Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Dialogue is an Ancient Form of Communication

Cleaning up my computer, I came across this item that I wrote back in 2005. I haven't read it again carefully, but in glancing at it, I think that I'd still endorse its main premises. Sometimes I surprise myself!

The dialogue is an ancient form of communication, perhaps first made famous by the Socratic dialogues of Plato, varied by St. Thomas Aquinas in his Question & Answer form, and in contemporary times the dialogue is favored by psychotherapists, starting with Freud himself. So I have decided to write a dialogue between one character whom I call "The Question Master" (QM) and the Student (S). The dialogue goes like this:

QM: My dear how are you today?
S: Not very good.
QM: Why not?
S: I received a crappy assignment with a bunch of losers.
QM: Why is that bad?
S: They are a waste of time--And my co-worker was equal to them in ineptitude.
QM: So you got nothing out of this?
S: No
QM: Did you learn what you don't like?
S: Well, yes, but I already knew that!
QM: As well as you do now?
S: Well, it's certainly been reinforced.
QM: Ah, reinforcement is a pillar of learning.
S: I could have done without it.
QM: Well, what was so bad about it again?
S: The students weren't motivated to learn.
QM: Why not?
S: I'm not sure, maybe they were forced to come by their parents.
QM: Could you give them motivation?
S: I tried, but it didn't catch on?
QM: Isn't motivation contagious?
S: It can be, it's like fire, you have to have the right conditions to get it going.
QM: Well put. What conditions are those?
S: Well, mostly a person's mindset.
QM: Can you control those?
S: No, who can?
QM: Can you control your own?
S: Well, more so than someone else's.
QM: Well put. So did you motivate yourself to ignite the fire?
S: I tried.
QM: "Do or do not", I once heard someone say.
S: Well, it's not easy.
QM: What's the value of "easy"? About the value of a penny, I'd say.
S: Well, it was just to uphill, it got me down.
QM: What is it?
S: Well, the collective attitude?
QM: So you bought it?
S: Bought what, Question Master?
QM: The collective attitude?
S: Well, I guess so.
QM: Why did you buy it?
S: Well, I didn't really buy it. I caught it like a disease.
QM: Which metaphor--contagious disease or purchase--is more accurate?
S: Disease, I think.
QM: Well, let's pursue that for a moment. Is their a vaccine for the disease?
S: Not that I know of.
QM: Can your thoughts inoculate you?
S: I don't know how.
QM: Two fellows from ancient Rome, one a slave and one an emperor, thought you could inoculate yourself from others.
S: Oh, really? Who?
QM: Marcus Aurelius & Epictetus.
S: Those names are familiar, I think someone gave me books by them.
QM: Now, going with the other metaphor, do you think that you bought an attitude.
S: Certainly not on purpose!
QM: Got flim-flammed?
S: Well, in a sense.
QM: So you gave your "money", your energy, your chi, away to someone on a scam?
S: I don't follow you.
QM: Well, when someone is in a funk, depressed (or more accurately, depressing), they always show signs of a lack of energy. So the person either gave their energy away or allowed it to be stolen from them.
S: Well, that's not always true, some people can't control those circumstances.
QM: That's true, if the body malfunctions, the mind can suffer. Have you experienced this?
S: Do you mean how I feel, in the body, can effect my mind?
QM: Well, have you ever experienced this?
S: Well, yes I suppose so. Sometimes I'm grouchy when I first
wake up. So what's a person to do?
QM: You mean, how can the mind out-fox the body?
S: I suppose you could put it that way.
QM: Well, what does the mind have that the body doesn't have?
S: Well, it's hard to say, let's see, it's a bit of a chicken and the egg problem.
QM: Well put, but chickens and eggs don't co-exist in time together, as each follows the other, while minds and bodies co-exist.
S: And each influences the other!
QM: Well put, but again I ask, how can the mind get the upper hand?
S: Well, the mind can imagine the future, while the body is much more immediate.
QM: True.
S: And the mind can hold the image of the body in time, and the body can't do that.
QM: Yes, indeed.
S: So the mind can anticipate the body, know what it might do.
QM: Excellent. Tell me more.
S: Well, if we know what the body is likely to do, we can do something different, through the operation of the mind, to alter the course of the body.
