I’m a big fan of McSweeney’s and The Believer magazine. On subscribing they sent me a copy of The Believer Book of Writers talking to Writers. The jacket explains that “Believer books has collected, in alphabetical order, twenty-three conversations and correspondences between much admired writers and the writers they admire.”
It’s excellent. When people dialogue, rather than just answer questions from interviewers, conversations can go in interesting directions. They sharpen one another. The same principle worked brilliantly in The Meaning of Jesus where Marcus Borg – a liberal – and N T Wright – more conservative – bounced ideas off one another and showed that disagreement need not be poisonous. Prospect magazine have also used this dialectical approach in pieces, where correspondence between experts makes up an article on a subject (recently the benefits or not of nuclear power), or two books are reviewed against each other.
I wonder if this is one of the gifts of Christmas. God enters a dialectic with creation. Become incarnate in a man, and thus sharpening the senses of both God and humanity to the other’s condition. It’s that phrase again: the other. Dialogue, listening, the dialectic approach. It all helps us to see beyond ourselves and into the wider truth of who we are and what we have to give.