“Dialogues with the World” is a series of essays and responses to the challenges of Life, Love, Learning, Consciousness, Creativity and Culture in the global age. These six blog entries are being developed for an upcoming seminar at the Osher Life-Long Learning Institute (OLLI) affiliated with Southern Oregon University in Ashland, Oregon.
The following are a few “focus questions” to guide reflection and discussion on each of the six topics:
1. REFLECTIONS ON LIFE: What is life? Why does life matter? What do we mean when we say that “life is sacred?” What does it mean to respect the inter-dependency of the web of life? What are eco-systems? Why do they matter? What does it mean to respect the freedom and dignity of human life? What are the major threats to human freedom and dignity in our society and world today? Is sentient, conscious, intelligent and creative life common or rare throughout the universe? What is the origin, purpose and destiny of humanity as a “higher form” of life?
“As Aristotle said, what is distinctive of human personhood is the ability to pursue human excellence in relation to what is good — that is, the pursuit of virtue. The distinctive virtues of a human life are intelligent freedom and creativity, conscious appreciation and understanding, and the fostering of social cooperation and compassion. These are the objects of intelligent and informed moral choice, and they involve the cultivation of feelings that can more fully realize the possibilities of a good human life.” –Keith Ward, More Than Matter?
2. REFLECTIONS ON LOVE: What is love? Why does love matter? What are the various kinds of love? What are the differences between Companionship, Friendship, Eros and Agape? What does it mean to mature and grow as a person who is capable of giving and receiving love? How is mature love different from clinging dependency? Why do some people develop avoidant personalities who never learn how to love? Who are your people? Whom do you love? What do you love? What is precious and sacred to you?
3. REFLECTIONS ON LEARNING: What is learning? Why does learning matter? How is learning related to: Teaching? Curiosity? Questions? Problems? Experience? Experimentation? Intelligence? Information? Knowledge? Creativity? Wisdom? What is the difference between Tacit Knowledge and Explicit Knowledge? What roles do introspection and observation, intuition and sensation, feeling and thinking, perception and judgment play in the learning process? What happens when we over-relay on any of these ways of knowing to the exclusion and neglect of the others? Why are some people fast learners and others slow learners?
4. REFLECTIONS ON CONSCIOUSNESS: What is consciousness? Why does consciousness matter? Are there degrees, levels and domains of consciousness? To what extent are living organisms and animals conscious? How are sentience and consciousness related? Why do some persons seem to go through life rather unconsciously? What does it mean to become a conscious, self-aware and environmentally perceptive person? How does one develop and expand the range, scope, depth and breadth of one’s perception and awareness? What things are important to keep within one’s field of consciousness? Why is it important to develop wide-angle vision, close-up focal vision, birds-eye vision and binocular vision? Why is it important to recognize the various lenses and filters through which we and others perceive and judge the phenomena of experience? To what extent is “diminished consciousness” like color- blindness, tunnel-vision or tone-deafness? How does one expand one’s consciousness? To what extent are human beings capable of developing an Encompassing, Comprehensive, Cosmic or Universal Consciousness, and to what extent is human consciousness always limited, partial, situated and fragmentary? To what extent can human beings know “reality-in-itself,” what Kant called the “numinal reality” beyond the “perceptual reality?” How does one decide between being “gnostic” or “agnostic”, that is, to claiming an experience of “inner knowing” or to settling for “living the quetions” and “without knowing?” Are these temperamental differences that are based on a preference for either certitude or ambiguity?
5. REFLECTIONS ON CREATIVITY: What is creativity? Why does creativity matter? What are the qualities of highly creative people? How does one learn to become more creative and innovative in the ways one approaches the vital domains of human knowledge and life experience? How is creative intelligence different from prosaic intelligence? What does it mean to say that “a system cannot understand itself?” What does it mean to “think outside the box?” What are paradigm shifts? When do they happen? Why do our conceptual paradigms, mental maps, narrative traditions and worldview perspectives matter? Why are creative thinkers sometimes neglected and rejected during their lifetimes? Why is “creative thinking” outside of the conventional assumptions and constructions of the consensus reality difficult to cultivate? In acts of passionate and courageous creative intelligence to what extent does a human being surpass or overcome himself? What motivates us “to go where no one has gone before?”
6. REFLECTIONS ON CULTURE: What is culture? Why does culture matter? What is the difference between “a culture of life” and “a culture of death?” In the aboriginal sacramental world and ancient Axial Age, how were the five wisdom traditions of the Shaman, Sage, Mystic, Prophet and Evangelist related to each other? What core values did they each embody? To what extent have they been enemies and friends to each other? In the Modern Renaissance, Reformation, Enlightenment, Romantic, Existential and Pragmatic “cultures” that comprise the Liberal Arts University, how are the five cultures of the scientist, philosopher, historian, literati and artist related to each other? What core values do they each embody? To what extent have they been enemies and friends to each other? In the Modern Technocratic Capitalist Society, how are the five cultures of the Tradesman, Technologist, Entrepreneur, Executive and Professional related to each other? What core values do they each embody? To what extent have they been enemies and friends to each other? What are the dominant and recessive factors that are influencing our contemporary Western culture? What does it mean to engage in “Dialogues with the World?”