QM: Can we control the body completely?
S: No, I don't think so, but if we know, for instance, that the body will grow hot in the sun, we can where a hat and a light colored shirt to reduce the heat, and thereby affect the body.
QM: How about the emotions?
S: Wow, are emotions mind or body?
QM: Or both?
S: Yes, maybe so.
QM: So what might one do with the emotions?
S: Well, since the body and mind are both involved, then, actually, you have more tools, as the body can effect the mind and the mind the body.
QM: You are a bright student.
S: What does all this have to do with me, how'd we get here?
QM: Well, you had a bad experience?
S: Oh, yea, a real bummer!
QM: And where was that experience?
S: Here at a camp.
QM: Really?
S: What do you mean "really"?
QM: Well, where was the real action?
S: Well, you know, out there.
QM: So everyone saw and experienced what you saw?
S: Well, they probably saw the same things.
QM: But did they experience the same things--not just see them.
S: Well, maybe not, some just didn't care.
QM: So where did their different experiences come from?
S: Well, you know, what they thought and what they expected.
QM: So where did you're experience occur?
S: Oh, I get it, you're saying that it's all inside my head. Bug off!
QM: Did I say that?
S: Well, not in so many words . . .
QM: How do you know what I meant?
S: Well, a good guess.
QM: Yes, just a guess. Why did you buy that guess? Was it the cheapest, most handy item on the shelf?
S: There you go again with the purchase metaphor.
QM: Why guess? Can you mind read?
S: Well, no. But I can take a guess, can't I?
QM: "Take a guess" Now it seems that you're getting into theft.
S: You get carried away with these metaphors.
QM: Me or you?
S: Well, are you or are you not suggesting that this is "all in my head"
QM: Yes--and no.
S: Brilliant!
QM: Yes, things happened, some things that might have been unpleasant, irksome, even painful.
S: You can say that again!
QM: If everyone shared the same space, the same sounds, the same sights, the same senses, how come they felt differently than you?
S: I know, because of how I interpreted it, what I "bought".
QM: Did you buy anything of value?
S: Well, I know what I don't like and what I don't want to do!
QM: What a valuable lesson!
S: I know what behavior can bring someone down--if that person is inoculated, or isn't suckered into buying into it.
QM: And how did you get here?
S: I was put there, against my will and better judgment, I might note!
QM: What can you do about it?
S: Not much, it's done now.
QM: So you can't change the past?
S: No, can you?
QM: No, sorry, time is a one-way street.
S: So everything remains the same?
QM: Can't you travel down a one-way street?
S: You mean the future?
QM: Yes, is the future closed?
S: Well, not completely.
QM: Somewhat opened, somewhat closed?
S: Yeah, that's a good way to put it.
QM: So what part do you want to travel on?
S: Well, the open part, of course!
QM: A wise decision, indeed.
S: So let me get all of this straight. You're saying that the future is open, the mind and the body are really two peas in one pod . . .
QM: You may say the mind-body.
S: I may, but maybe I choose not to.
QM: It's you choice.
S: Yes, it is, isn't it. Anyways, you also say that I "buy" ideas or attitudes from others and that maybe I have allowed myself to be ripped-off in the process.
QM: Yes, I think that's a fine metaphor.
S: Or you suggest that I've caught a nasty virus that I could have inoculated myself against. You make it sound like a public health problem.
QM: Interesting, do you know anything about that? It's out of my league.
S: I'm working on it.
QM: What fun, your own inter-personal relations public health problem!
S: Fun to you maybe, not to me.
QM: Sorry, carried away.
S: Okay, Question Master, it's late. I gotta go.
QM: Thank you for talking with me. I learned a lot. I ,hoped that I didn't waste your time.
S: Well, I was looking for someone to throw a party for me.
QM: Oh, what kind of a party?
S: Never mind.
QM: Could you not find a host or hostess?
S: I decided I didn't want a party, not any kind of a party.
QM: I'm not sure I follow.
S: Never mind. Besides, I thought that you were teaching me something.
QM: There you go supposing again!
S: Good-night, you weirdo!
QM: Thank you. Sleep tight, don't let the bed bugs bite!

The End.

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