too much time on the computer. Once you can truthfully figure out what bothers you in other people, you probably have accessed your own self-hatred, which has then been projected on someone else.

How do you transcend this projection? I have found that I can learn from looking at the function of a behavior in Helen's life (let's say, talking on the telephone) and seeing what it means for my life. Then I try to figure out if there's some part of my own behavior that is like hers (being on the computer too long). If I reframe Helen's behavior as functional for her, serving her in an important way, and value it -- even support it and love it -- I can then begin to experience what I call parallel self-love. While I am loving her, I am also loving myself. I have bypassed the unconscious self-hatred. Every time I look at another person without judgment but with understanding and empathy, I am doing the same thing for myself. The result is that I experience the love I give.

As Helen and I have increased our own self-love through loving each other, we have found that we don't need to set up romantic events and times to express our love. We have created a safe place and, as a result, feel romantic all the time. If we get too busy, then we can just go back to the intentional dialogue system and give ourselves some time to reconnect. And there doesn't have to be a conflict for us to communicate in this way. It is my belief that it's in the safe space of seeing the other as a "Thou" that love is born and sustained. One of my favorite sayings is that love does not create marriage -- intentional, conscious marriage creates love. The same is true in all relationships. This is how we have been able to keep the dream of love and romance alive.


From "Handbook for the Heart: Original Writings on Love," edited by Richard Carlson and Benjamin Shield. Harville Hendrix, is the founder and president of Imago Relationship Theraphy and the author of "Getting the Love You Want: A Guide for Couples" and "Keeping the Love You Find: A Guide for Singles."

"Handbook for the Heart: Original Writings on Love"

"Getting the Love You Want: A Guide for Couples"

"Keeping the Love You Find: A Guide for Singles"


By Terry Dobson

A turning point in my life came one day on a train in the middle of a drowsy spring afternoon. The old car clanked and rattled over the rails. It was comparatively empty--a few housewives with their kids in tow, some old folks out shopping, a couple of off-duty bartenders studying the racing form. I gazed absently at the drab houses and dusty hedge rows.

At one station the doors opened, and suddenly the quiet afternoon was shattered by a man bellowing at the top of his lungs--yelling violent, obscene, incomprehensible curses. Just as the doors closed the man, still yelling, staggered into our car. He was big, drunk, and dirty. He wore laborer's clothing. His front was stiff with dried vomit. His eyes bugged out, a demonic, neon red. His hair was crusted with filth. Screaming, he swung at the first person he saw, a woman holding a baby. The blow glanced off her shoulder, sending her spinning into the laps of an elderly couple. It was a miracle that the baby was unharmed.

The couple jumped up and scrambled toward the other end of the car. They were terrified. The laborer aimed a kick at the retreating back of the old lady. "You old whore!" he bellowed. "I'll kick your ass!" He missed; the old woman scuttled to safety. This so enraged the drunk that he grabbed the metal pole at the center of the car and tried to wrench it out of its stanchion. I could see that one of his hands was cut and bleeding. The train lurched ahead, the passengers frozen with fear. I stood tip.

I was young and in pretty good shape. I stood six feet, weighed 225. I'd been putting in a solid eight hours of aikido training every day for the past three years. I liked to throw and grapple. I thought I was tough. Trouble was, my martial skill was untested in actual combat. As students of aikido, we were not allowed to fight.

My teacher taught us each morning that the art was devoted to peace. "Aikido," he said again and again, "is the art of reconciliation. Whoever has the mind to fight has broken his connection with the universe. If you try to dominate other people, you are already defeated. We study how to resolve conflict, not how to start it."

I listened to his words. I tried hard. I wanted to quit fighting. I even went so far as to cross the street a few times to avoid the "chimpira," the pinball punks who lounged around the train stations. They'd have been happy to test my martial ability. My forbearance exalted me. I felt both tough and holy. In my heart of hearts, however, I was dying to be a hero. I wanted a chance, an absolutely legitimate opportunity whereby I might save the innocent by destroying the guilty.

"This is it!" I said to myself as I got to my feet. "This slob, this animal, is drunk and mean and violent. People are in danger. If I don't do something fast, somebody will probably get hurt. I'm gonna take his ass to the cleaners."

