There is a concept in the facilitation of Baha’i Study, of elevated conversation. Elevated conversation is something that anyone can enter. It does require knowledge of certain things but, those things being known or understood, it is not necessary to be knowledgeable about other things and still be able to enter elevated conversation about those things.

Well those couple of sentences are, I am sure, just baffling. So lets look at it through a specific principle of the Baha’i Faith: religion and science are in harmony.

The first thing i would say is that, while scientific knowledge is useful for an elevated conversation around this principle, it is only that it can be a tool of elevated conversation, not a tool of scientific knowledge. This is a distinction that is important to make.

Let’s drill down into the ideas.

Conversation can be described as being in play with another or others. Play, for those who have forgotten what that is, is the to and fro without expectations, but from which something flourishes. It is mostly a very enjoyable experience for everyone.

‘Elevated’ in the context of Baha’i empowerment training might be defined as the transformation of complaint based issues to generative Baha’i Principle based conversation. Baha’i principles are socially transformative concepts based on the vast array of spiritual principles exhorted by Baha’u’llah, with implications for individual empowerment and action.

In elevated conversation, the facilitator can be thought of as holding a space for the other(s) and themselves to be working as with these generative principles. “As with” meaning both that the participants ARE the principle, and work WITH the principle. The facilitator could ask whether the other(s) agree with the principles as they are presented. Alternatively, the facilitator could request that the other(s) just try the principle on, like wearing a coat, for the duration of the conversation.

So, in regards science or any scientific idea. The Baha’i principle is that Science and Religion is in harmony. So, as Baha’is we don’t need to know everything there is about religion or science to explain the harmony. In fact, if you think about it, that would be a ludicrous expectation of ourselves and others. Rather, we as Baha’is have accepted to wear the coat of ‘science and religion is in harmony’. So the elevated conversation with scientific friend can be in the form of a request. “Brianna, can I request that you ‘wear’ this idea around for a while?” “You can always take it off, later on, if it doesn’t feel comfortable” Because as we know, we can only guess at what is wearable by looking at it on the rack. Until we try it on, we don’t really get a feel for it. And there is very little reality in a conversation about things. Reality is only what comes into being as a structure, an action. Conversation of course, is an action, so the distinction between conversation (play with another) and ‘about things’ (imagination), is important.

Once a person has agreed to ‘wear’ the concept of science and religion are in harmony, then the conversation can progress in the space of that concept. In that generative (creative) space, which you as facilitator are holding open for the conversation, there are only things that are ‘science and religion are in harmony’. Complaints about science and complaints about religion are not possibilities in that space. So, when complaint rises, the facilitator can notice it to the other(s). “So, can you see that, when you move the conversation into complaint about the past, or science or religion, that you have moved to a domain of ‘nothing new or transformative is happening here’. This human tendency to move to complaint is more often not about truth, just a social tendency, an habitual domain to get us into social engagement, upon which we peg some rationale, after the fact. So ‘holding the space’ means that the facilitator requests, “How about we come back to the arena of science and religion are in harmony,” “Okay, now what comes up for you in this arena, this space.”<

A note on generative language. Generative language is future and creative based language. It gets life from words that are about creating into the space. It might not be surprising to see that these words are the same as what we call 'virtues' or names of God, in the Faith eg enthusiasm, love, courage, beauty, wonder, questions, service, contribution, etc etc etc.

So, in practical terms, in the space of 'science and religion are in harmony' you can present the quotations from the writings that seem to link to a scientific idea, existence, the universe, even the limitations of human knowledge. In the spirit of conversation you might try a couple of quotes with an interaction in generative conversation. What comes up for you and the other(s)? What comes up dictates the next conversation, the next writings you might use. So be in play, in enjoyment. Then it never needs to stop.

If a conversation is always in play, does it have any purpose? A generative conversation would be expected to realise some milestones in development. By inference, if the conversation fails to develop, it is not generative, perhaps looping, certainly stagnating and eventually will stop. Within any branch of a conversation, it may indeed stop as the participants find no further point of generation. Yet, often another branch, another choice of direction, can be taken. Any conversational direction with another may yield fruit. Fruits of the tree of conversation are a form of contribution to the world, a service to humanity. The new contribution in the world is that the person has been transformed, that they ARE something new. The generative or elevated conversation can take advantage of any milestones in transformation that shows up as a new contribution.

How to prevent violence against women

Domestic violence in Australia is on the rise. Women’s rights advocates are calling for a cultural shift away from the acceptance of domestic violence. Because, believe it or not: According to some surveys, one in five young men believed it was a right to hit a woman if they were drunk.

Support services for family and domestic violence:

  • 1800 Respect national helpline 1800 737 732
  • Women’s Crisis Line 1800 811 811
  • Men’s Referral Service 1300 766 491
  • Lifeline (24 hour crisis line) 131 114
  • Relationships Australia 1300 364 277

Fiona McCormack, the CEO of Domestic Violence Victoria says we need to frame the deepening crisis in terms of power and justice.

