Unclassified, Uncharacterized, Amoral, and a Mystery
Painting by Juan Gris
The news is overflowing with broad labels for the people in the center of our world political attention. Its the Shiites, Sunnis, Palestinians, Iraqis, Israelis, Jews, Conservatives, Liberals, etc etc.
As I go about my usual type of day and I meet people on a one to one basis, the broad labels really have no meaning in this context.
In the work of Martin Buber there is a complete recognition of the problem with approaching people with preconceived notions. It is that it really wrecks the possibility of a truly human exchange, a dialogue that has true value and an exchange of ideas or of what is important.
Buber's idea involves meeting the other guy with no preconceived notions, no assumptions about the persons worth or value or morality or goodness or badness. He talks about meeting the other guy with an authentic open immediate presence, being authentically present and open as you meet someone. Buber was so convinced of this that he referred to the other guy as "Thou," Thou being a term which includes an element of the spiritual and ascending qualities of humanity.
In the course of two people meeting with equal authenticity, to Buber this is the place where God arises. Because in this meeting, something completely unplanned and amazing can only arise. This is like some kind of third presence or stunning result or magical connection. It might be a little uncomfortable at first, and Buber says as much.
World events seem to dictate the necessity of understanding large groups of people in overly broad and vague terms. But, we need to remember that all large groups are collections of individuals, each person with a unique authenticity and capability for truly human dialogue.
In Buber's words: "... At its core the conflict between the mistrust and trust of man conceals the conflict between the mistrust and trust of eternity. If our mouths succeed in genuinely saying "thou," then, after long silence and stammering, we shall have addressed our eternal "Thou" anew. Reconciliation leads toward reconciliation."