Gregory C. Ellison II is Associate Professor of Pastoral Care and Counseling at Candler School of Theology, Emory University. He is the founder of Fearless Dialogues, a grassroots community initiative that draws unlikely partners together to create positive change in self and others. This process stands on three pillars: See. Hear. Change. It places primary emphasis on seeing and hearing as gateways to transformation.
Fearless Dialogues are laboratories for nurturing reverence and wonder. American culture has brainwashed people about "stranger danger" and others fears that can morph into paranoia. One of the major challenges facing black youth is ostracism. The theologian Howard Thurman observed in Inward Journey:
"To be ignored, to be passed over as of no account and of no meaning is to be made into a faceless thing, not a man. It is better to be the complete victim of an anger unstrained and a wrath which knows no bounds, to be torn asunder without mercy or to be battered to a pulp by angry violence, than to be passed over."
Fearless Dialogue enables us to focus attention on the real; as Jesuit priest Walter J. Burghardt put it: "The real, reality, is not reducible to some far-off, intangible God-in-the-sky. Reality is living, pulsing people." Ellison presents "The Long Loving Look at the Real " as a start-up spiritual practice. The author then charts the challenges of crafting communal spaces for asking hard questions, listening empathetically, and inviting the inner teacher of the soul to be present as a guide.
Ellison ends this inspiring paperback with a process of reflective listening around questions. For each question, repeat this sequence: “1. The animator briefly frames a question.
“2. A fearless speaker responds to the question for three minutes.
“3. When the three minutes are up, the room will enter into thirty seconds of contemplative silence.
“4. In this waiting moment, listeners absorb the shared wisdom and search internally for an honest, open question that might serve as a guide for the courageous speaker.
“5. When the thirty seconds of silence are up, the four listeners will share their honest, open questions, and the speaker will receive these humble inquiries as gifts for the journey.
“6. Finally, we give thanks for the speaker and the receptive listeners, and we move to the next question.”
Here are the Five Hardest Questions:
- “Question One: Who Am I?
- “Question Two: Why Am I Here?
- “Question Three: What Is My Gift?
- “Question Four: How Does It Feel to Be a Problem?
- “Question Five: What Must I Do to Die a Good Death?”