Today, Dr. Art Shriberg gave a speaker introduction, and made a terrific joke that I will take liberty to share with you. He said that when he just started to work at Xavier University, he thought that SJ meant Slightly Jewish. What got to me is that he might be right. I know that SJ means Society of Jesus, but in a way we all are slightly Jewish, slightly Christian, slightly Muslim, slightly Buddhist. Probably some of the religious views that each of us has can be found in other religions. So are we all slightly interreligious? Then why is it so hard to engage in a dialogue, if most religions share the same values, teachings and have the same rights and wrongs?
As part of today’s session at the Northern American College there was an open floor discussion and anyone could get behind the podium and address the audience, and share their views. Listening to all these people I was amazed to see how much work all of them are doing to get people involved in a conversation. Maggie and I played it brave and took the stage. Below is a brief summary of our speech. Maggie also informed the audience about all the great programs and initiatives that are taking place on Xavier’s campus. I know that she will talk about this in her posting.
In between sessions, we shared a lunch with students at the Northern American College who are preparing to become priests. It was a great experience. Later in the evening we dropped coins in the Trevi Fountain to ensure that we come back.
From today’s presentation...
We often talk about starting a dialogue, but what is dialogue and how often does it happen? I often think of dialogue in the same way I think of friends: you only have few great ones. We call a lot of people our friends, when in reality we hope to have 2-3 great friends through our life. We often say that we engaged in a dialogue all the time, when in reality the dialogue that has a life-changing experience takes place only a couple times. Often, when we talk, we just try to persuade the other side to adopt our views. What happened to the authentic dialogue that was cherished so much by the ancient philosophers - did it get lost in agendas? The dialogue is not about trying to change the other side, it is about challenging your own views, taking in what others have to offer and using it to become wiser, to become a stronger, better character.
The hardest part about a dialogue is admitting to yourself that you might be wrong. But if you can’t let go of your dogmas, of your agendas, then you are not ready to engage in a conversation.
Every dialogue starts with a question. That being said, most of the questions that are asked daily are boring and stereotypical. Let’s take for example one of the most popular questions in the U.S.: What do you do? Wouldn’t it be more meaningful to ask: what is your gift to the society, what is your passion? But we do not want these questions, they are tough and we are not prepared to respond. The dialogue can start only when we learn to answer these questions or at least when we will not be afraid to approach them.
What question do you think would spark the dialogue worth having?