The Unfolding and Enfolding of Shared Experience

"Everything someone tells you is true: they are reporting their experience of reality.... To argue with someone else's experience is a waste of time. ... To add someone else's experience to your experience--to create a new experience--is possibly valuable." -MG Taylor Axiom, 1981

Physicist David Bohm has described the principle of enfoldment in his book, Unfolding Meaning: A Weekend of Dialogue. The one-sentence summary states that the entire universe is enfolded into each of its components and that the visible universe is the movement or process of enfolding and unfolding--the reflexive transit between principle and expression. We are literally the enfolding and unfolding of our experience.

Communicating our experience of something is necessarily attenuated. Feelings, textures, colors, sounds, the pattern of sensations dancing across time and out of time, are all incompressible--they can't be shared by the spoken word. Someone can only report to you about their experience. Since you can't truly understand the experience from their vantage point, the only wise course of action is to accept it at face value and move forward together or move further apart from that acceptance.

The big danger about arguing over someone else's experience rises if one of the parties actually wins the argument, at which point, some critical understanding and vantage point on the universe--and the resulting learning--is denied and lost. (full article on the axioms)

So how do people from two different cultures begin a conversation and create a language and a doing that supports the reality of both vantage points? Recently, I have been asked to create a project with an explicit and detailed budget and description for what will be accomplished. This project is to help an organization learn a new way of working, to change their culture through learning our culture. AND yet, I am being asked to answer their demands and queries to match their existing culture! Hummm.... For me, an impossibility! Not that I don't appreciate -- or at least understand -- where the demand is coming from -- the framework from which it springs. But to answer in the way they want the information is to eliminate the essence of what they are asking me for! So, around and around we go when the truth is that if we just got started, if we could begin working together, I am quite sure we would come to know a way to communicate that works for all ... including the bosses.

When people with different vantage points give each other time and begin doing the work, a new language is born, emergent understanding unfolds and over time a synergy can arise. Trust comes from doing together. It does not spring from contracts and dollar agreements. This is not about compromise or each side giving in, but rather forging a new pattern and coming to recognize each other's needs and visions through a new, common lens. When two cultures can work this way, something new arises... a new dance that brings gifts to both sides. The multiple tries over time give in to a higher order. I look forward to this reality. The multiple tries are tedious for all of us ... but, in the end often (but not always) worth it. I think, however, that we could shorten the frustration cycle by becoming aware early on that we will not succeed in demanding each other accepts the others' point of view or way of working.

What if we began our dialogs and conversations with this assumption?... "To add someone else's experience to your experience--to create a new experience--is possibly valuable. "