Seeing me stand up, the drunk saw a chance to focus his rage. "Aha!" he roared. "A foreigner! You need a lesson in Japanese manners!" He punched the metal pole once to give weight to his words.

I held on lightly to the commuter strap overhead. I gave him a slow look of disgust and dismissal. I gave him every bit of piss-ant nastiness I could summon up. I planned to take this turkey apart, but he had to be the one to move First. And I wanted him man, because the madder he got, the more certain my victory. I pursed my lips and blew him a sneering, insolent kiss. It hit him like a slap in the face. "All right!" he hollered. "You're gonna get a lesson." He gathered himself for a rush at me. He'd never know what hit him.

A split second before he moved, someone shouted "Hey!" It was ear splitting. I remember being struck by the strangely joyous, lilting quality of it--as though you and a friend had been searching diligently for something, and he had suddenly stumbled upon it. "Hey!" I wheeled to my left, the drunk spun to his right. We both stared down at a little old Japanese man. He must have been well into his seventies, this tiny gentleman, sitting there immaculate in his kimono and hakama. He took no notice of me, but beamed delightedly at the laborer, as though he had a most important, most welcome secret to share.

"C'mere," the old man said in an easy vernacular, beckoning to the drunk. "C'mere and talk with me." He waved his hand lightly. The giant man followed, as if on a string. He planted his feet belligerently in front of the old gentleman and towered threateningly over him.

"Talk to you?" he roared above the clacking wheels. "Why the hell should I talk to you?" The drunk now had his back to me. If his elbow moved so much as a millimeter, I'd drop him in his socks.

The old man continued to beam at the laborer. There was not a trace of fear or resentment about him. "What'cha been drinkin'?" he asked lightly, with interest. "I been drinkin' sake," the laborer bellowed back, "and it's none of your god dam business!"

"Oh, that's wonderful," the old man said with delight. "Absolutely wonderful! You see, I love sake, too. Every night, me and my wife (she's seventy-six, you know), we warm up a little bottle of sake and take it our into the garden, and we sit on the old wooden bench that my grandfather's first student made for him. We watch the sun go down, and we look to see how our persimmon tree is doing. My great-grandfather planted that tree, you know, and we worry about whether it will recover from those ice storms we had last winter. Persimmons do not do well after ice storms, although I must say that ours has done rather better that I expected, especially when you consider the poor quality of the soil. Still, it is most gratifying to watch when we take our sake and go out to enjoy the evening--even when it rains!" He looked up at the laborer, eyes twinkling, happy to share his delightful information.

As he struggled to follow the intricacies of the old ma@n's conversation, the drunk's face began to soften. His fists slowly unclenched. "Yeah," he said slowly, "I love persimmons, too..." His voice trailed off.

"Yes," said the old man, smiling, "and I'm sure you have a wonderful wife."

"No," replied the laborer, "my wife died." He hung his head. Very gently, swaying with the motion of the train, the big man began to sob. "I don't got no wife, I don't got no home, I don't got no job, I don't got no money, I don't got nowhere to go. I'm so ashamed of myself." Tears rolled down his cheeks; a spasm of pure despair rippled through his body. Above the baggage rack a four-color ad trumpeted the virtues of suburban luxury living.

Now it was my turn. Standing there in my well-scrubbed youthful innocence, my make-this-world-safe-for-democracy righteousness, I suddenly felt dirtier than he was.

Just then, the train arrived at my stop. The platform was packed, and the crowd surged into the car as soon as the doors opened. Maneuvering my way out, I heard the old man cluck sympathetically. "My, my," he said with undiminished delight, "that is a very difficult predicament, indeed. Sit down here and tell me about it."

I turned my head for one last look. The laborer was sprawled like a sack on the seat, his head in the old man's lap. The old man looked down at him, all compassion and delight, one hand softly stroking the filthy, matted head.

As the train pulled away, I sat down on a bench. What I had wanted to do with muscle and meanness had been accomplished with a few kind words. I had seen aikido tried in combat, and the essence of it was love, as the founder had said. I would have to practice the art with an entirely different spirit. It would be a long time before I could speak about the resolution of conflict.


