The World of Being (I-Thou)

I wrote this up on a forum I frequent, so I figured I might as well post it here too, with a few improvements.

All ideas come from Martin Buber and Gabriel Marcel, with embellishments by yours truly.

Keep in mind that we talk about different "worlds" but we're not
talking about physical worlds, but rather different modes of operation.
Different mindsets.

I-it (The World of Having)

This is the world we are
accustomed to living in. This is the world of problems and solutions.
This is the world of the engineer and the scientist. Everything that is
bad in life is viewed as a problem that must have a solution. This is
the world of material progress.

Kitsch belongs to this world.
Rules and regulations, rewards and punishments, consequentialism,
literal interpretations, repetition. These things all suggest a mindset
of problem-solving. And if you think about it, the problem-solving
mindset is somewhat egotistical. It's all about what is causing a
problem for you, and what you can do to fix it. It's about what you (or
your community) can obtain, or have. The ego is in control, everything
else is considered other than you. You feel yourself as exerting your
will upon the world to try to bend things to your liking.

This world is a world of control.

Here,
when a human being interacts with another, no real communication goes
through. Instead of actually encountering the other, we construct ideas
about them and then proceed to interact with those ideas. So you never
really get out of your own head.

This world is not necessarily
bad. It is necessary and natural. There's nothing wrong with it unless
it becomes so strong that the other world doesn't get any piece of the
pie. It can, however, cause a lot of strife when we want to "fix"
things we can't fix, or when we get angry at someone for acting in ways
that we are only projecting upon them.

It can also cause a lot
of good. I wouldn't have a job if it weren't for this world. We
wouldn't have electricity and modern technology. I cannot stress enough
that even though this is in some ways a "lower" world, that it is not
bad and should only be pushed away if it has too strong a grip.

You might see this world's hold on Christianity.  As Amanda has been pointing out so often lately, Christianity has become about doctrine more than about Jesus.  Why is that?  Because if it's doctrine, then proclaiming who and what is Christian or not becomes easy.  It gives us a sense of security and control.  It gives us certainty.  Unfortunately, to focus on this is to miss the point entirely, because religion isn't about the I-it relationship.  It's about the I-Thou relationship, which we come to next.

I-Thou (The World of Being)

This world is
underrepresented in human thought/culture. This is the world of
mystery, Truth, and encounter. This *should* be the realm of religion,
but very often isn't. Christians often talk about "personal
relationships" with God, and that would belong in this world. This
world is where the very idea of that came from, in fact.

Marcel
defines mystery as a problem that encroaches on its own data. That is,
you can’t treat a mystery like a problem to solve because you’re so
wrapped up in the problem yourself that you can’t separate yourself
from it in order to solve it. More and more, science has been
encountering this special type of problem. Especially now that we have
Godel’s incompleteness theorems. Godel proved that within any system,
there will always be at least one unknowable truth that you could only
figure out by referencing another system (that is, by getting out of
your perspective, which we can’t really do here).

But mystery
in science is one thing, mystery in human life feels like a different
thing altogether. Existential pain and suffering might be considered
mysteries of this sort, as you cannot separate yourself from yourself
in order to find the perfect solution. Hence the angst.

It is
also the world of encounter. This is what Buber stresses the most. It’s
when we meet each other without any masks, and no imposed structure.
You see a person for who they really are, and they see you. It is a
moment of perfect communication between two souls but you don’t really
communicate information…you just communicate.

Have you ever had a moment where
you’re talking to someone and everything just lines up perfectly, and
you can almost talk without words? Where you feel like, just for a
moment, you know them completely, and they know you? All masks are gone
and you can just *be* together, as your most honest and authentic
selves. That is an I-Thou relationship. You become completely *present*
to the other person and the moment. Nothing else exists for you other
than that moment.

And if you stop to think, wow, I’m having an I-Thou moment, well…then it’s gone.

It’s
a mode of being where living comes with the same non-action as
breathing or blood circulation. You don’t consciously have to control
your circulation, the body does it naturally. In these I-Thou, present,
perfect moments, conversation is the same way. The ego melts away and
you just *are.* It’s as if you’ve rejoined the eternal, universal
moment. That’s why it’s called the world of being. Buber actually
thought that in this relationship infinity and universality are made
actual, rather than just being concepts.

This world is full of
awe, wonder, and patience. This world is full of questions more than
answers…mystery. This world is full of genuine encounter. This world is
the world that the best of religion tries to describe and help us to
practice living in.  This world is the world in which our wounds can be healed.

I probably didn't do near the justice to the idea as the authors themselves, but hopefully you get the idea. 😉

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  1. Beautiful! And you definitely need to read some Rob Bell. 🙂

  2. I do! For now though, I'm counting on you as my guide, since I have so many books to read!Another book I'd recommend to you is this one by a Jesuit who works down in El Salvador. There was a famous massacre by the Salvadorian Army of the Jesuit University there a few decades ago. As soon as he got word of it, Dean Brackley volunteered to go there and help them rebuild, knowing another attack could happen at any time. He's a brilliant man, and focuses on how we can actually enact change. If you get the book, make sure you read the introduction by his editor, it's really good.Here's an essay he wrote on the aims of higher education, just to get you started. The book is directed towards a much more general audience and is very easy to read. I don't think his writing is as personal as Bell, but it's some damn good stuff. 🙂

  3. Ooh, one more thing. This website, though it hasn't been updated in a while, is pretty good.http://lowercasepeople.com/who we are: lowercase people is the collective
    effort of a community of thinkers, musicians, artists and writers. We
    are humanity beautiful and broken. We want to see change. We want to
    dream bigger dreams. We want to collide. We want to make better art and
    better music. We're curious. We're moving outside of the lines. We are
    the lowercase people. Consider joining us as we dream out loud.Sorry if I'm barraging you with things, I'm just really really excited! Feel free to barrage me back!

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