I-Thou and Its Presence in Our Lives

2267 Words10 Pages
As is customary of existentialist thinkers, Martin Buber speculates and writes about a perceived diminishing quality of life in modern Western society. In his book I and Thou, he presents specific ideas about the root of this degradation of life. Buber opens Part One by introducing his theory of primary words: I-It represents an isolated and unfulfilling mode of existence in which the I regards and responds to the world as being full of objects, while I-Thou intimates a meaningful and momentous relation between the I and the Thou. He defines I-it relationships in relatable terms; we can all see ourselves and our outlooks mirrored in this way of looking at the world, this experience-oriented, knowledge-driven attitude. Modern society thrives on analyzing, categorizing, acquiring, performing actions upon things. Buber recognizes this, and ascribes a certain resigned acceptance to the necessity of It, but then continues on to explain Thou. He does so loftily, abstractly, and bombastically, rendering his idea of Thou seemingly inaccessible. Buber’s theory —profound relations are the base of true humanity—is entirely correct, though his presentation of it may lead to an underestimation of the presence of Thou relations in society. He inflates I-Thou encounters to the point where they seem to be huge, unreachable existential views, when they are really evident in everyday life. In order to prove the distinction between saying I and saying Thou, Buber considers the example of a tree. First, he describes it as an I—noting the color, movement, species, all the while regarding it as a thing that can be analyzed and picked apart. Then, he alters the way he reflects on the tree and the relationship becomes one of I-Thou. Buber states that i... ... middle of paper ... ...his makes the theory of I-Thou more relatable and applicable, because to encounter a moment or a brief period of Thou and its magnitude is viable, whereas a lifelong relation, always maintaining exclusiveness, is not. Although at times in I and Thou it seems that Buber attempts to convince us otherwise, Thou is not a thing far removed from us. The world—even in its modern capitalist state—is full of Its with the power to become Thous if only we are willing to contemplate them and embrace them with our whole beings. I-Thou bonds are an integral aspect of humanity and it is imperative that we learn to cut through our distractions and let Thou fill our lives. To truly live, we require these intense relations because only through them can we achieve love, the main reason for man’s existence, and our identities, for “through the Thou a man becomes I” (28).
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