Martin Buber's I and Thou
One useful way to define interpersonal communication is to distinguish it from impersonal In an "I-It" relationship we interact with people in their social roles. mal definition. Here, appropriately, the language is more akin to liturgy than treatise. As Buber proceeds to speak in this manner of the I-Thou relationship. Define relationship (noun) and get synonyms. What is relationship (noun)? relationship (noun) meaning, pronunciation and more by Macmillan Dictionary.
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An audience and an artist are lost in a performance. These moments don't last. It is the "exalted melancholy of our fate" that Thou moments always fade back into It moments.
But a world has been built during such intense moments. A binding cord has been strengthened. The person who has experienced the Thou has been thickened and come closer to wholeness.
Buber's writing reminds us to be intentional and brave about relationships. But it also has communal and political implications. Some organisations and leaders nurture open-hearted bonds. Such communities usually began, Buber wrote, with some sacred Thou moment - like the Exodus story for the Jews or the revolutionary struggles of the early Americans. Leaders connect current problems to that "living effective centre" and set the table for situations of caring and trust.
Buber's story is also apt because he overcame betrayal to come to a posture of trust. When he was a small boy, his mother eloped with an army officer and wasn't seen for 30 years.
But he still had the courage to throw himself wholly in with his wife, Paula. Their marriage became a living example of a true and equal Thou. Today, America is certainly awash in distrust.
So many people tell stories of betrayal. Buber argues that, although the I-Thou relation is an ideal relation, the I-It relation is an inescapable relation by which the world is viewed as consisting of knowable objects or things.
The I-It relation is the means by which the world is analyzed and described. However, the I-It relation may become an I-Thou relation, and in the I-Thou relation we can interact with the world in its whole being.
I-Thou is a relation in which I and Thou have a shared reality. Buber contends that the I which has no Thou has a reality which is less complete than that of the I in the I-and-Thou.
The more that I-and-Thou share their reality, the more complete is their reality. According to Buber, God is the eternal Thou. God is the Thou who sustains the I-Thou relation eternally.
I-Thou v I-It relationships
In the I-Thou relation between the individual and God, there is a unity of being in which the individual can always find God. In the I-Thou relation, there is no barrier of other relations which separate the individual from God, and thus the individual can speak directly to God. The eternal Thou is not an object of experience, and is not an object of thought.
The eternal Thou is not something which can be investigated or examined. The eternal Thou is not a knowable object. Looking at the tree as a picture with the color and detail through the aesthetic perception.
Identifying the tree as movement. The movement includes the flow of the juices through the veins of the tree, the breathing of the leaves, the roots sucking the water, the never-ending activities between the tree and earth and air, and the growth of the tree. Categorizing the tree by its type; in other words, studying it.
Exercising the ability to look at something from a different perspective. Interpreting the experience of the tree in mathematical terms. Through all of these relations, the tree is still an object that occupies time and space and still has the characteristics that make it what it is. You do not experience the human being; rather you can only relate to him or her in the sacredness of the I-Thou relation.
The I-Thou relationship cannot be explained; it simply is. Nothing can intervene in the I-Thou relationship.
I-Thou is not a means to some object or goal, but a definitive relationship involving the whole being of each subject. Like the I-Thou relation, love is a subject-to-subject relationship.
Love is not a relation of subject to object, but rather a relation in which both members in the relationship are subjects and share the unity of being. The ultimate Thou is God. In the I-Thou relation there are no barriers. This enables us to relate directly to God.