By Neale Donald Walsch.
Don’t you think someone should be talking about this?
OKAY, WE’RE ON OUR WAY. These questions are guaranteed to perk up ears in any group.
Perk up ears is one thing. Change the world is another. Is that what this whole thing is all about? I’ve stuck with you all this way so that you could tell me to “Go out and have conversations about seven questions”? That’s it? I sure was expecting more than that.
I don’t blame you for having those thoughts. It doesn’t seem like much of a solution to the problems at hand, does it? But can I tell you something?
It’s conversations, little conversations, that start big revolutions. And we are talking here about The Conversation of the Century.
It’s conversations that change people’s minds and help people make up their minds. And conversations around these trenchant questions could ignite a global movement generating enormous social developments that really could change the world.
The impact of simple dialogue
Let me share something here from Margaret J. Wheatley, author of Turning to One Another: Simple Conversations to Restore Hope to the Future (2002).
This is a globally known consultant on organizational behavior. She received her doctorate from Harvard University, holds an M.A. in systems thinking from New York University, and has worked on every inhabited continent in virtually every type of organization.
In other words, Meg Wheatley knows her way around. Here’s what she says: “There is no more powerful way to initiate significant social change than to start a conversation.”
Wow. I couldn’t have paid her to say something better suited to make the point I’ve been making here. In a 2002 article in Utne Reader, Ms. Wheatley observes that “…true conversation is…a timeless and reliable way for humans to think together. Before there were classrooms, meetings or group facilitators, there were people sitting around talking.
“We can take courage from the fact that this is a process we all know how to do. We can also take courage in the fact that many people are longing to converse again. We are hungry for a chance to talk. People want to tell their stories, and are willing to listen to yours. We are awakening an ancient practice, a way of being gathered that all humans intimately understand.
“Change doesn’t happen from someone announcing the plan. Change begins from deep inside a system, when a few people notice something they will no longer tolerate, or when they respond to someone’s dream of what’s possible.”
That is precisely, to the letter, what The Conversations Movement is all about.
You know something? We did that in the Sixties. We were very serious in those days. We were thinking of our children, we were concerned about the planet, we were doing sit-ins, we rallied together and marched, we were thinking seven generations ahead…and we talked and talked and talked.
But it feels like we’ve actually gone backwards since then. At least then we could have a conversation. Today it feels as if there’s less tolerance, less acceptance, less willingness to even respectfully listen to an opposing point of view; more ugly division, more demonizing by those who disagree. The “peace and love” generation tried, and where did it get us?
There absolutely is more polarization in society today than ever before. But that’s the whole point being made here. What you did in the Sixties led to this.
Oh, great. So it’s our fault.
No, it’s to your credit. You and many others in the Sixties generation helped to bring about the End of an Era. Polarization is the natural result of that. It is the signal that the era is actually coming to an end.
This ending of the era may not have happened as fast as you would have liked 40 years ago, but make no mistake, that was the impetus that got the snowball rolling downhill. And now we have an avalanche.
Eras have always ended with the emergence of the sharpest divisions ever between one point of view and another, between yesterday’s ideas and tomorrow’s hopes, because it is at the end of an era that those who cannot let go of their Old Cultural Story feel the most threatened, and so hold on most tightly.
So yes, many of us older folks did talk and talk in the Sixties. We sat around in circles and gabbed our heads off, sometimes until the sun came up. And thus began a 50-year shift in humanity’s thinking.
It takes a long time to turn a big ship around. Humanity couldn’t have done it any faster, because it didn’t have the tools of amplification and the
“glue-ification” we have today. We couldn’t make our words heard or stick.
We didn’t have Facebook and Twitter and YouTube and MySpace. We didn’t have emailing and texting and Googling. That entire social networking apparatus was used in 2011 to amplify and “glueify” individual conversations, resulting, as I have already noted, in the total changing of the governments of entire countries. Such powerful and widespread activation and mobilization would have been utterly impossible in the Sixties.
But now our little conversations can get big; our community-based conversations can go global. And we have even more people joining with us. We have the younger ones. We have the folks in their 20s, 30s, and 40s. Now imagine all of us getting in on the act.
And imagine each person in community-based discussion groups going home, getting on their computer and sharing with their social networking community all that they’ve just heard and explored. Suddenly a conversation with four or six people can turn into a conversation with four or six hundred.
What we did in the Sixties was a good start. It was the “beginning of the beginning.” But what is going on now is the Beginning—capital ‘B.’ We see this, we can feel the momentum, and so the goal of The Conversations Movement is to engage 250 million people in the Conversation of the Century within three to five years.
As I said, no reach on that scale could have been envisioned by anyone but major television networks and print media moguls in the Sixties. Today the power of mass communication has been harnessed by the masses themselves. And that is the difference.
Also, we didn’t have the Seven Simple Questions.
But do you really think that a simple invitation to have a conversation, even in this day and age of electronic connection, can draw 250 million people into a dialogue?
If Facebook can attract 500 million to talk about what they had for breakfast, half that number can surely be motivated to talk about things that actually matter.
All it will take to rewrite our Cultural Story is the reaching of critical mass in the energies around the idea. We have to reach a certain level in the number of people who are sufficiently interested in their own lives and in humanity’s future to spend time exploring what we all believe, and then proposing what we might believe that could yield different results, given that we don’t like the results we’ve produced so far.
I’m impressed with the words of the late Robert Kennedy: “And if our times are difficult and perplexing, so are they challenging and filled with opportunity,” he said. “It is not enough to understand, or to see clearly…
“There are those who look at things the way they are and ask, Why?…I dream of things that never were and ask, Why not?”
