Relational Dialectics

April 23rd, 2013 § 0 comments § permalink

A dialectical approach to communication starts with the acknowledgement that opposing desires/commitments are present at all times.  In our relationships and interactions we try to negotiate contrary commitments:

Autonomy and Connectedness

Favoritism and Impartiality

Openness and Closedness

Novelty and Predictability

Instrumentality and Affection

Equality and Inequality

These were articulated by Leslie A. Baxter in 1988, and in a larger landscape, a dialectical approach comes from Mikhail Bakhtin and a Yin-Yang perspective.  Instead of viewing problems I encounter as one-way departures from a norm, it helps me to think about how opposing forces shape the problem at hand.


November 7th, 2011 § 0 comments § permalink

This post has been a long time in the making; maybe one cannot write about authority until one has become an individual, capable of autonomous action and of feeling the effects of assumed authority.
It’s strange that for the majority of my life so far I have been involved with authority systems such as education and government. These institutions are run by people as much as 7-11 is run by people, yet the people working within larger institutions are, in some way, quite comfortable with constructing guidelines for others to follow. Ostensibly these rules are for the good of the individual, and when this reasoning fails, the good of society is the justification.

Accomplishing tasks in a timely manner is a big part of authority; it seems primarily practical to me. And in large part this is connected to a sense of modern society that ought to be progressing via many individuals who don’t know much about each other. The nature of conflict/change morphs due to the positions of the participants. Within an anonymous society the justification for conflict and change must come from an abstraction of the common good. If I lived in a smaller more contained society I could find many other justifications for helping others, such as I know your father, or your brother is helping repair my barn. But since I don’t know much about people I have to fall back on guidelines which are based upon a general view of what is good for society.  Lo and behold, authority is there to provide guidelines.

This is where democracy comes in: ideally the majority decides what the standards of the society will be, tempered by principles that are not easily negotiable. Here’s where things get really strange though.  All around us we see aspects of society that ought to be changed: poor investment in education and health care, generational poverty, and crummy working conditions for many citizens.  So why not elect people who will create systems of equality?  Apparently, we have been electing people who have no problem exercising authority to maintain the status quo, and even to increase gaps between groups in society.  It strikes me that many people want leaders to tell people what to do, even though it is not in their best interests.  In this sense our leaders are manifesting our ideas of how authority should be exercised.  In another sense, if these leaders are brought into power through an influential minority with monetary input, we could say that our leaders create expectations of authority and that people get used to being told what to do, in a passive acceptance.


November 4th, 2011 § 0 comments § permalink

Radiant Leopards

are prowling about.

Glistening fangs,

devouring doubt.


A guardian cat

lies proud at my feet,

his belly digesting

a plentiful meat.


I found him a kitten,

he grew in a blur.

Now actions all flow,


as his purr.


October 3rd, 2011 § 0 comments § permalink

Lately I’ve been considering sensitivity as an orienting capacity.  If you’re not sensitive enough to pick up signals, you will be unable to respond to what is going on around you.  Last year during classes I read about “sensitizing concepts.”  Instead of thinking that an idea about people is fully correct, or always useful, conceptualizations can be used to sensitize an observer to what is happening in his field of vision/study.  Yet if I am too sensitive, I will be unable to make connections between phenomena, and to decide on a course of action.  At least this is what I would think based on my past education: we use reasoning to guide us through a world of sensory perceptions.  We use thought to make sense of all this input we are receiving.  One problem that arises is the blocking out of relevant information.  If I immediately put a perception into a category, I might miss out on a large part of what is actually happening.  For example, if I think that government is always wasting money, I might miss out on understanding all the good that comes from certain social services.  So, I’m wondering, how can I be sensitive, without being overwhelmed by what is happening around me?  If I tried to understand everything through categorization, I would become frenetic and exhausted.  The answer I am practicing is to live presently, and to allow the world to exist right in front of me, apart from my judgements or reactions to it.  This also involves allowing ki, or energy, to be constantly moving.  Without creating conflict through categorization, it is possible to feel an active connection immanent within all things.


