Let me be honest with you. I have crushes. My latest crush is on a Jewish philosopher/theologian named Martin Buber. I heart Martin Buber. For my most recent module we were required to read two books by Buber, I and Thou and Good and Evil. I’d probably heard of Buber before that but I’d never read Buber before that. I read I and Thou first and my initial reaction was, “Martin Buber, where have you been all my life?” Buber speaks my language, or I speak his, and this little book gave me a grid for understanding myself and my little world a whole lot better. Ultimately the book gave me some truth that empowered me to relate to other people in a whole new and much healthier way than ever before.
In I and Thou, Martin Buber describes the nature of man’s relationship to the world around him. He says that we experience or encounter the world as “I/It” or as “I/Thou”. The world around us is bent towards experiences where we collect data, make observations and evaluations based on senses and understanding that always keep the other at some distance, “I/It”. Buber calls us to the second way, the way of encounter wherein we discover the depth of “I” through relationship to the “Thou” that is transcendent in everything around us (even your cat). In this level of relationship we actually discover the fullness of our own identity as it is reflected by our connection to the Thou we encounter in people, places and things around us.