If learning is a lifelong endeavour, then dialogue should be its perpetual motor. Functioning like the complex intricacies of a Swiss pocket watch, the perpetual motor should not be powered by a single piston, but a complex exchange mechanism, that, at full throttle and connected to the cylinder of learning, ignites the diffusion of ideas. Dialogue must exist alongside learning, as learning without dialogue is partial, and dialogue without learning is dogmatic.
Through the lens of dialogue and learning, the perpetual motor and the cylinder of life, let us explore the classical idea of insanity and sanity. Why? You may ask. It is through sanity and insanity that we can begin to excavate two divergent functions within dialogue; these are internal and external dialogue. Insanity has at its core, a symptomatic association with schizophrenic dialogue, think A Beautiful Mind. Insanity in our imagination is also present in the internal singular dialogue, monologues and soliloquies, the idea of singular thought and narrowness. It is in the soliloquies of Iago in Shakespeare’s Othello, that the darkest villain in English literature reveals his malicious plans,
‘I have’t! It is engender’d! Hell and night
Must bring this monstrous birth to the world’s light.’
The narrowness of his mind and the singularity of his wickedness allow the reader to learn of Iago’s dark designs against the Moor. This is not quite classical insanity, but there is something of the insane and unreasonable in such dark singularity. Such examples in literature remind us that we should not forget the edge of darkness, brutality and drive that manifest from closed minds with murderous objectives.
Internal dialogue also functions through an enlightened understanding of sanity, the “man of reason” and “rationality”, concepts born from the humanist tradition of the European enlightenment. It is from this strand of ideology, with the help of multiculturalism and the spread of “Eastern” ideas in the post-colonial Occident, that contemporary societies of the Western world have adopted a type of post-modern enlightened Buddhism. What could be more evident of this then the societal obsession with “self-reflection”. Enlightened post-modern dialogue has at its core, an internal mechanism that must appropriate external dialogue, otherwise will risk slipping into fruitless tautologies and self-confirmation.
If dialogue is external and internal, then internal dialogue cannot exist without the external. We can only maintain internal dialogue with interaction and infiltration by the alternative and the “other”. It is through these external dialogues that new ideas and concepts precipitate our mind, and after osmosis we synthesis. It is through these external dialogues that old ideas that have crystalised or congealed, are dissolved and unfrozen. It is the confrontation with new ideas through external dialogue that we can render internal dialogues to reach a dialectical conclusion. Dialectic conversation should never end, but should entail a continuous synthesis of a thesis and antithesis.
Once the kindle of learning is lit, the fire of learning should be kept alight by the pitch of dialogue. Through understanding the mechanism of internal and external dialogue, the conversations we have with others and ourselves, will allow us to continuously synthesis ideas through the dialectic confrontation of thesis and antitheses. Beware of those who advocate the closure of dialogue, for it is only through such methods that we can strive for the new, and reawaken the old and noble.