If you listened to my interview with Walter Sterling (click here), you know I am sitting for his seminar on Henry Kissinger’s World Order at St. John’s College, Santa Fe. The first class was Wednesday.
From the start, it was obvious I had picked up some bad habits (or lost some good ones) in my time away from the classroom. I now read brazenly and forgot the ten rules of the dialectical conversation.
The cure to the first problem is to slow down and read the text three times over. I’ve read too many books on business practices, looking for bullet points. (Books are often long only due to the difficulty in pricing and selling ten-page books.) World Order is Kissinger thinking broadly and deeply about the contemporary moment and to properly discuss its finer points requires deep reading.
The remedy for the second (proper conversation) is found in Stringfellow Barr’s essay Notes on Dialogue. It’s only five pages, and I urge you to read it, but here are the bullet points, because I know we all look for bullet points:
- Avoid declarative monologues and/or attempts at completeness of thought
- Deliberate while “drunk” or drunk
- Ask “Do I understand you to be saying . . .”
- You will be clumsy at first. Experience brings a sixth sense
- It’s not about equal talk time. Listen intently
- Don’t agree to disagree, postpone if you have to
- Follow the argument wherever it leads
- Abandon hand raising
- Be a close listener. Seek in common to understand
- Allow for playfullness