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The overarching mission of Bioneers is the advancement of holistic education pertaining to global social, cultural and environmental issues. Bioneers identifies progressive yet nature-honoring solutions to rising challenges of instability, inequality, and unsustainable growth and disseminates this knowledge via independent media, events, and community action networks. Front Range Bioneers took place at University of Colorado-Boulder from November 8-10.

Creating the space for dialogue – communication, shared meaning and the creation of coherent culture – is a difficult task, given the many opinions and assumptions that make up each individual’s worldview. Based on the framework from David Bohm’s “On Dialogue”, the final day of Front Range Bioneers featured a dialogue which resulted in the feelings of trust (between men and women), relief (for the male participants) and a sense of connection often lacking in today’s interactions.

Read about more Ian Sanderson at Bioneers “Seeing with Indigenous Eyes” from Truth Bomb Trails.

David Bohm spent his life exploring the limits of human thought. As a student and colleague of Einstein, he meaningfully contributed to our understanding of relativity. He later turned his attention to the “problem of communication” and sought a better understanding of the workings of the mind. (Bohm, born in the United States, was also subject to McCarthy-era accusations of communist connections and left the United States for Brazil and later England.) One of his inspirations was social structures found in indigenous and native communities. One example:

Some time ago there was an anthropologist who lived for a long while with a North American tribe. It was a small group of about this size. The hunter-gatherers have typically lived in groups of twenty to forty. Agriculture group units are much larger. Now, from time to time that tribe met like this in a circle. They just talked and talked and talked, apparently to no purpose. They made no decisions. There was no leader. And everybody could participate. There may have been wise men or wise women who were listened to a bit more – the older ones – but everybody could talk. The meeting went on, until it finally seemed to stop for no reason at all and the group dispersed. Yet after that, everybody seemed to know what to do, because they understood each other so well. Then they could get together in smaller groups and do something or decide things.

What Bohm highlights in this example is the creation of shared meaning. From shared meaning arises culture. “And then the question of culture – the collectively shared meaning – begins to come in. That is crucial, because the collectively shared meaning is very powerful. The collective thought is more powerful than the individual thought.” All participants, given an equal voice, leave the dialogue with a more complete understanding of those they share community with. The result of better understanding our own opinions and assumptions is the increase of shared meaning, the creation of a more “coherent culture.”

I am saying society is based on shared meanings, which constitute the culture. If we don’t share coherent meaning, we do not make much of a society. And at present, the society at large has a very incoherent set of meanings. in fact, this set of “shared meanings” is so incoherent that it is hard to say that they have any real meaning at all. There is a certain amount of significance, but it is very limited. The culture in general is incoherent. And we will thus bring with us into the group – or microcosm or micro culture – a corresponding incoherence.