The national average is a woman murdered every week by someone known to them.

All forms of violence against women are caused by the same factors, whether it occurs on the street or in the home and whether it’s perpetrated by a stranger or someone known.

  • One in three Australian women will experience physical violence.
  • Family violence is a key driver of 23 per cent of national homelessness in Australia.
  • It comprises 40 per cent of police time.
  • It’s a factor in over 50 per cent of substantiated child protection cases.
  • Violence against women costs the Australian economy $13.6 billion every year.

The common denominator in most of these cases is gender.

This is something deeply cultural—a part of our history deeply ingrained in our collective psyche. It’s like we’re fish but we don’t see the water.

International research shows that violence against women occurs in countries across the world to a greater or lesser extent depending upon some key factors:

  • Rigid adherence to gender stereotypes
  • The status of women compared to men
  • Our violence-supportive attitudes

Academically gender refers to social norms, the social expectations about the roles and rights of men and women in our society. Our expectations about men and women stem from a long cultural history and are essentially sexist.

Men who choose to use violence have hyper-masculine attitudes about their rights as men and the role and rights of women. They believe they have a right as men to behave this way and that it’s women who are to blame. Importantly, they see their partners and children as their possessions. That’s why we see so many women and children murdered as payback when women try to end a relationship.

A cultural aspect of how we define masculinity is that it is seen by many as something that has to be proved over and over. Men with hyper-masculine attitudes see it as critical that their masculinity isn’t doubted or challenged, which is why these attitudes are so problematic in the context of family violence. This is particularly so when women try to end a relationship and are made to pay. We would assess that about 50 per cent of the family violence the system deals with is post-separation violence, and it can go on for years.

This (the solution) isn’t about men being less than men. It’s about reshaping expectations of what it is to be a man, about shedding concepts of masculinity that have such a negative impact on us as a society, particularly when ‘being a bloke’ involves derogatory attitudes towards women. I think that can be another way in which masculinity can be reasserted or affirmed by some men—by engaging in disrespectful comments about or behaviours toward women when they are together. With the development of healthier interpretations of masculinity we’d see a range of benefits in terms of reducing street violence, rates of violence against young men and bullying.

There are many women who experience far higher rates of violence, and more extensive violence, than others: women with disabilities, Aboriginal women and women newly arrived to Australia. There’s a common myth that certain women seek out abusers as partners when the reality is that there are men who recognise there are few options for redress for certain women and take advantage of that fact.

So what would it take to deliver a just society?

At an individual level:

  1. We need zero tolerance of violence against women.
  1. We must understand violence against women as a choice.

This is not a sudden loss of temper or control. Many times it doesn’t even involve physical abuse. It’s usually experienced by women as a range of behaviours meant to intimidate and control. It’s a deliberate choice.

  1. We must understand these are everyday men.

So many women don’t recognise they’re in an abusive relationship until it’s reached crisis, especially if they’re not experiencing physical violence.

If we’re going to prevent murders, really it’s critical we start saying: ‘No matter how disaffected a man feels, no matter how hard done by the system he is, it’s never okay to harm or take the life of your partner or your child.’

  1. We need to challenge sexist or derogatory attitudes towards women.

Sometimes people can think they have to wait until they see a violent altercation before they can do something, but the reality is men particularly can play a major role in challenging the conditions that allow violence against women to flourish by challenging derogatory comments, sexist jokes, et cetera.

If we’re going to start preventing men from being violent in the first place, we need to challenge sexist attitudes and behaviours.

Violence is the ultimate expression of sexism

At a societal level:

We need to be intervening earlier. Providing women with information on the early warning signs is crucial because it also provides us with information on the patterns of control.

Some of those warning signs are:

        • Is he resistant to you living an independent life?
        • Is he resistant to you having your own bank account?
        • Is he resistant to you socialising with friends independently?
        • Is he overtly jealous? Does he monitor where you are and what you do?
        • Is he respectful to you? He may be in the early stages but is he respectful to other women? Ex-girlfriends?

Holding the Tension

If we can say that we are the fruits of the universe, the we could say that we were born out of tension. Not any degree of tension but a very particular degree of tension. For tension can be described as a continuum of oppositional forces. At one end of the continuum, gravitational, crushing forces are so dominant that there is no expansion of material at all, just a singularity of no dimensions, no substance at all, perhaps not even any forces. At the other end of the continuum, expansive forces are so dominant that the substances of the universe rush away until the universe appears dark and cold and void.

Yet, somehow, a universe has expanded from that singular nothingness with just the right proportions of a pressurised rushing away that the atomic building blocks of the suns, planets and life-forms, were formed. Every distinct phase of the development of the universe organised itself on new nodes of tension formed by the culmination of the previous phase of development. The new substances forming in the incredible expansive forces, provide deeper gravity wells, stronger binding and crushing forces, while the expansive forces stretch out the very matrix of the time-space into which the gravity wells are formed. As accretion rolls into the gravity wells, spin occurs. Or was spin part of the very nature of the earliest expansion? Spin could explain both the rushing away, a centripetal fling of time and space as well as the rushing inwards and down in the gravity well.

