I and Thou and Unity of Being
I was reminded of Martin Buber's "I and Thou" last week when I was visiting the National Civil Rights Museum in Memphis. ("I and Thou" was originally called "Ich und Du", published in 1923, modern translation here )
Martin Luther King, Jr references Buber in his Letter From Birmingham Jail, written April 16, 1963: "Segregation, to use the terminology of the Jewish philosopher Martin Buber, substitutes an "I-it" relationship for an "I-thou" relationship and ends up relegating persons to the status of things."
Buber's "I-it" relationship is a subject-to-object relationship in which two people are separate. The "I-thou" relationship is a subject-to-subject relationship where two human beings are aware of their unity of being, there is connection instead of separation.
Segregation is an extreme example of relegating persons to the status of things. Today this "I-it" relationship still happens frequently, if you are meeting the "IT Guy" or a "Lawyer" or the "HR Person" you have included a label that objectifies the unique individual and gets in the way of the potential of the "I-thou" relationship.
In our world of concepts, thoughts and roles there is an inevitable "I-it" to our relationships, no need to beat ourselves up about it. A true "I-thou" relationship is free from all thoughts and the I is one with the Thou is one with God (the eternal Thou) and one with a shared reality - an enlightened and lofty state! Buber acknowledges that as we analyze and describe the world the "I-it" is inescapable, however, the good news is that the "I-it" can become an "I-thou" relationship and we can interact with the world in its whole being - cool!
A question I am asking is: "How can I look beyond the "It" and experience the connection that comes from an "I-Thou" relationship?"
I'm pleased to report that I have experienced many glimpses, and many times these connections result in new possibilities emerging.
One intention of a Weave is to facilitate these kinds of connections. A simple technique we use is to share something unique about the individual that encourages a conversation that goes deeper than a person's role or title. Another is to ask questions that encourage two subjects to connect to a shared reality, connect to something bigger than they are. One great question, from The Soul Purpose which exemplifies this is "what is it that wants to emerge here today?"