Terry Dobson was a holder of a fifth-degree black belt in aikido, coauthor of "Aikido in Everyday Life" (North Atlantic Books), and author of the book "It's a Lot Like Dancing: An Aikido Journey" (Frog, Ltd.), among other works. He died in 1992 at age 55. This article, published in NEW AGE JOURNAL in 1981, first appeared in the "Lomi School Bulletin."



Now that we've seen how human beings can communicate with one another in a healthy, mutually-empowering fashion, let's take a look at the other side of the coin...


(Author Unknown)

This assignment was actually turned in by two of my English students:

Rebecca and Gary
English 44A SMU
Creative Writing Professor Miller

In-class Assignment for Wednesday

Today we will experiment with a new form called the tandem story. The process is simple. Each person will pair off with the person sitting to his or her immediate right. One of you will then write the first paragraph of a short story. The partner will read the first paragraph and then add another paragraph to the story. The first person will then add a third paragraph, and so on back and forth. Remember to reread what has been written each time in order to keep the story coherent. The story is over when both agree a conclusion has been reached.


At first, Laurie couldn't decide which kind of tea she wanted. The chamomile, which used to be her favorite for lazy evenings at home, now reminded her too much of Carl, who once said, in happier times, that he liked chamomile. But she felt she must now, at all costs, keep her mind off Carl. His possessiveness was suffocating, and if she thought about him too much her asthma started acting up again. So chamomile was out of the question.

Meanwhile, Advance Sergeant Carl Harris, leader of the attack squadron now in orbit over Skylon 4, had more important things to think about than the neuroses of an air-headed asthmatic bimbo named Laurie with whom he had spent one sweaty night over a year ago. "A.S. Harris to Geostation 17," he said into his transgalactic communicator. "Polar orbit established. No sign of resistance so far..." But before he could sign off a bluish particle beam flashed out of nowhere and blasted a hole through his ship's cargo bay. The jolt from the direct hit sent him flying out of his seat and across the cockpit.

He bumped his head and died almost immediately, but not before he felt one last pang of regret for psychically brutalizing the one woman who had ever had feelings for him. Soon afterwards, Earth stopped its pointless hostilities towards the peaceful farmers of Skylon 4. "Congress Passes Law Permanently Abolishing War and Space Travel." Laurie read in her newspaper one morning. The news simultaneously excited her and bored her. She stared out the window, dreaming of her youth -- when the days had passed unhurriedly and carefree, with no newspapers to read, no television to distract her from her sense of innocent wonder at all the beautiful things around her. "Why must one lose one's innocence to become a woman?" she pondered wistfully.

Little did she know, but she has less than 10 seconds to live. Thousands of miles above the city, the Anu'udrian mothership launched the first of its lithium fusion missiles. The dim-witted wimpy peaceniks who pushed the Unilateral Aerospace Disarmament Treaty through Congress had left Earth a defenseless target for the hostile alien empires who were determined to destroy the human race. Within two hours after the passage of the treaty the Anu'udrian ships were on course for Earth, carrying enough firepower to pulverize the entire planet. With no one to stop them, they swiftly initiated their diabolical plan. The lithium fusion missile entered the atmosphere unimpeded. The President, in his top-secret mobile submarine headquarters on the ocean floor off the coast of Guam, felt the inconceivably massive explosion which vaporized Laurie and 85 million other Americans. The President slammed his fist on the conference table. "We can't allow this! I'm going to veto that treaty! Let's blow'em out of the sky!"

This is absurd. I refuse to continue this mockery of literature. My writing partner is a violent, chauvinistic, semi-literate adolescent.

Yeah? Well, you're a self-centered tedious neurotic whose attempts at writing are the literary equivalent of Valium.




(Author Unknown)

Let's say a guy named Roger is attracted to a woman named Elaine. He asks her out to a movie; she accepts; they have a pretty good time. A few nights later he asks her out to dinner, and again they enjoy themselves. They continue to see each other regularly, and after a while neither one of them is seeing anybody else.

And then, one evening when they're driving home, a thought occurs to Elaine, and, without really thinking, she says it aloud: "Do you realise that, as of tonight, we've been seeing each other for exactly six months?"

And then there is silence in the car. To Elaine, it seems like a very loud silence.

She thinks to herself: gee, I wonder if it bothers him that I said that. Maybe he's been feeling confined by our relationship; maybe he thinks I'm trying to push him into some kind of obligation that he doesn't want, or isn't sure of.