Life seems to have fostered as the development of massive forms of the universe, galaxies and solar systems, cooling and resting in massive gravity wells, slowed down the very expansion of time and space. Here in the cool, slowing universe, spinning slowed and accretions became even more complex.

Eventually, under certain very exacting conditions, a world transformed into an enterprise of life. And that life  continued to break out and build up until a conscious intelligence came about. This intelligence is named for its ability for seeing how it is designed to work. No longer were the physical and chemical spin and tensions responsible for the transformative moments of the universe. Now there was a world of orchestrated slow spinning complexities, of loops and feedback, that created a review of the past and the future.

Here, on the planet we Reviewers came to call the Earth, we recognised that we were both spinning in and of, a web of tensions. As our substances quickened by rapid feedback, time appeared as slowly. In slow time, we grasp tendrils of tensions with our hands and in our mind and wondered about our choices in interfering with those tensions while, in an act of tension itself, playing enthusiastically with whatever responses we could elicit.

We have played particularly in the tension between expansions of tribes across the world and the building of empires, and the accretions of communities in ties of cultural identity. At the nodes of tension lie the tensions between war and peace, empathy and otherness, amity and hatred, generosity and hoarding, and hospitality and isolation. The responses we have elicited have been building great empires, buildings, technologies and democracies; and reeked great destruction on each other. The loops of feedback on tensions, spin through our own minds, our cultural enterprises, the planet, and resonate with the Galaxy.

As we reach for some mastery over our tensions, we see that holding the tensions rather than energising one over the other, especially around those vital nodes, allows a guided transformation in new expansions and accretions. We feel for it within our minds and bodies. We watch for it through our conversations in the politic. We hold the tension, just enough. We breath. We move towards a possibility. We feel for maintaining some tension as a new form. It seems slow. Rather it is a delicate adjustment in which successful transformations amass quickly and even more quickly.

Life Long Learning

Recently someone asked me about my learning mode preference. We learn through a variety of modalities: what we see, hear, and feel, constructed into patterns that provide us tools for transforming our relationships and our world for our benefit. I would suggest that mostly, “our benefit” means that we get a ‘kick’ out of the new or novel thing that we find. Psycho-pharmocology would suggests this ‘kick’ comes from a production of dopamine which is based in our brain as a response to immediate success. Dopamine is disinterested. It can be activated by the success of a baby learning to stand, a scientist seeing the breathrough data, a gamer winning a video game, or just directly as a chemical interaction on the brain. My many fortunate years as a learner, but not as a master of any field of learning, has given me a particular view on learning. I haven’t fully worked through this view, so I am writing it here as it came to me as I began answering this question.

As a keen science follower, there are two sources that I access regularly

The Australian Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) performs research over a large number of fields from health to agriculture to new materials and technologies to environment to space.

The CSIRO publishes a regular update of the latest findings and research in an easy-to-read format: News or Blogs.  Often the reports show the practical value of the research. The health reports can be particularly helpful because it is explained in a manner that can be easily applied to our lifestyle eg Starch resistant Foods are good for you.

ABC Science
The popular Australian public broadcaster has a science department that also follows the latest worldwide developments in all scientific fields.

Me as a Learner.
I’m primarily an auditory learner. Story gets me more than any other modality. I can often remember a good story years afterwards. I am also a great reader. However, these modalities build up a knowledge library. And the storage comes with the inspiration I find in the knowledge. Then I find that I can move knowledge around to look at various patterns, looking for new insights. So I think I have a good ‘pattern-making’ system. I think this is learnt through a combination of inherent talent and learning reward that comes with the ‘kick’ probably a dopamine hit in the brain, when i find something novel. In career, though, I am a physiotherapist and have now worked with bodies, mine and others for 34 years now. In particular I can now see many things about movement at a glance and I have a very sensitive touch from light to strong pressure or movement responses. That is a learning that begins with a newness in knowledge, visualisation, observation, and physical interaction and grows as an integration and development of all those aspects. Having, as an older person, become involved in game, play, and dance, and actively looking at the nature of my own ‘being’ in the world, I have found that there are many places of learning kinaesthetically, visually, and socially. I call them the places of tension, and I think across any modality a good way to learn is find the beginning of the tension, where the ability wavers but doesn’t fall down. I got an insight to that by joining a beginners singing class with Kirsten Cottone of Talent Quests Australia  , so that, at 56 I find my singing voice is improving quite a lot. Meanwhile I dance everyday in my own training and in that look closely at how my body is performing. Having come to dance in my 50’s, even as a physiotherapist I am also surprised to find how my body is becoming more trainable and my ability to make distinctions of movement improves.

TeLL Me WHo i aM

Don’t tell me
who I am.
It doesn’t matter.
I can’t understand.
Your language makes no sense.
And you do not know
in any case.
Tell me who you are.
Then I might know
who I am.


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