There’s been a lot of reference in my world in the last year to Martin Buber’s philosophy of “I and Thou”. I have tried to have patience for Buber’s theory, but it is a huge struggle for me!!
I also try to give Buber, himself, the benefit of the doubt. I want with all my heart to believe that he did not believe his own philosophy. I pretend that he, like Baruch Spinoza, might simply have been trying to help other people around him … people steeped far too long in Western civilization’s rationalism and illusions of individuality, unimpeded free-will, and complete self-determination … make a small shift toward seeing Unity.
I wish Buber was alive, so that I could sit in a room with him and we could chat about how a boy raised by Hasidim could create a philosophy that permits … condones … dare I say “insists on the inevitability of” … seeing another person as an “It”, an It to be used by my “I”.
This is not the way of a true Hasid.
And it is not the path to finding Olam HaBa in this world today.
Being a Hasid is about knowing, feeling, and believing … from the deepest recesses of your mind, heart, and gut; with every fiber of your being; and with every little spark of Light and Love that is the holy soul G-d planted in you … that there is … always and only … Thou.
You are Thou.
I am Thou.
And never, ever is there an It.
There is no It !!!!
“Hesed HaShem mal-ah haAretz“.
The Earth is full of G-d’s Glory.
There is nothing else.
Being a Hasid is not about seeing occasional “flashes” of connectedness in the pitch-black darkness of disconnect.
It is about refusing to fall prey to the illusion of disconnect and darkness in the first place!
Being a Hasid is about standing in your office following a frustrating meeting and repeatedly saying “b’tzelem Elohim” … “in the image of G-d”… to force yourself to remember, even in the moment when you feel least capable of believing, that every person … no matter how different he or she appears or how very much his or her mere existence enrages us … that person still is an image of The One. The Only One.
Being a Hasid is about understanding that this whole universe is one big web of interconnection, and thus we are all — always, and unavoidably — in a relationship with one another … such that my ability to obtain health, peace, and happiness depends on your ability to access health, peace, and happiness … just as yours depends on mine.
You don’t have to believe me, ask people who live down-wind from the toxic air of Beijing!! Or consider this quote from Albert Einstein:
A hundred times a day I remind myself that my inner and outer life depends on the labors of other men, living and dead, and that I must exert myself in order to give in the measure as I have received and am still receiving.
Perhaps Buber did not believe he could get readers to move any further toward Unity than what he suggested in “I and Thou.” Maybe he just hoped to get “Westerners” on the path toward Unity, so they would be “ready” to hear the message of later philosophers who might encourage a more radical shift toward an “Eastern” understanding and world-view.
I will probably never know what Buber believed or what Buber hoped, but I can tell you what I believe and hope…
There is only Thou.
and I hope:
If enough others begin to believe as I do, we might all walk together into a future that is happier, safer, more peaceful, more loving, and more holy.