And Roger is thinking: gosh. Six months?

And Elaine is thinking: but, hey, I'm not so sure I want this kind of relationship, either. Sometimes I wish I had a little more space, so I'd have time to think about whether I really want us to keep going the way we are, moving steadily toward... I mean, where are we going? Are we just going to keep seeing each other at this level of intimacy? Are we heading toward marriage? Toward children? Toward a lifetime together? Am I ready for that level of commitment? Do I really even know this person?

And Roger is thinking... so that means it was... let's see... February when we started going out, which was right after I had the car at the dealer's, which means... lemme check the odometer... Whoa! I am way over due for an oil change here!

And Elaine is thinking: he's upset. I can see it on his face. Maybe I'm reading this completely wrong. Maybe he wants more from our relationship, more intimacy, more commitment; maybe he has sensed -- even before I sensed it -- that I was feeling some reservations. Yes, I bet that's it. That's why he's so reluctant to say anything about his own feelings. He's afraid of being rejected.

And Roger is thinking: and I'm gonna have them look at the transmission again. I don't care what those morons say, it's still not shifting right. And they better not try to blame it on the cold weather this time. What cold weather? It's 87 degrees out, and this thing is shifting like a darn garbage truck, and I paid those incompetent thieves $600.

And Elaine is thinking: he's angry. And I don't blame him. I'd be angry, too. God, I feel so guilty, putting him through this, but I can't help the way I feel. I'm just not sure.

And Roger is thinking: they'll probably say it's only a 90-day warranty. That's exactly what they're gonna say, the scumbags.

And Elaine is thinking: maybe I'm just too idealistic, waiting for a knight to come riding up on his white horse, when I'm sitting right next to a perfectly good person, a person I enjoy being with, a person I truly do care about, a person who seems to truly care about me. A person who is in pain because of my self-centered, school girl romantic fantasy.

And Roger is thinking: warranty? They want a warranty? I'll give them a warranty. I'll take their warranty and stick it right up...

"Roger," Elaine says aloud.

"What?" says Roger, startled.

"Please don't torture yourself like this," she says, her eyes beginning to brim with tears. "Maybe I should never have... Oh God, I feel so..." (She breaks down, sobbing.)

"What?" says Roger.

"I'm such a fool," Elaine sobs...

"I mean, I know there's no knight. I really know that. It's silly. There's no knight, and there's no horse."

"There's no horse?" says Roger.

"You think I'm a fool, don't you?" Elaine says.

"No!" says Roger, glad to finally know the correct answer.

"It's just that... It's that I... I need some time," Elaine says.

There is a 15-second pause while Roger, thinking as fast as he can, tries to come up with a safe response. Finally he comes up with one that he thinks might work.

"Yes," he says.

Elaine, deeply moved, touches his hand.

"Oh, Roger, do you really feel that way?" she says.

"What way?" says Roger.

"That way about time," says Elaine.

"Oh," says Roger. "Yes."

Elaine turns to face him and gazes deeply into his eyes, causing him to become very nervous about what she might say next, especially if it involves a horse. At last she speaks.

"Thank you, Roger," she says.

"Thank you," says Roger.

Then he takes her home, and she lies on her bed, a conflicted, tortured soul, and weeps until dawn, whereas when Roger gets back to his place, he opens a bag of Doritos, turns on the TV, and immediately becomes deeply involved in a re-run of a tennis match between two Czechoslovakians he never heard of.

A tiny voice in the far recesses of his mind tells him that something major was going on back there in the car, but he is pretty sure there is no way he would ever understand what, and so he figures it's better if he doesn't think about it. (This is also Roger's policy regarding world hunger.)

The next day Elaine will call her closest friend, or perhaps two of them, and they will talk about this situation for six straight hours. In painstaking detail, they will analyse everything she said and everything he said, going over it time and time again, exploring every word, expression, and gesture for nuances of meaning, considering every possible ramification.

They will continue to discuss this subject, off and on, for weeks, maybe months, never reaching any definite conclusions, but never getting bored with it, either.

Meanwhile, Roger, while playing racquetball one day with a mutual friend of his and Elaine's, will pause just before serving, frown, and say:

"Norm, did Elaine ever own a horse?"


David Sunfellow, Founder & Publisher
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