January 23, 2009

I / Thou

Martin Buber (1879-1965), Jewish theologian/philosopher, published his seminal work I and Thou in 1923. In this book he argues that we often objectify people, relating to them as we do things ("I-it" or "I – them"). He notes that it is possible to be truly open and vulnerable to another human being (or to God) when we entered into a relationship based on "I" and "Thou." This connection enlarges a person and makes true dialogue possible.

Gene Knudsen Hoffman

I've been contemplating what it looks / feels like when we enter an I / Thou relationship. Is there a way to describe that which epitomizes the I / Thou stance? I'm wondering if we could say of this relationship, "I love you just the way you are" and really feel the truth of it?


Vincent said...

I think the point of Buber's argument is not to have an I-Thou relationship but to have no other kind. I don't know that it matters whether one can describe how it feels. As to your second question, "I accept you just the way you are" would be more appropriate than love if it is to apply to everyone; where "everyone" might include people, non-human souls and indeed things.

Or perhaps our relationship with the entire world is ultimately I/Thou. For there is only I and not-I. And possibly the distinction between I and not-I is a perceptual difference built-in to the human animal.

Joe said...


Whether the distinction is perceptual or otherwise, your response here deepens the conversation, bringing my attention again to the mystery. Thank you.

Also gratitude for including the "non-human souls," the other-than-human beings that bless us and remind us of our original face.


Chodpa said...

What I have is 'experience'. What my 'world' consists of is thoughts, feelings and sense perceptions. That's it. Nothing more, nothing less. What 'other', or 'thou', or 'that' consists of is simply elements of the above.

By paying close attention to what arises in thought, feeling and perception ..... not *my* thought, feeling and perception, just thought, just feeling, just perception .... I know what needs to be done. Just what needs to be done .. not for my benefit, not for their benefit, not balancing one against the other. Just what needs to be done in that moment.

No bias, no preference, no balancing me against you .. just attending to what is ... and therefore working from what actually is (loving you just the way you are) ....

Being open and vulnerable then, is being open and vulnerable to what appears to arise ... without falling into projection of solid I or you, or conceptualisation.

That's how it seems to me, at least. Many thanks for the quote, and reference to Buber. I'll take a look as his work and what he has to say about 'thou', as it's a notion I'm entirely unfamiliar with.

best wishes to you :-)