Thursday, 20 August 2015

I and Thou by Martin Buber

I and Thou was written by Martin Buber  between 1919 and 1922 and was published in 1923 when he  was only 45 years old .He spent next four decades in explaining , arguing and explaining his ideas.
    Human beings possess two types of attitude towards the world which are indicated by the concepts of I - It and I-Thou.These are two  word pairs.There is no singular I.No I isolated from thing , person or God.No autonomous or independent  individual.It is a fundamental challenge to the western conception of self or individual.The I of the basic word I-Thou is different from the I of the basic word I-It.Persons appear by entering into relation with other persons.      The  basic word I-Thou can be spoken only with one's whole being.The concentration and fusion into a whole being  can never be accomplished  by me, can never be accomplished without me.I require a Thou to become;becoming I, I say Thou.All real life is meeting. I and Thou precedes I.I  and It  comes after I.Through the Thou,a man becomes I.Without It , a man cannot live.But he who lives with It alone , is not a  man.

       When two free and rational   human beings encounter each other and treat each other equals , then an I-Thou relation is possible between them .Though  it is difficult to develop such a relationship, it is real and perceivable.Examples of such relations  are :two lovers, two friends , a teacher and a student. No aim,no lust,and no anticipation intervene between I and Thou.(Pages 25).
           The important point is the close connection of the relation to God with the relation to one's fellow man.  Whoever abhors the name and fancies that he is godless,when he addresses with his whole devoted being  the Thou of his life that cannot be restricted by any other , he addresses God.
                           Spirit is not in the I,but between I and  Thou.Man lives in the spirit,if he is able to respond to his Thou.He is able to do so ,if he enters into relation with his whole being.Only in his virtue of his power to enter into relation is he able to live in the spirit.Spirit does not germinate and grow in man's world without being sown,but arises from this  world's meeting with the other.
                         The Spheres in which the world of relation is built are three.First,our life with nature.Second,our life with men.Third,our life with spiritual beings.He who loves a woman,is able to look in the Thou of her eyes into a beam of eternal Thou.You cannot both truly pray to God and profit  by the world.
               "There is a hierarchy of deceptions.Near the bottom of the ladder is journalism:a steady stream of irresponsible distortions that most people  find refreshing although on the morning after, or at least within a week ,it will be stale and flat.
At the top ,we find fictions that men eagerly believe , regardless of the evidence , because they gratify some wish."
       "There is a divine meaning in the life of the world of man , of human persons of you and me.Creation happens to us, burns itself into us, recasts us in burning-we tremble and are faint, we submit.We take part in creation, meet the Creator, reach out to Him,helpers and companions.Through the Thou, a person becomes I".
                I  must admit that I have to read this book a number of times before I find its full meaning.But I am certain that it is a great book.The person who translated this book from German into English, Ronald Gregor Smith says:" To the reader who finds the meaning obscure at a first reading, we may only say that  I and Thou is indeed  a  poem.Hence it must be read more than once and its total effect allowed to work in mind" I totally agree.