“Dialogue is a true sign of the times, but it also represents something that we need to deepen in all senses.
In the wake of John Paul II and of other contemporary thinkers, Chiara Lubich had described out times, at least in the West, with the image of a “cultural night”, not a permanent night, but a night which, according to Lubich, hid a light, a hope.
We could therefore say that within the cultural night, which is also a “night of dialogue,” a light is hidden, namely the possibility of all of us together elaborating a new culture of dialogue. To do this – in my opinion – the first step is to rediscover that it is so rooted in human nature that in every culture we can find what I would call the “ sources of dialogue.” These sources are contained in the great Scriptures and are basically two: the source that rises from the religious experience and the source that rises from the philosophical research of humanity. In this line we should have to talk about Biblical, Koranic, Vedic, Buddhist sources, and so on.
Last century in the West a real dialogical thinking developed from Jewish and Chrisitan roots. I draw particularly on the latter to offer you several principles of an anthropolgy of dialogue.
First. Dialogue “is written in human nature” to the point that you could say that it is the very definition of man.
Second. Through dialogue “every person is completed by the gift of the other;” that is, we need one another in order to be ourselves. In dialogue I give to the other my otherness, my diversity.
Third. Each dialogue “is always a personal encounter.” Therefore, it is not a matter of words or of thoughts, but of giving our being. Dialogue is not mere conversation or discussion, but something that touches the interlocutors more deeply.
Fourth. Dialogue requires “silence and listening.” This is decisive, because silence is important not only for right speech, but also for right thinking. As one proverb says: “When you talk, let your words be better than your silence” (Dionysius the Areopagite).
Fifth. True dialogue “constitutes something existential” because we risk our selves, our vision of things, our identity. At times we feel that we lose our cultural identity, but it’s only a passage because, in reality, our identity is immensely enriched in its opening. We should have an “open identity.” (Fabris). This means knowing who we are: but also being convinced that “when I understand with someone else . . . I know even better “who I am”.
Some further principles. Authentic dialogue “has to do with the truth” and is a deepening of the truth. For the ancient Greeks dialogue was the method for reaching the truth. This means that truth is always in need of being completed; no one posesses the truth, only she [the truth] posesses it. So we are not dealing with relativity of truth, but of “relationality of the truth” (Baccarini).
“Relative truth” means to say that each one has his truth that is true only for himself. “Relational truth” means that each one takes part and puts in common with the others his sharing in the [one] truth, which is true for everyone. Our way of reaching the truth and how we share in the truth is different. This is why dialogue is important: to enrich us with the different perspectives.
Through relationship each one discovers new aspects of the truth as if they were his own. As Raimond Panikkar says: From a window you see the whole landscape, but not totally. It is what we said earlier: We need to understand diversity as a gift and not as a danger. One of the great paradoxes of today is that in this globalised world we are fearful of diversity, of the other. Dialogue also “requires strong will.” Love for the truth leads me to seek her and desire her, and therefore I put myself in dialogue.
Two final principles. “Diaolgue is only possible among true people,” and only love makes us true. In other words, love prepares people for dialogue by making them true [persons]. What makes the talk fertile is the holiness of the one that speaks and the holiness of the one that listens. This then is the full scope of the dialogue’s responsibility: it requires true persons and makes the persons more true.
In conclusion: the culture of dialogue “knows only one law, which is reciprocity.” This dynamic of going and returning is essential for there to be true dialogue. Finally, today there is much talk about interculturalism. I think that true interculturalism is possible if we begin to live this culture of dialogue. No one ever said that dialogue would be easy. It requires something that today is difficult to pronounce: sacrifice. It requires men and women “mature for death” (Maria Zambrano), that is dying to oneself to live in the other.”
Jesús Morán , University of Mumbai, February 5, 2016.