Thursday, October 7, 2010

Re-reading I and Thou

In the preface to Kaufmann's translation of Buber's classic, he remarks that "Our first loves leave their marks upon us...Buber taught me that mysticism need not lead us outside the world. Or if mysticism does, by definition, so much the worse for it"

Both resonated: I vividly remember reading I and Thou for the first time sitting in the library at Heythrop, half entranced, half understanding what was being said and the recognition. Here was a description of how to approach the world that made deep sense, that challenged and chastened. It still does.

I came away from it convinced that the only God who could be responded to was the God who directed you to finding truth in how you related to the world, not what you believed was critical but who you were and, most especially, how you were. That I fail over and again that challenge of relatedness is clear, that it remains the central challenge is equally clear.

Yesterday I was the Levite on the road from Jericho to Jerusalem. Walking to the station, I caught glancing a young person, male I think, crouched down on the kerb of a side street, positioned in front of a parked car, rocking to and fro - in sorrow or pain or withdrawal I cannot say - I paused, trying to assess whether to attend or not. I decided not - manifold were the rationalizations of that decision - not least I often want to be left alone in my own pain. Right or wrong the decision haunts me still - and I should have tried to find out whether they wanted solitude or company but I did not. I passed by (even if offering up a feeble prayer as I did so).

I do know at least that the sharp prick of conscience that splinters in mind still was, at least in part, Buber's testimony.

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