September 25th, 2011 § 0 comments § permalink

The calmer one’s mind, the more one perceives Reality immediately.  The description of this Reality can fall under both change and calm.  Though we tend to think of calm as unchanging and crystalline, I am coming to understand this definition as biased by the desire for control, and the symptom of a tired mind.  In modern America, our subconscious is filled with rote definitions that fit well within a system of authority and control.  We think we need to be right because, in large part, we were taught by adults who needed to be right.  Perhaps they misread our desires and attributed false motives to us.  Perhaps they lacked tools to help us grow into maturity.  By adding fresh, calm perception, the need to grasp and define can become apparent and can be released.  From immediate perception, the appropriate action can be taken, infinite numbers of steps can be accomplished to develop the long-term plan.  The performance is Immanent, rather than mediated by thinking through expectations and formulations.  I feel this is in contrast to a morality built upon transcendent “oughts.”  Laudably, a transcendent morality aims for the activation of potential, yet can often habitualize a confusing comparison between what is and what ought to be.  How long one spends on this game-board, whether it be a few seconds, or years, is secondary to the possibility of potent action in every situation.  The realization of this can be put into the subconscious so that learning from life is always a process rooted in the present.  This calmness fosters growth without abstract effort, without feeling one ought to be growing more, and fills the present with an understanding of reality as dynamic flow.

two options

September 18th, 2011 § 0 comments § permalink

“When the anesthetic of being right is truly removed, change will occur, for from that vantage point one can only become mad or wise. Once awakened, the wound must heal or be forever scratched.”

I was thinking through this at Ava Roasteria a couple nights ago. I was sitting on the leather loveseat, writing out a short story, and frequently looking around the shop. A sense hit me that I really didn’t know much about the people who were coming in and out, who were sitting around. I could apply labels and quick judgements based on my past experiences, but these were not necessarily accurate. And the same realization applied to my physical surroundings, in a way. Usually I interpret the room I’m in based on unconscious patterns, or categories. As in, how I decide where I want to sit at Ava; it’s based on what is available and how much pleasure I think I can get by sitting in a certain spot.

But if I let all those safety mechanisms fall away, I am left with a flush of sensory perceptions and ever-new situations. And it’s scary, and seemingly unmanageable. I think this is one reason why people live with “purpose.” We don’t know how to live in the ever-new world, and so, for the most part, we allow our mind to assign meanings based on past experience and judgements. Yet if I engage with the process of sensitization, I believe I can find a way to live in the world without being run by my mind clicks. And for a sensitized person, I think being aware necessitates a movement towards madness, that is, being unable to cope with the reality of not-knowing, or towards healing the mind’s incessant habit of labeling.


April 4th, 2011 § 0 comments § permalink

Today in my pocket I found a little post-it note written by me in pencil a while ago. It read “see the illusion by the reality surrounding it.” I really like that, particularly because I am reading so many new ideas in my communication program. I think it’s difficult, maybe even impossible, to deal directly with an illusion one has; it’s like trying to see vision. For me, it is usually surrounding ideas and convictions that change the illusion or modify the idea, rather than a direct and forceful altering of something. I take reality to be interconnected, and truth to be the apprehension of these relationships. This is quite different than a hierarchy, in which some concepts trump others, in which convictions must be sacrificed for Right to occur, for Truth to win. An anxious mind needs to feel that all loose end are tied up, that the ratio has been established, while a calm mind understands the changing body, understands that problems can be dealt with as they arise in reality, in connection with other phenomena.


March 19th, 2011 § 0 comments § permalink

Keep breaking your heart
into finer and finer pieces
until the dust is in the air you breathe.

Keep finding your way into the shadow,
the unknown,
until satiety is what you have,
not what you need.

Keep stretching your trunk,
finding the pain of realizing
how long you have been shorted.

And keep feeling the sickness of desire,
for only the sensing soul can both feel and act
on what will be made right in our world.

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