Instead of “exploring what we all believe,” shouldn’t we be living what we believe?
People hold some pretty strong beliefs. Chief among them…the belief that we are separate from God, that we are separate from each other, that there is “not enough” of what we need to be happy, that we have to compete with each other in order to get enough, or grow, grow, grow the economy in order to produce enough, and that there is something we all have to do to “earn” our right just to take up space on the planet, to speak our mind, to have our share, to give our gift—and most of all, to be with God in heaven.
And it all stems from those first two thoughts: that God is separate from us and that we are separate from each other.
Of course God is separate from us. What do you think, that God is the same as we are? Sorry, but it’s that kind of muddled thinking that creates what you call the “problems in the world today.”
(I had this actual conversation on talk radio recently. I responded…) We seem to have a different view of who and what God is, you and I.
I’m sure that we do.
You think God is something outside of yourself, and I’m saying that God and you—God and all of us—are One. And I’m saying that the idea that God is separate from us is at the top of the list of Beliefs that Cause Humanity’s Misery.
How? How does the belief that God is great, God is good, cause humanity misery?
I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to suggest that God is not great or God is not good. I simply said God is not separate from us, or “other” than us.
But that’s the same as saying that God is not great, because if the way we are is the way God is, that doesn’t sound very great to me.
So are you telling me that this is as “great” and as “good” as God gets…is that it? God is not “other” than us, so WE are the “God” that we supposed to worship? That’s a tough one. I don’t think I can go there.
I believe that humans could experience themselves as being as great and as good as God is, if they only stopped telling themselves that they cannot.
We cannot be as great and as good as God is. We simply cannot. That’s just plain hubris.
I know you believe this, and I respect what you believe, but I’m wondering if it might not just be a matter of scale.
I’m not following that. You lost me on that last turn.
Well, I understand that we cannot be as large as God; that would be impossible. A drop of the ocean is not the ocean.
But it is the same as the ocean, simply in a smaller portion. So the drop and the ocean are the same stuff. And proportionate to its size, the drop can be as great as the ocean. To a microscopic life form, the drop may as well be the ocean. So we’re talking here about nothing more than proportion.
But let me ask you a question. What do you think this world would be like if we did “worship” other people as if they were God? Do you think we’d have more wars, or less? Do you think we’d have more arguments, more fights, more terror, more violence, or less?
That isn’t the point.
It isn’t? Then what is?
The point is that the way to have less violence, fewer wars, and a better world is to listen to God and do what God says, not try to be God.
Humanity’s problem is too much ego, not too little ego! You want us to run around thinking that we are God? Good grief.
Let me move in a different direction for a moment. I find myself wanting to point out that many human beings are not happy. In fact, most are not. We can agree on that, can we not?
Yes, we can agree on that. The world’s a mess.
And so we live in a society whose members are lashing out in frustration and anger, in defensiveness and bewilderment. They experience that they live in a world that is constantly attacking them—or at the very least, preventing them. It’s stopping them from having what they want.
Most people do not see humanity as having had a role in creating the world like that. What we can do in the global conversations I’m suggesting is keep talking about who we are and about the ability that we have to re-create our world anew if we simply embrace the highest truth about who we are.
If you’re saying we should be talking about being “God,” I’m not going to be able to get behind that. I can support trying to make the world a better place, but I can’t support going around talking nonsense.
I appreciate you for being so clear. But you know, it was George Bernard Shaw who famously observed, “All great truths begin as blasphemies.” So I want to simply notice that most every new idea is going to sound like nonsense to some people—especially if it’s an idea about us and God.
I know that what is being said here, that we are all Divine, runs counter to our present Cultural Story, our present understanding. It violates our values. It shakes us up. It even gets some of us mad. But I always look closely at the ideas that make me angry.
Anger is the first sign that I may be looking at something I don’t want to look at; that I may be confronting something that challenges some pretty fundamental idea I hold. This is not always the case, but I’ve learned that it’s true a lot of the time when somebody says something or proposes something that makes me angry.
So I don’t walk away from an idea that makes me angry. I walk into it. I explore it. Maybe there’s something there for me; maybe there’s something for me to look at more closely. If not, what’s the harm? If I’ve done nothing but reaffi rm my prior belief and now hold it more closely, wouldn’t that be a good thing?
I’m proposing here that we not be afraid to talk a little “nonsense” now and then, because as part of our conversation around such thoughts, we can sometimes get to something that is “sense.” Or…we can discover that the “nonsense” was not nonsense after all.
For instance, I want to suggest that part of humanity’s problem right now is that it has a decidedly wrong set of priorities.
POINTS I HOPE YOU WILL REMEMBER…
* Little conversations start big revolutions.
* Change begins when a few people notice something they will no longer tolerate, or when they respond to someone’s dream of what’s possible.
* Sharply divided opinions, such as those we are seeing increasingly in the world today, are sure signs that an era is ending.
* Anger is a good indication that there may be something for you to look at more closely.
ACTION I HOPE YOU WILL TAKE…
* Make a list of the last five opinions, comments, or ideas you can remember dramatically disagreeing with. Look at those comments or opinions again and see if there is anything important Life is trying to say to you around those subjects.
* Use Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, MySpace and other social media to spread the word about the Global Conversation and its website at www.TheGlobalConversation.com.
8 Nov 2015.
© Neale Donald Walsch.
The Storm Before the Calm: Book 1 in the Conversations with Humanity Series – by Neale Donald Walsch. Paperback published 1 October 2011, Emnin Books, Oregon, USA; ISBN-13: 978-1401936921